Widowhood is a condition common to all societies, civilizations and communities. Its circumstances and problems have ranged from the former Hindu custom of suttee, where the widow had to die on her husband's funeral pyre, to the boredom of the wealthy middle-aged, upper class widow in her beautiful home. However, for most of the world's population, widowhood means economic deprivation. Homelessness and starvation are possible in cultures where extended families or state welfare does not offer support. Even with such support widows may become second-class citizens, appended to the families of a brother, brother-in-law or uncle, where they may effectively lose their children to the dominating couple in the extended group. Grief and loneliness are frequently the result of the loss of the spouse.
The case of young widows introduces the need for her to be self-supporting, and if there are children, to maintain a home for them, while often working full-time outside. Few communities or countries offer adequate counselling services to widows, and funeral aid is often totally lacking.