Coping with the death of a loved one is undeniably traumatic, but when a woman loses her husband, the grief can be intensified by the fear of facing life alone. The Woodlands Modern Widows Club (MWC) has been formed to bring widows together to offer support and friendship during the most difficult time of their lives. The members’ shared experience of loss links them together as they lean on each other to try to come to terms with their grief and navigate their way through a new way of life.
The MWC is a national organization, founded in 2011, with chapters all over the US. The Woodlands chapter was founded in 2016 by Cindy Wilson, following the untimely death of her husband in October 2015. Through her own heartbreak, Cindy felt impelled to establish a group for widows in the Woodlands and surrounding areas.
“I help widows understand their new life and teach them how to survive,” explains Cindy, MWC Woodlands Area Chapter Leader. “We are not ‘grief support’ in so much as we are LIFE support; we focus on moving forward. The MWC lets widows know they are not alone in their grief and that we are here for them with friendship, connection, understanding and support.”
Cindy describes the MWC as a ‘tribe and a sisterhood’ and credits the group for helping her cope with the difficult days and months since her husband’s passing. “We aim to help every widow move forward and we know it takes a lot of energy to be able to do that, so our aim is to help make life a little easier.”
The average age of widows in the United States is just 54 years old. The MWC welcomes widows of all ages whose lives are inextricably linked. One such inspiring connection was formed between two widows who were drawn together through the Woodlands MWC. Despite being generations apart, Nancy Beyer and Ellie Dawid had both suffered the catastrophic loss of their husbands and had reached out to the MWC to find their way through life again.
Ellie was mourning the loss of her husband Mike who died in an unthinkable tragedy in 2016, a workplace shooting. Their son Noah was just 2 years old when his father died. Ellie was left a widow at just 34 years old. Ellie explains what life was like for her after her sudden and heartbreaking loss. “I was in a fog just trying to survive,” she says. “I had no choice but to keep going.” After the first year, Ellie says the fog started to lift a little and she realized she needed to find people who could relate to what she was going through. “When I came across the MWC, I immediately liked that they were about empowering other widows and helping us lean into the new life we had no choice but to be living.”
A widow in her 60s, Nancy lost her husband 4 years ago and was also seeking support and friendship to be able to get to grips with her new reality. “After a year of grief counseling through my church, I needed to find a group that focused more on moving forward,” explains Nancy. “I wanted to live my life with the same zest and commitment that I had when I was part of a couple.” Nancy had an immediate connection with the women in the MWC and says Ellie, in particular, inspires her to keep pushing forward to live a full and meaningful life. “Ellie and I are decades apart in age, yet we have such a strong connection. She pushes me to be more resilient and that’s really beneficial to me.”
One of the many things the MWC has taught Nancy since finding herself widowed at 64, is the realization that her grief, although crushing, does not define her. “I have had to redefine myself and thanks to Ellie I have learned that I can still have the exuberance for life that she has.” Nancy and her late husband led a full and productive life together, owning a successful construction company. Nancy felt a fundamental desire to continue to contribute to society and that desire came to reality following a chat with Ellie about her studies at the University of Houston.
Both women have a strong affinity with the campus, with Ellie’s late husband Mike having graduated from the University. It’s a place that also means so much to Nancy’s family. “I was looking for ways to contribute and as soon as Ellie started talking about her studies at the University of Houston and her husband’s connection with the School, I knew immediately what I was going to do.”
Nancy found herself honoring the MWC’s Mission Statement to ‘empower widows to lean into life, build resilience and make a positive difference in society.’ Thanks to Nancy’s philanthropic gesture, Ellie now has full funding for her college degree, paying homage to her husband’s memory. “It’s so enriching to be able to help change someone’s life,” says Nancy. “Ellie deserves nothing but love and success and I am honored to be a part of her journey.”
Ellie is currently studying full time for a BA in Psychology. She hopes to continue her studies for a Master’s in Psychology. “I’d like to specialize in grief counseling and my goal is to become a psychologist to help kids like our son who have lost a loved one,” says Ellie. “The MWC is such a wonderful group of women and Nancy and Cindy have been so incredibly encouraging.”
The Modern Widows Club Woodlands Chapter meets monthly at the Canopy Survivor Center in the Woodland’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. As well as offering friendship and support, the group hosts guest speakers who deliver talks on a range of relevant subjects including self-defense and legal issues such as dealing with wills. The group also meets regularly on a social basis.
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