Widow, what a strange word! I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You need to find a new word to describe who you are”. Who I am? Does the word widow describe who we are or is that the hand that we have been dealt?
I searched the web, of course, and came up with some interesting definitions for widow as a noun:
- a woman who has lost her husband by death and has not remarried
- a short last line of a paragraph, especially one less than half of the full measure
- Cards, an additional hand or part of a hand, as one dealt to the table.
- Statistically a five letter word that starts with “W”
Used as a verb: to deprive of something greatly valued or needed
So to recap, we have lost our husbands, we are now considered “less than half of the full measure,” and yes, this is the hand we have been dealt and we have been deprived of something of the greatest value.
Rather than be trapped by old definitions, I believe we need to change what “widow” looks like to society. In the film Young Widow-Naked in the Memorial Playground, a documentary produced and directed by Elizabeth Titus, she interviews people on the street to ask what comes to mind when they hear the word widow. Some of the images were, (no surprises here) black veil, sadness, tissue in hand, old lady, old house, helpless, vulnerable and alone. Does this paint a picture of you? These adjectives do not describe the powerful women I have met,. The women I know are full of courage and dreams, not looking back but moving forward with wonderful memories of a life forever changed.
I don’t believe widowhood is my “station” in life. It has been my journey and yes, I have moved on from having the tissue in hand. I have been the sad and alone widow but never considered myself vulnerable or helpless. Through this journey I have been empowered through my grief, grown through new relationships, clarified my life goals and truly experience joy every day while holding on to happy memories, and I know you too can have this journey.
The widowed woman of today is the woman who has lost her husband but she is not half of a whole and does not continue to just live with the hand she has been dealt. She is a powerful force, a tower of strength and an example to her children and society. We join together in support groups to grieve and to remember where we were and celebrate how far we’ve come.
We may not be able to conjure up a new word to describe the loss of our spouse, but we can awaken society to our grief and our needs as we move through the loss process, going about our new lives without wearing our “widowhood” on our sleeves. We are a force to be dealt with now, we are survivors and we will grieve our loss in our own way wearing our bright reds and yellows and never donning “widows weeds”.