This June 23 marked the fifth annual International Widows Day, a U.N.-ratified day of action to acknowledge and address the injustices faced by widows around the world. For Thread MB, a blog that works to, among a variety of other things, support widows and their families in the United States, this day of action in New York calls attention to their daily struggle.
“It’s a very precarious position to wake up one day and all or half of your income stream is gone,” said Laura Wellington, founder and editor of Thread MB, who is also a widowed mother of four. “You’re looking at the face of a child. You can’t even describe that feeling.”
Wellington, who lost her husband when she was 35 years old, is one of 245 million widows worldwide. In the United States there are an estimated 29,000 widows under the age of 49, and in New York, where many women unfortunately entered widowhood after 9/11, Wellington has been steadily working to broaden her impact. About 50 percent of her LinkedIn readers are located in New York, and she has begun talks with major media and entertainment outlets based in the city.
In September 2015, Wellington founded the Three Souls Grant along with the blog, Thread MB. The grant helps to support widows and nonprofits that work with widows and their families. The blog began simply as a way to highlight other “social media moms” in hopes of fostering an online community. Over the months that followed, the blog gained traction, expanding to include feature posts on dad bloggers, nonprofits working for a variety of causes and interviews with celebrities, such as Andrea Bocelli and Bill O’Reilly, about their charitable efforts.
The inspiration for the blog almost didn’t happen.
In 2011, after creating an internationally successful children’s television show, “The Wumblers,”and running a financial systems and consulting company she co-founded, Wellington dropped everything. She announced her retirement, wrote a book and began writing for the Huffington Post.
When Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, lost her husband suddenly, Wellington wrote a post titled, “The Exclusive Club Sheryl Sandberg Never Intended To Join.” In it, she wrote: “I am writing this article not to spew out numbers or scream injustice. I am writing it to share my sincerest condolences with a woman I do not know but, in many ways, know quite well.”
The post went on to outline some advice for Sandberg and other recent widows, but Wellington initially hesitated to have it published. Feeling unsure as to how the article would be received, she waited a week before she ultimately decided to submit it.
“The next morning I woke up and had thousands upon thousands of women from all different countries reaching out to me. I was getting emails and tweets,” she said.
Soon after, Sandberg shared the blog post on her own Facebook page, so that “others can learn too.” Sandberg said, “My condolences to you – and my gratitude.”
The reception of the Huffington Post article prompted Wellington to start the “Three Souls Grant” and found Thread MB, with the intention to reach out to an international community of widows and moms. The site quickly took off.
ThreadMB began posting interviews and short features with social media moms who range from nutritionists and doctors talking about maintaining good health, to bloggers, like MrsMuffinTop or Thirdeyemom, focusing on everyday parenting tips, beauty tips and travel. For this past International Widows Day, ThreadMB featured Miriam Neff, whose books and blog, Widow Connection, center on helping widows navigate life without their husbands.
“Social media moms are celebrities in their own right – maybe not in the larger world, but they have fans, and some of them have an enormous fan base,” said Wellington, who explained that as more moms were featured, the popularity of ThreadMB grew.
Seeing an opportunity, she began scheduling celebrities for interviews about their mothers and the charitable foundations or nonprofits they were passionate about. From there, the site tactically expanded to include spotlights on nonprofits as well.
“You see often in the media celebrities doing fabulous things for worthy causes and nonprofits, but no one seems to have pulled them together so there’s a little more synergy,” said Jo Montgomery, a contributing writer for ThreadMB.
Exposure generated by well-followed social media parents, nonprofits with rigorous public relations departments and celebrities with their own followings, catapulted ThreadMB into the well-trafficked site it is today. Thought it only went live less than a year ago, the page generates 5 million views per month, said Wellington.
For nonprofits, the page seems to be especially beneficial.
“There aren’t many media outlets interested in nonprofit work,” said Laura Blank, a public relations senior advisor for World Vision, a nonprofit featured on the blog. “Thread MB offers readers a casual, behind-the-scenes look at nonprofits and their work across the country. The format is conversational and the articles are unique.”
Wellington said she is looking to partner with more nonprofits in the New York City area to feature them on her blog.
And while she says the site is very “strategically put together,” at its heart it has always been about fostering a community for online widows and parents.
“Once you’re a widow, your life turns upside down. There’s an emotional loss you have a hard time filling. You need that friendship, that positivity,” said Wellington. “And I think ThreadMB lends that.”