The ones left behind. In my line of work and especially in the setting in which I work, I see alot of widows. There is still a very strong belief in the local community where I work that a widow should be completely dressed in black for at least 6 months and even for up to a year. I've already been told by my significant other that if he were to die, I have to wear black from head to toe for a year!
But seriously, I always feel a deep sense of loss when I see one of these women in the waiting room and especially when one of them consults me. In true doctor stereotype, I never really know what to say to them. I mean, what can you really say to someone who has lost their life partner? Yes, some people take it harder than others, but I just imagine how devastated I would be if it were to happen to me. I usually just give my condolences, which they acknowledge, and then feel very inadequate. I always send them for grief counselling - I have such respect for those counsellors for knowing what to say and do.
As doctors, I think we tend to try and stay clinical because the work we do and the things we see would destroy us in no time if we reacted to it as people normally do under normal circumstances. But we do not work under normal circumstances. The circumstances are extraordinary, unnatural. So we keep a certain distance. We get philosophical. We switch off when it gets too emotional or when we can feel it permeating too deeply. But neither can we allow ourselves not to be affected or we would be in danger of losing our humanity. So I feel their loss. Then I move on.
I think it is probably a sexist society that dictates that a widow must outwardly show her grief by wearing black whereas a widower is not under any obligation to show any outer sign of mourning, but then again, most cultural norms and beliefs are passed from generation to generation by the women of that culture. Still, I think it is a very beautiful thing for a woman to show that she is mourning her husband's loss. However, I don't think that she should be forced to do it. In any case, whenever I see one of these women in black, I find it very poignant.