Now What? Group for Widows Answers That Question

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

When Brenda Canady lost her husband unexpectedly, she looked for emotional support through groups, such as Hospice one-on-one grief counseling, GriefShare, and Hospice support group. When the Hospice group sessions ended, one member summed up the feeling of many in the group: “I wish this didn’t have to end.”

Brenda decided to start a new group where widows could meet for lunch. The group grew and asked Brenda to arrange dinner dates, too. The friendships formed in the group helped to lessen the loneliness that everyone was feeling.

At about the same time as Brenda was organizing the group for those who were widowed, Pastor John Kimmons was thinking about what he wanted to do after retirement. He felt a calling to work with widows like Brenda. They started talking about what they could do to help widows, without taking on a “save the world” project. John brought David Bowman, a school administrator in Raleigh who had just lost his father, into the fold. David was thinking about his mother, now a widow. They discussed what a support group for widows would look like and what needs should be addressed.

Together, they formed Now What? a group for widows with the purpose to bring together people struggling with the loss of a loved one. They determined that there were five areas of well-being that Now What? would focus on: spiritual, emotional, physical, social and intellectual. They soon formed a board and established the group as a non-profit. They sought sponsors to help support the expenses of the group, such as printing a newsletter.

The group began in 2011 and now there are nearly 400 people receiving the e-newsletter. Typical dinners attract around 40 people, “Lunch Bunch” around 20 people, and a smaller number for “coffeemates.” Their website,, has information for the newly widowed, a connection to resources, and events they can sign up to participate in, such as movies, educational lunches, music events, and walking clubs. It helps to know that they will be among others who can offer understanding and support as they deal with their grief.

Although the group is located in Greensboro, anyone is welcome to join them. Brenda hopes that someday there will be Now What? groups around the Triad. With the statistic that half of women over the age of 65 are widows, there is certainly a need for such a group in every community.

Brenda knows what it’s like being a widow, how emotions can quickly overwhelm you, and how a song or a smell can bring on the tears. She remembers the first time she tried to go out to eat by herself, pulling into the parking lot of a restaurant and then leaving because she couldn’t make herself go inside. There were times she was invited to a party and made it to the door, then turned around and went back home. That’s why she is committed to helping other widows out of the isolation and loneliness that can overwhelm them through Now What?

“Being in a support group saved my life,” Brenda stated. By meeting other widows, forming close friendships, and going out as a group, widows can begin to heal and bring happiness back into their life.

For more information, visit or call 919-500-3004.


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