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Dilemma: widowed friend wants to volunteer abroad

Katharine Whitehorn / 24 June 2016

A reader is worried her friend will be overwhelmed by the change in circumstances if she volunteers abroad.

Volunteer in Africa
A reader is concerned that her widowed friend will be overwhelmed by volunteering abroad. Photo: Valeriya Anufriyeva /

Dilemma: I'm worried my friend is making a mistake

My oldest friend was recently made a widow after months of looking after her sick husband. 

She is a qualified teacher, lives in a pleasant town, and has plenty of friends and an attractive house, so though I ached for her I felt sure she would manage to get over her grief in time. 

But now she has suddenly announced that she is taking a job with Voluntary Services Overseas, probably in Africa. 

I hate to think of her being so far from her friends and her family – she has a brother and sister – and having no one to confide in. What can I say to make her see sense and come to terms with her real life here?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I would say that probably there’s nothing you can say that would stop her going. But why are you so sure her plan is such a bad one? 

You may be right that she’ll have a difficult time; she may look out on the strange landscape and wish she had never left home – but that could actually be quite therapeutic. 

When you lose someone who has been everything for you, it’s almost impossible to believe it, to come to terms with it at first, and realise there is a life after widowhood; your friend may have a dreadful time abroad, but there could be a good outcome. 

Either she might come home with sobs of relief and realise, as she couldn’t when she was first alone, how much she has going for her here; or she might become fascinated with an entirely new scene and start a different sort of life. 

If she has the courage to make such a step, you could point out the snags, certainly, but otherwise cheer her on.

Read more of Katharine Whitehorn's answers to reader dilemmas

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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