Widowhood Support

Modern Widows Club helps women through loss, gaining strength

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When MEGAN KOPKA’S husband, Keith, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, in 2010, she became a caregiver to a very capable man who became a quadriplegic.

As a certified financial planner, Kopka knew how to plan. “I know the financial system very well, not the medical system,” she says. She dove into Medicare, advocacy, therapies, drug trials, and they both learned how to live a legacy. Kopka also sought out caregiver support groups. “I had four years to image what it would like to be a widow,” she says.

Keith Kopka’s death in 2014 left their family devasted.

“I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to start my life without him,” Kopka says. Grief is often misunderstood. Some say the first year is the hardest. Kopka found the first year was focused more on physically sustaining herself and her children. Grief doesn’t always get better with time either.

“Societal norms tell us when you should move on. But, mourning periods and grief are different for everyone. This is a lifetime loss for us – and our children,” Kopka says.

Kopka’s therapist encouraged her to “find her tribe.” But she found few support groups or systems in place for widows, particularly in terms of how to live the rest of their life. She had followed the Modern Widows Club (MWC) on Facebook for years. The MWC is a national nonprofit organization that serves to empower women in widowhood to lean into life and build resilience through mentoring, awareness, and advocacy.

Kopka was eager to start a chapter in the Cape Fear area. She attended a meeting in Atlanta in the summer of 2019. By September the local chapter began forming. In the process, Kopka met KATHY BECKER, who lost her husband Tom to colon cancer in 2013. Becker is a co-founder and served as a community advocate alongside Kopka until May 2021.

The Modern Widows Club models a mentor-focused program designed to help widows develop the tools they need to strengthen themselves. MWC builds resilience by using Seven Pillars of Widowhood: emotional and mental health; physical health; financial health; purpose and meaning; spiritual health; fun and creative health; and relational health. Ultimately, WMC focuses on health, not just grief.

The Cape Fear chapter holds monthly in-person meetings and rotates through the seven pillars throughout the year. “As you can imagine, dealing with grief and death and loss is not ideal for Zoom,” Kopka says. “We started meeting every two weeks so we could provide extra support on Zoom.” Upon attending a meeting, widows are invited to join their private Facebook group.

Most of all, Kopka wants widows to know they are not alone.

“No one can really offer this type of support, unless you’re experiencing it. People often tell you, ‘I can only imagine.’ You can’t,” Kopka says. “We are the club no one wants to be in. Yet I hope people find that you’re surrounded by a community of amazing women that you can lean on and learn from.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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Categories: Health