Well, not really, but I believe my meaning is clear.

It’s a lonely dark word that we – as a culture – don’t like or know what to do with. It’s like the proverbial bad penny.

Nevertheless, I suddenly found this word thrust upon me, attaching itself firmly to my person. I would henceforth be identified as “Widow.” But the word itself felt wrong, and it formed awkwardly in my mouth when I’d try to speak it. I did not feel like what I understood this word to mean.

Everyone around me could see it, too. They saw the dark cloud descend around me – a shroud of sadness and gloom. Was this the end of the person they once knew?

They held all the expectations culturally associated with this word. They expected that I would be sad and wear black for a while, and that I would need space, probably about a year or so, to sort things out. After that I would be back to my normal self again, and then we could pick up where we left off.

They responded to these expectations rather than to me. They spoke softly with well-chosen words, careful not to upset me or, heaven forbid, make me cry. They didn’t want to say or do something that would remind me of this thing I now was. Like I could forget. They went back to their lives and to their husbands, and allowed me space to learn how to be alone, just like our culture expects of them.

They seemed to watch from a distance, curiously waiting to see what would happen to me now, as if I was at the mercy of my situation.

Sadly, I get it – who really wants to be around all that gloomy awkwardness? I certainly don’t.

So I decided to toss that old bad penny.

(Photo used with permission)

I refused to let a word – that word – shape me, to decide who I am to become after the trauma of losing my soul mate. Like an ugly old t-shirt, I will alter it; I will make it fit me. I get to decide what Widow looks like on me.

At first Widow looked like Student. I went back to college full time, surrounded by my juniors who were full of life and hope. I witnessed the continuance of life.

After that, Widow looked like Entrepreneur. I started sewing again, and I made myself a quilt from some of Rod’s (many) t-shirts. I thought there might be other widows who would appreciate such a gift for themselves, so I opened up an online store.  I rediscovered creativity and productivity.

Today Widow looks like Writer. Life is made up of stories, and every story is important – even mine. I am discovering my unique place in the universe.

What will Widow look like for me next? I can’t say. But I do know it will continue to change and evolve as time moves forward. And I will continue to choose what Widow looks like on me.

About 

Gail is a New York born California raised Texan. She married her high school sweetheart, had some kids, and shared all the things. After 30 years of marriage, with an empty nest in sight, Rod was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Seven months later, on November 22, 2013, he passed away, leaving Gail lost and without direction. After going back to school for a while, then having an online shop for a while, Gail had a dream that prompted her to write about her widow life. She felt compelled to advocate for new widows in their early weeks and months before they find their voice again, and that starts with sharing her own story. While ‘Rod’s wife’ enjoyed scrapbooking (and other crafty things) and being a stay-at- home-mom and housewife, Gail is continuing to discover who she is, and what she is all about.

You can also find Gail on Instagram at: @onecraftywidow and her website: www.onecraftywidow.com/blog