There are many contributions to what we develop as our beliefs. Society has a large impact on what we deem as “normal”. Although I am a big believer there is no normal. When I became a widow, I did not know how I was supposed to act or what I was supposed to do. As we grow up we look at people for guidance and search for mentors. I had seen my grandmother become a widow, but I was young to really understand behaviors. A famous widow that I can think of is Jacqueline Kennedy. There are pictures of her all over the internet and President Kennedy’s funeral was all over the media, as was his death. Jacqueline Kennedy is really an icon. When you picture her, you might see her black dress, dark eyes and hair. She wore a pearl necklace quite often and large sunglasses. Is this what a widow is supposed to look like? There were so many times that I could have used some validation that what I was doing was right. I even wondered if I looked like a widow. I thought I could be recognized by anyone as a widow and for some time wanted to be recognized that way. If they recognized me as a widow then all of the connotations that come with the word would not need to be said out loud by me.
But I discovered very quickly that I did not want to be associated with all of society’s beliefs about widows. Although the connotations today have changed over time, some of them remain the same. In the past, widows were to wear black for the rest of their lives to signify they were mourning. In some instances the widow wore black for the first year after their spouse’s death. People still use a year as some sort of magic number. As a widow we will mourn for the rest of our lives, but how changes through first few weeks, months or years. In certain cultures, a widow is required to marry within their late husband’s family. Could you imagine if you were required to marry someone specific after you lost the person you loved? Especially if all that was eligible was Uncle Bob. But the best idea of all that I have learned about is that the widow is to throw yourself onto the lifeless burning body of your husband at their funeral. This is called a sati. I understand that there are certain culture and religious beliefs, so to each their own. But if someone told me to jump on the fire and burn myself, I am not sure I could do it. Actually, I can guarantee I would not be able to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my late husband. I am just not willing to burn myself alive. If I did, I can only imagine what he would say to me. He might ask me if I ate my “stupid sandwich” for breakfast that day. On a serious note, there was a time when I wanted to die right along with my husband. I even pictured my own death. Thankfully I got through those feelings.