According to current figures, in the United States there are more than 500,000 widowed women under the age of 45. Unfortunately many of those women are likely to be living in poverty. Adults at or below the poverty level are predominantly women, especially if they are living on their own.
Over 25% of children in the U.S. live with one parent, and 4% live with a widowed parent. So it is not a surprise that widows with children would be seeking assistance. They have a particularly tough time trying to both care for their children and earn a living. Fortunately there are both government and private organizations who are prepared to provide assistance.
Following are some tips for Finding Grants For Widows With Children as well as for identifying other kinds of help that may be available. There are many potential sources of assistance. Finding that assistance, however, can be confusing — especially if one is still grieving (or denying that dealing with grief is important). And if you do a simple search it is more likely to turn up options for dating than for getting the help you need quickly. Now is not a time for dating – it's a time for taking care of yourself and your family.
If you are a professional in this area, or have survived a similar struggle yourself, we welcome your input and suggestions in our Community section. If you are a widow who needs help, also feel free to ask questions and seek advice there.
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Start at the top! While it would be nice if the government had lots of money available to give out grants for individuals in need who just fill out a simple application, that’s not the way it works. Grants are typically awarded to organizations and to other government agencies; individual financial assistance is typically handled through Federal Aid. That’s ok though — aid is not something that has to be repaid, and there is a comprehensive tool available to make it easier for you to identify any aid for which you may qualify. The process will require some time and patience on your part, but the benefits are worth it! Even if you don’t find exactly the type or amount of aid you need or desire, you will know what is possible and you can focus your energies there. And you will know the sources are reliable. If you've already tried this, and/or want to try some other options for assistance, go to Widows With Children: More Grant Resources.
Sometimes assistance for widows with children is specific to the offerings of a particular state. For example, since 1914 in Illinois the Crane Fund for Widow & Children Scholarship has been available to students as well as to organizations that provide services to low income folks and to schools to provide help to students who have lost their parents or whose folks cannot provide for their education. Scholarships are also available to a female undergrad whose husband has died. Those who apply need to provide an essay that explains the impact of the spouse’s death as well as what it would mean to the applicant to receive the financial assistance.
Be sure to get all the benefits you can from Social Security. You are probably eligible for payments from your spouse's account, and that could make a big difference in your financial situation. Take a look at this article about Social Security. Also do not hesitate to call the Social Security Administration directly. You will probably get an actual human being to talk to and they can be extremely helpful.
If you're working or going to school you may be in need of financial help for child care costs. Not easy to find but we provide good info about available resources plus tips for reducing child care costs in Assistance for Child Care.
Just as grants.gov is the go-to site for finding grants, benefits.gov is the premier source of information on finding other types of aid. The picture shows the upper left of the opening page; when you click the bright orange Start Now button, you will be taken to a questionnaire. It is lengthy and you have to answer a lot of questions in many different areas —- but once you are done, it will tell you what aid you qualify for and how to go about getting it. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in to fill out the questionnaire as your first step in getting help.
Many people miss the fact that survivor benefits are available for more than the Social Security your spouse was receiving. That includes a child or other person who receives Social Security and was dependent on the deceased individual for more than half of his or her support. It may not be likely to apply to you but it’s worth knowing about. Check the latest update to our article on Government Benefits to learn more about what you could be missing. And don’t hesitate to fill out that questionnaire on benefits.gov to be sure you’re not missing out on any potential supportive programs and services for which you may qualify.
If you do not belong to a church you might want to consider joining one. Regardless of past experiences you may have had, there are warm and welcoming churches which provide a source of compassion and support for all, especially those in need. Your children could benefit greatly as well through (free) Sunday School and choir groups.
In addition to government assistance, widows with children can turn to local agencies and religious organizations for assistance. A number of these are listed in our more general article called I Need Help. An internet search may also turn up new resources, as this is a constantly changing landscape. For example, you may be able to get a grant from a non-profit called ASK, which stands for “Acts of Simple Kindness.” They provide funds for children who have lost a parent so that they can go on taking part in extra-curricular activities that are important to them.
While you are trying your best to do what's right for your kids don't forget to take care of yourself. That may sound easier said than done, but there are a few simple things that could help. An important one is to recognize that there are physical symptoms of grief. They include being forgetful, having a tough time making decisions, finding it difficult to concentrate, and sometimes just feeling disoriented. Be kind to yourself. Realize that these feelings are normal and give yourself a break. Allow yourself to feel your feelings and maybe try some of the helpful organizations discussed below.
The Widow Connection is another online organization that offers a variety of resources and guidance for widows with children. There are lots of stories and ways to reach out for help, recommended books, tips about Social Security benefits and more. If you are part of a church (and if not, definitely look into it!) they also offer information about why your church should have a widows' ministry — and they also offer a guide regarding how to start one at your church. You might also check the Moving Forward On Your Own Family Foundation. They provide grants to non-profits that help widows and you can see a list of the organizations that have received grants from them. One of those non-profits might be one that could help you.
The Modern Widows Club is a group created to assist the over 12 million widows and many more millions of childron affected by widowhood. They realize that a newly widowed woman needs to redefine herself — not by choice — and that can be difficult in so many ways. The club helps women pursue a positive approach regarding healing and helping the self. They welcome all ages and faiths (or lack thereof). They provide mentoring and support to one another. They invite you to join one of their chapters nationwide — or they can help you to start your own at modernwidowsclub.com or on Facebook.
Beyond benefit programs and federal aid that may be available to you, there are also other avenues you might pursue if your main need is a financial one. Be careful when searching that you know what kind of a site you are looking at and if its main goal is to assist you. For example, if you need a loan you may find some sites that sound very promising and like perhaps you can just apply for a grant and get free help. More often than not those sites are lead generators for lenders whose loan rates may be a lot higher than what you might get from a bank. We are not saying they are not trustworthy, just that you should not let your need make you ignore what they are really offering you. If you are not interested in a loan but really want to pursue a way to bring in some money for your family, you could definitely try crowdfunding. There are platforms now that allow you to tell your story and receive donations from people who are interested in helping others. Find out more about personal crowdfunding sites.
When you are filing your taxes be sure to take advantage of some breaks designed to help widows or widowers with children. For example, the income limits for the federal child tax credit is $55000 for married couples filing separately but $75,000 for single heads of household and “qualifying widow/widower filers.” And for two years following the death of a spouse the widow/widower qualifies for the income limit usually applied to married filing jointly, which is considerably higher at $110,000.