dictionary72514One of the big steps of the grief journey is deciding whether or not you are going to let the title “widow” define you or not.

It’s understood that this “event” in your life has had a major impact and has changed the course of your life as you envisioned it. However, allowing the term widow to define you may mean you’re looking at this subject one-dimensionally.

Being a widow will always be a part of you, but it does not have to be the totality of you. There are many facets of your personality — not just widowhood, although these facets were affected by the death of your spouse. It might sound like semantics, but a small shift in perception can change everything.

At the beginning of mourning (and probably for a few years afterwards), widowhood does encompass your whole being. However, as you travel on your journey, it just becomes one part of you.

I liken it to when someone asks, “What do you do?” That is my least favorite question because (1) I am not what I “do” and (2) the person who asks is trying to put me in a category so he/she can understand me better. Therefore, it’s really about him or her and not about me at all!

Aren’t those little boxes on every form you need to fill out trying to put you in a box, too? Are there only three choices — single, married, or widowed? Those are narrow selections and don’t allow for any shades of gray; for example, a person in a long-term monogamous relationship outside of the bounds of marriage is still regarded as single — even though in her eyes she is not.

The bigger point is that I rebel against being placed in any sort of box. The term widow never defined who I was, but rather it was a part of what happened to me. It is certainly a part of my history, and it has shaped who I am today. That is different than letting yourself be defined by the label.

In actuality, being a widow was responsible for enormous spiritual growth on my part and my deeper understanding of the cycle of life. I did not want to grow in this manner, but I am thankful that I am able to use the lessons learned for the rest of my life.

What have you learned (and continue to learn) from your widowhood?