I am a widow.
And boy, do I hate that word.
Some other words I found to describe those of us in this situation are equally as disappointing and depressing:
- Suffering Wife
If you have the unfortunate need to use this word, it comes with a whole lot of baggage. I’m not talking just a cute little name-brand carry on that fits under the seat or on your lap, I’m talking about a Costco sized, overstuffed bag bursting with thoughts and feelings you may not want or truly need that catch the zipper in the wake of flyaway emotions.
Widow packs a punch with a connotation of hopelessness, sadness, dry, withered, crushed, shriveled, old, worn out, miserable, lifeless, dowdy, passionless, despondent, black clothes-wearing woman (or man) and paralyzed, among other things. The widow moniker shadows over us like the caped owner of a scythe, daring us to move on to the next phase of this journey…which feels ominously like marching miserably toward our own death.
I am a widow, however, today I am none of those things.
Using that word has been a difficult “come to terms” for me over the past years. Kind of like the way younger women feel when they first start being recognized as a Ma’am vs. Miss or the day a man may be mistaken as a child’s grandfather instead of the dad. There is quite an adjustment period, don’t you think? When first acknowledged of this “time change” – usually from an unsuspecting younger person – ones mood can go from raging irritation, denial and an exaggerated eye roll, to resistant emotional recognition of truth and then finally realistic adjustment. Time just passes and you trade in exuberant idealistic youth for the natural fall out of age coupled with experience. Blech.
Just like many natural modifications in my life I struggle with change….specifically about how to discuss my husband with those who know nothing about my story. At what point do I stop saying “my husband” – even though that is the easiest thing to say, because people expect a line like that. They like a line like that. It’s comfortable. However, when do I move toward something more accurate such as, “my husband who has since passed” which actually sounds more like a line spoken with an English accent than anything else. Saying that phrase, even without the accent, is still hard after all these years. The words get stuck like toffee in my teeth and no matter how much I roll the pieces around my tongue and get my mouth used to their pointed sharpened edges, they still feel as if they pinch and pull – it is uncomfortable. Yet, many truths are just that…uncomfortable.
However, there is really no word that better describes being left behind other than “widow” & yet, I want a better word. I want a word that doesn’t elicit a response like “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear…” yet simultaneously I yearn for the compassion, thoughtful and empathetic embraces of those who may imagine how it feels to loose such an important person in my life. Deep down I desire the camaraderie that grows from shared experience and yet I covet and somewhat feel protective over the uniqueness of my loss. The “no one can feel my pain” narrative is safe, yet one that can keep you angry, victimized and many times isolated. This badge of honor we widows may wear somewhat proudly – and quite frankly sometimes may appear with a bit of a superior attitude – is one that I would gladly give up for one more minute with Scott.
The loss of your husband or wife, of course, is unimaginable to most. I would never have thought this would be the path my life was going to take and for me, the loss meant that I no longer had access to my soul mate, best friend, confidant, my best audience, the father of my children and the one who brought us safety in all circumstances, no matter how scared he may have been. He surrounded us with love and he never left me emotionally stranded. He was IT. We loved completely. Oh yes, and he laughed at all my jokes….that counts for a lot in a relationship – especially mine – where I have learned to use humor to battle a whole list of insecurities. I will always feel blessed beyond measure for the sanctuary he provided for me and the kids.
Having been through my husband’s battle with cancer and coming out the other side with a better understanding of life and death, I want a word that describes me today – and all of us who share this story. So here’s what I propose…
I want a word that encompasses: courageous, fearless, hopeful, vulnerable, strong, loving, giving, compassionate, understanding, nurturing, full of life, adventurous, introspective, mature, passionate, resilient, curious, emotionally evolved, spirited…
This list could go on and on and I know there may be a word out there that describes these gifts. But perhaps when I break it all down into the most common denominator, the only word that wraps it all together in a fine fitting red-ribbon wrapped package – a carryon that could potentially fit on my lap – is widow.
Turns out, I am a widow…. I am all these things….and more.