How are we supposed to feel as a widow? There are days when I felt angry, sad, depressed and when I was in shock. I did want others to be as angry as I was and feel what I felt. I did have breakdowns, blow ups (one happened to be at the funeral director and another at a cashier in a local grocery store) and overall depressive behavior. These are “normal” feelings that society expects. What about the days when I was smiling, I didn’t cry or feel sorry for myself. How does society react to this? It’s like people get even more confused when you laugh at a joke or smile at a neighbor after you lose your spouse. The fact is, we are human and there are days when I did not feel like crying. I was so tired of crying and being depressed. I would wake up those days and vow that I was going to have a “happy” day. I would not let the emotions control me that day. If I wanted to have some light at the end of the dark trauma tunnel, I needed to laugh.
When I became a widow, I was young. Did this change what society’s connotations of my widowhood? I believe so. There are widows that are much older than I was and they thought that since I spent much less time with my husband, Mike, I did not get the respect or carry the sorrow that they did. So even amongst the “group of widows” there were some beliefs. We both felt robbed of time with our loved one. When we took our vows of marriage, no matter how old we were or how long ago it was, we thought it was for the rest of our lives. Not once did I think it would be for the rest of my husband’s life. On the other hand, you might think that someone that becomes a widow at 70 is lucky they got to spend so much time with their significant other that they did not miss out on much, but they do. What about dating again or getting married again? There are connotations on this as well. People have expectations on how much time should go by before this happens. There are also certain expectations that come with how old you are. The expectation differs if you are a man (widower) or a woman (widow) that has lost their spouse. I believe the fact if you have children is considered by society as it relates to society’s beliefs on how you should feel or act. The fact of the matter is there is no right timeframe, age or gender that should impact beliefs. We are our own person. Life is full of unexpected events, like the passing of your loved one. Why should there be expectations on timelines on other events in life? There shouldn’t be.
As a widow I felt responsible for so much. I was responsible for Mike’s last wishes and keeping his memory alive. I put a lot of responsibility on myself. I wanted to make sure I was doing what Mike wanted me to do. I even developed a saying “What would Mike do?” It helped me get through some tough decisions that I had to make. I am not sure if it was society’s connotations that created this feeling or if it was my own doing. The community does feel a strong need to take care of the widow. This is something that needs to remain. The support those around us can get us through the day or even the next hour. I wonder if this was created by passages in the Bible or culture.
Over time, widow connotations have been developed, just as other connotations in society are developed. Words mean different things to different people. It all depends on your experiences, but society has a role in this. We can change what society believes, but what is important is that we believe in our own decisions and ourselves. There are people that do not completely understand or can’t comprehend what a widow goes through emotionally and physically unless they have become one. We make our own path in our life story from what is given to us, even if we have to make it on our own.
I encourage you to not always follow the connotations, but to muster the courage to face the unexpected, unfamiliar life to begin to heal, love and live again.