Thursday, January 25, 2007

What does it mean to be a widow?

A friend of mine lost her husband and told me that she never speaks the "W" word.  I innocently asked, "What is the "w" word?"  Thinking it had to be something like the "F" word.  Well, it WAS a bad word, and to some the word may seem obscene.  The word is "Widow." 

My friend went on to explain that just because her husband had died, didn't mean that she stopped feeling married to him.  True, most vows include "Til death do us part," but the vows didn't say, "I'll stay married to you until you die and then we no longer have a relationship."  The vow merely says that death has parted you.  Most widows and widowers I know believe that when their time comes, they will join again with their spouse.  So it's just that death has parted you for a time. 

Some realists will read this and say come on now.  If we were take those vows literally then none of us would ever get remarried or become reinvested in life.  That's true too.  But that's why I ALWAYS say, "We each grieve in our own unique way."  Meaning if you want to grieve, move on and become reinvested in life, then by all means do so.  If you want to grieve, move on, become reinvested in life, but choose not to remarry again, then there is nothing wrong with that choice either.

I must admit that after the time I have spent in grief counseling I was surprised that I had never heard anyone express my friend's sentiment in quite that way before.  I always try to listen to people with an open mind, that is, after all, how we learn and grow.  Then I came across an article titled, "Spousal Bereavement" and the author wrote expressing the exact same sentiments that my friend had and I thought, "Well I'll be darned, she's on to something."  So I have included the article in this posting in the hopes that it may benefit someone. 

Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.



               Lynn Caine, Widow


“Widow” is a harsh and hurtful word.  It comes from the Sanskrit and it means “empty.”  I have been empty too long.  I do not want to be pigeon-holed as a widow.  I am a woman whose husband has died, yes.  But not a second-class citizen, not a lonely goose.  I am a mother and a working woman and a friend and a sexual woman and a laughing woman and a concerned woman and a vital woman.  I am a person.  I resent what the term widow has come to mean.  I am alive.  I am part of the world.


If fate had reversed its whim and taken me instead of Martin, I would expect him to be very much a part of the world.  I cannot see him with the good gray tag of “widower.”  He would not stand for it for one moment.  And neither will I.  Not anymore. 


But what of love?  The warmth, the tenderness, the passion I had for Martin?  Am I rejecting that, too?


Ah, that is the very definition of bereavement.  The love object is lost.  And love without its object shrivels like a flower betrayed by an early frost.  How can we live without it?  Without love?  Without its total commitment?  This explains the passionate grief of widowhood.  Grief is as much a lament for the end of love as anything else.


Acceptance finally comes.  And with it comes peace.  Today I carry the scars of my bitter grief.  In a way I look upon them as battle stripes, marks of my fight to attain an identity of my own.  I owe the person I am today to Martin’s death.  If he had not died, I am sure I would have lived happily ever after as a twentieth-century child wife never knowing what I was missing . . .


But today I am someone else.  I am stronger, more independent.  I have more understanding, more sympathy.  A different perspective.  I have a quiet love for Martin.  I have passionate, poignant memories of him.  He will always be part of me.  But –


If I were to meet Martin today . . .?


Would I love him?


I ask myself.  Startled.  What brought the question to my mind?  I know.   I ask it because I am a different woman. 


Yes.  Of course I would.  I love him now.  But Martin is dead.  And I am a different woman.  And the next time I love, if ever I do, it will be a different man, a different love.




But so is life.  And wonderful.




moniorose said...

I too feel like my beloved and I are parted only by this physical plane.  I also am so very depressed and have been for almost a year.  crippled to the point of such despare I took to my room, afraid of everything.  I am afraid to make choces.  Afraid they will be the wrong ones.  I now find myself stronger and wanting to shed this cloak of darkness.  I feel ready, am I ready? I don't know guess I will find out when I take that first step outside of this comfort zone.  "Walking the process of falling and catching ones self."

tweetmom52 said...

I lost my husband 8 years ago this March and I still don't seem to be able to get a grip on moving forward. I have my 2 sons and 1 daughter lots of grandbabies and friends but it just lingers. The void is awful, I know God had a reason but I just don't think some people understand it till it happens to them! He was my second husband as I divorced the first maybe that is why I am reluctant to even try to date.

cleomcveo said...

Hi Deb,  If you would like to e-mail me at, I can send you an attachment titled, "When Grief Doesn't Heal."  It helps explains some components that may make it difficult to get through the grief process.  I also do agree with you that once we've been hurt a couple of times, through divorce, or through death, we are very hesitant to put our hearts and our emotions out there again for fear of feeling pain again.  This too can heal, once we remove some of the components that may be complicating our grief.


ng2000news said...

Valuable resource of widow news summaries: