If the partner dies early, mothers stay home alone with their children. To the deep pain and overstraining of widowed mothers often comes an enormous social hardship.
Suddenly widow – and finally single parent
When the call came, on an October day four years ago, Anke Quast was baking cake. Quickly finish a sheet for the open day at the school of her eight-year-old daughter.
In the morning her husband had said: I’m kinda weird, maybe I’m brooding something. Autumn time, cold season. And now this voice in her ear: “Your husband had a serious heart attack and is in intensive care, please come immediately.”
That same afternoon, the saleswoman from the Ruhr district was a widow, at the age of 47. A single mom in the final form you can think of.
Their fate hardly plays a role in the public – there are about 500,000 young widows and widowers
There are about 1.7 million single parents of minor children in Germany, mostly mothers – and about every twentieth does not have to lift up the education because of a separation alone, but because the partner has died. But we are not marginalized, says Martina Münch-Nicolaidis, founder of the Nicolaidis Youngwings Foundation.
More than 20 years ago, she lost her husband in a car accident, a few weeks after the birth of her daughter. Since then, she has been campaigning for the interests of other victims. According to their surveys, there are 500,000 widows and widowers among Germany’s 50,000 and 800,000 orphans and orphans. But in the public discussion about single parents, the fate of this group hardly plays a role.
Separation and death – “a completely different life situation!”, Münch-Nicolaidis may not compare or even offset. But as different pairs diverge, they have one thing in common: After all, there is still a counterpart, with whom one can talk, in the best case can take joint responsibility for the children. Death deletes this option once and for all. Widows are either pulled from one day to the other under the feet of the ground, or they have a year-long medical odyssey behind them. One thing unites most of them: a feeling of abyssal loneliness.
One is often so busy with survival that one has no more strength to get support.
“Helpfulness in everyday life is already there, but hardly anyone can burden and deal with grief,” says Antje Schlüter *, mother of three children between the ages of five and 15, whose husband died of cancer four years ago.
Anja Schoppmann *, mother of a teenage daughter whose husband took the life in 2012, feels no less hard hit by fate: “We are a society spoiled by success, such stories have no place and I clearly noticed how my circle of friends changed has: one is invited less often, perhaps out of consideration, but I also feel because it irritates others. “ Her melancholy conclusion: “One is often so busy with survival that one has no more strength to get support – especially if you need them.”
Widow's pension is paid only when the couple was married for a year
And just in this exceptional situation is often little room and time for mourning. "The loss of the loved one in the building phase of life brings not only young mourners out of balance, but often to the brink of financial and personal existence," says Münch-Nicolaidis. Because suddenly a salary disappears, but real estate loans continue; because the claims to the pension funds are lower, the shorter someone has paid in there.
Certainly, even separations often lead to precarious conditions. But at least there is clarity in the claims. The so-called "Düsseldorfer table" regulates the maintenance after a separation. If the ex-partner does not pay, the state may pay in advance. A death is economically always an isolated case. Thus, the "big widow's pension" is only paid if the couple was married for at least one year and the deceased has paid at least 60 months into the statutory pension fund. And even then, it is only a fraction of the salary lost.
Anyone who was not married, is empty, usually the survivors of freelancers who have paid any contributions. In addition: Only a small part of it is tax-free, with a mother and a child around 1000 euro. If the mother wants to work full-time to secure her standard of living, the tax office keeps her hand on her - and only the peanuts of the additional benefit remain. Sales assistant Anke Quast would therefore not work more than 25 hours per week. However, she has one decisive advantage: "I became a late mother and worked for more than 20 years full-time, so my age is taken care of." For younger widows, this fiscal dilemma may later lead to the poverty trap.
If the first calendar year passes after the death of the partner, they also fall out of the splitting tariff and end up in the less favorable basic tariff. An impudence, finds Antje Schlüter: "I do twice the education, but have less net of the gross on the paycheck." The half-orphan's pension that accrues to the children, and thus, as a rule, the household budget, is usually below the tax-free allowance and is therefore deductible. But that is a small consolation. If an average earner dies young, this adds up to under one hundred euros per month. That's barely enough for a pair of kids boots.
Legacies can lead to Kafkaesque situations
Remains the topic of heritage. It helps after the heavy stroke of fate, if at least some fortune dampens the social hardship. Possible catch: If there is no will, children automatically become joint heirs. Although the surviving parent manages the assets in trust, but also the family court has a say in the matter.
This can lead to Kafkaesque situations. For example, with the Schoppmanns: Because their own house suddenly belonged to 50 percent of their then nine-year-old daughter, mother Anja could not sell it without court approval. Although for two they did not need the space as much as the money for a living. There were two more things to complicate: debts that she had not known, and a life insurer who was trying to pay the premium.
Münch-Nicolaidis fights for the state to support young mourners more decisively
"I was shocked anyway," she recalls, "and was also over the top because my daughter and I were not as cared for as I thought, there was no time for mourning, I had to take care of our economic survival." And that you - a woman who was both with her legs in life, as a freelance interior designer. A story as sad as typical. "Even modern double-income couples often live privately the classic division of tasks: He takes care of the family finances, they to household and everyday management," said Erika Biehn, national chairman of the Association of single mothers and fathers (VAMV). "If one of the partners suddenly dies, the other one is overwhelmed with the additional tasks."
Foundation founder Münch-Nicolaidis wishes that the state support young mourners in this existential plight more resolutely: more unbureaucratic, rapid assistance in coping with applications and legal disputes, a betterment in the statutory pension. And the guarantee for a free kitaplatz. Anke Kern has been receiving a volunteer help for some years now, bringing her daughter to school or picking her up from the hoard if the closing time does not fit into working hours. But the project "Kinderfeen", initiated by the VAMV, unfortunately does not exist nationwide.
Perceived and respected - widowed mothers wish that
More perceived and respected, including this desire united women who have lost their partner. In the circle of acquaintances, at work, in public.
Like the mother of three, Antje Schlüter, who has been asking at a museum cash desk or in a zoo, why family discounts are only given to two adult full payers. The reactions are manifold: sometimes dismay, sometimes ignorance. All everyday experiences, which also know other single parents. But - that must be mentioned at the end - emotionally lie worlds between both groups. "I do not envy a divorced woman," says Anke Quast, for example. "The endless arguments, the wrangling - as bad as the loss of my husband was, I could at least finish it for myself and accept my fate." And Julia Stoverock, who lost her husband when she was pregnant, adds: "He was my great love - and today I am grateful that she has stayed with me."
* Name changed by the editor
Here affected people find support
Nicolaidis Youngwings Foundation: Grief counseling for children, adolescents and adults ( nicolaidis-youngwings.de )
"Back to happiness": Facebook group by Julia Stoverock, who helps other victims after the death of her husband as a coach.
Book tip: "Never again" by Stephanie Witt-Loers is aimed particularly at younger women who have lost their partner (215 p., 18 euros, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
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This is an article from BRIGITTE