Military Widows’ Experiences of Social Isolation, Loneliness and Unmet Social Needs

G. Wilson-Menzfeld*, G. McGill, M. Moreland, T. Collins, G. Erfani, A. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Military widow/ers can experience spousal death suddenly and in traumatic circumstances. Evidence shows that this experience often has a long-term effect on surviving family members, highlighting the unique experiences of loneliness and social isolation in the armed forces community. This study aimed to explore military widow/ers’ lived experiences of social isolation and loneliness and unmet needs relating to social participation. This paper presents the qualitative findings of a sequential study in which Phase One utilized an online survey (N = 165) and Phase Two employed semi-structured interviews (N = 26). Almost all participants across both Phases discussed feeling lonely, socially isolated, or both. Findings highlight the complexity in transition from military spouse to military widow/er through the loss of a military community and geographical location. This was further compounded by language barriers and perceived hierarchy (through service life or circumstances of death) which created obstacles to help seeking. However, individuals who did join military widow/ers’ associations valued peer support through shared connection and understanding. Peer support was particularly valued as, for many, existing relationships with friends or family members were often negatively impacted following bereavement. These changed relationships led to feelings of both vulnerability and loss. Consideration needs to be given to how access to appropriate support is gained and what provision needs to be in place. This study recommends the use of more inclusive language for the military bereaved to promote inclusive practices and broaden the availability of support, including that which would increase social participation, across the sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Early online date10 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2024

Cite this