In some patriarchal societies, widows may maintain economic independence.
A woman would carry on her spouse's business and be accorded certain rights, such as entering guilds.
This custom, called sati, was outlawed in 1827 in British India and again in 1987 in independent India by the Sati Prevention Act, which made it illegal to support, glorify or attempt to commit sati.
Support of sati, including coercing or forcing someone to commit sati, can be punished by death sentence or life imprisonment, while glorifying sati is punishable with one to seven years in prison.
Both sexes tend to have a harder time looking after themselves without their spouse to help, though these changes may differ based on the sex of the widow and the role the spouse played in their life.
The older spouses grow, the more aware they are of being alone due to the death of their husband or wife.
For example, women often carry more of an emotional burden than men and are less willing to go through the death of another spouse.
In 19th-century Britain, widows had greater opportunity for social mobility than in many other societies.
Along with the ability to ascend socio-economically, widows—who were "presumably celibate"—were much more able (and likely) to challenge conventional sexual behaviour than married women in their society.
In some parts of Europe, including Russia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy and Spain, widows used to wear black for the rest of their lives to signify their mourning, a practice that has since died out.
It is argued that this notion arose from the idea that if a husband dies, the woman may have performed witchcraft against him.
In parts of India and Nepal a woman is often accused of causing her husband’s death and is not allowed to look at another person as her gaze is considered bad luck.