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Alone, but Not Lonely

Margie Pensak

After I lost my husband, I kept hearing about an organization for widowed women. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to wallow in misery with a bunch of other widows? Then I went on a weekend trip to New England that changed everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


In 1897, my
great-grandmother was widowed when she was only in her early forties. A hundred
years later, when I was around the same age, I became an almanah. I can only imagine what it was like for her to confront
widowhood in her Polish shtetl, Vilna Geberna (Kuronitz). True, she must have
had a built-in support group, with her immediate and extended family living in
close proximity. However, unlike her great-granddaughter in America, she could not benefit from
joining Samchainu, an organization for frum
widowed women.

I have to admit
that when I first heard about Samchainu four years ago, I had no interest in
it. Perhaps it’s because, strangely enough, I’ve never thought of myself as
widowed. Although there are times when I can’t help but realize my status — like
on my husband’s yahrtzeit, Yamim Tovim, or when celebrating milestones —
for the most part, I am not cognizant of it. Besides, support groups (like I
imagined Samchainu was) were never my thing. I personally find them depressing.

Yet my
curiosity about Samchainu was piqued because every time I ran into my
daughter-in-law’s cousin Rochel at a simchah,
she couldn’t stop talking about Samchainu’s fun-filled trips. She raved about
how the organization sends flowers to members on birthdays, as well as gift
packages for Yom Tov. There were also, Rochel would gush, the weekly Erev
Shabbos phone calls.

Meanwhile, some
Samchainu members were trying to convince my fellow writer and widowed friend,
Rebecca Feldbaum, to attend an event. After some time, the two of us gave in to
our curiosity and joined Samchainu for an overnight trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I did so with one caveat: on
the condition that I could go as a writer. It seemed like a safe thing to do. I
could be an active participant in the group, and because I would be there under
the guise of my profession, there would be no obligations, no expectations, and
no disappointments. Hey, I would even get paid to go.

From the start
of the trip, we were both a little anxious. What would these women be like? I
imagined a group of depressed widows, all waiting to swap their heartbreaking
stories. But actually, the members were far from gloomy — in fact, some were
downright cheerful.

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