Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Confessions From a Happy Widow


So apparently today is National Widow's Day. Honestly, I had no idea there even was a National Widow's Day, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, there is a National/International Day for everything. Gin Day is my personal favourite.

National Widow's Day was created in the United States a couple of years ago (shortly before I became a widow) to encourage people to support and help out widows in their communities. One of the best ways we can support widows is to stop judging them. For the love of God and all that's holy people, stop the widow shaming. Just stop.

Many of our beliefs about mourning can be traced to Victorian England when mourning was governed by strict rules. In those days, widows were supposed to wear "mourning" for at least two years and they were not allowed to "enter society" for twelve months. Fortunately "widows weeds" are a thing of the past (thank the Dear Lord for that, I actually don't like black that much and those veils are just ridiculous) but the vestiges of those timelines still linger to haunt widows today.

When I was first widowed, I felt so much pressure to conform to that role. I felt as if I was expected to not just be a widow, but to play the part of widow: to spend the rest of my life as a negative, angry (military) widow, living a life devoid of any happiness or joy. Or love. Our society puts so much pressure and judgment on widows (widowers). How we grieve, how long we grieve, when we date, when we get remarried. The truth is none of those things are a yardstick of how much we loved our spouse. The widow that dates after six months doesn't love her husband any less than the one who waits ten years to date. The widow who gets remarried eighteen months after her husband died doesn't love her husband any less than the one who never remarries. The widow who visits her husband's grave every week doesn't love her husband any more than the one who hasn't been to her husband's grave in months (that'd be me). 

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory ranks Death of a Spouse as the single most stressful life event (divorce and marital separation are numbers 2 and 3.) Widows (widowers) don't just lose the person they love the most; they suffer secondary losses as well: partner, co-parent, financial security, future plans, identity, sometimes even their (military) community, just to name a few.  These losses are compounded when widows find themselves facing judgment and criticism for not looking or acting like a stereotypical widow. As if there is any such thing. 

There is no one-size-fits-all rule for widowhood. We are twenty-three, forty-three or eighty-three. We have children. We don't have children. We have careers and we are stay-at-home moms. We lost our husband to cancer or suicide; in an accident or in war. They were plumbers, carpenters, doctors, and soldiers. We are the same and yet, we are all different. 

A few months ago someone actually told me I didn't look sad enough to be a widow. Because apparently I'm supposed to always have a perpetual aura of mourning (another memo I didn't get.) I didn't look sad that day because I wasn't. Sadness is a place to visit, not a place to stay.  I will always be sad Dan is gone but that doesn't mean I am sad. And that does not mean I can't have a joyful, happy life.

So just in case we haven't met, let me introduce myself. Hi! I'm Monica (the one in red.) I am the mom of three (almost) awesome children. I am a blogger and speaker and part-time university student. And yes, I am a military widow. 


Army Ball. April 22, 2017

And no, I don't look like a widow, I look like me (well without my glasses and with some fancy hair and makeup, I actually don't look like this most of the time, I have to be honest.) 

I look happy in this picture because I am happy.

As it turns out, I did not bury my happiness with my husband. I'm pretty sure I've already given up enough.

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3 comments

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  2. Good to read. I became a widow after 47 years. In the past 5 I have learned so much! Do you speak at modern widows clubevents?

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