4 months after Todd died, I was talking to a friend who develops websites about starting a blog about my experiences. She was supportive but asked me to consider if I wanted to be defined in the public eye as a widow. 


I didn’t know the answer. My grief was still new and raw, and although I couldn’t see myself in that moment as anything but a widow, something in me whispered, “you are more than that and one day you will remember the other parts of you again.” Somewhere in that tsunami of pain, my subconscious knew that I didn’t want to be defined only by this loss for the rest of my life.


Not that losing one’s husband doesn’t redefine one’s life. It certainly does. It redefines one’s trajectory, changes one’s course in life like a storm altering a ship’s course. But, the ship remains a ship, however battered it becomes. And, yes, parts of who I am will always be inextricably tied to Todd, but I am, at my core, my own ship–myself. 


So, I didn’t start my own blog. Instead, I joined Hope for Widows to write in support of other widows and to help me make sense of my own experiences.


Now, nearly 3 years since Todd died, my inner voice that once whispered “you are more” has grown clear and strong. 


Relearning who I am surprised me because it happened incidentally, without intention. Last month, I applied for a new position in my building. As I updated my 8 year old resume, I felt incredibly empowered. Had I really done all that, achieved so much? I blew my own mind. The interview provided me with an opportunity to sort of brag on myself, and even though I didn’t get the position, I wasn’t that disappointed because I had an entirely new perspective on who I’ve evolved into within the last decade.


*If you haven’t recently updated your resume, do it. Even if you have no interest in looking for a new job, do it. It will boost your ego, and you will see a part of you beyond being a widow. Compliments from others are no match for seeing your achievements in black and white.*


Something else I’ve done recently that has contributed to relearning who I am is completing my profile on a dating site. (This post is not about dating or the pros and cons of online dating. I’ll save that experience for another time.) “Describe yourself.” “What you should know about me.” “Things that are important to me.” However generic or cliched, these are NOT easy prompts to answer, not if I am answering authentically. How does one describe oneself? Labels aren’t enough: widow, strong, independent. We are so much more! Many times, I found myself looking for answers in what Todd loved about me, and remembering those qualities felt wonderful.


You know what the best part is of defining myself now in addition to being a widow? Knowing that I am a marvelously unique creation and being confident that, even if no one else in this world ever appreciates me like Todd did, I can appreciate myself. 


I encourage you, when you are ready, to examine your achievements big and small, to describe yourself beyond stereotypes and labels, to appreciate your individuality. We all loved (and still love) our husbands and knew their love for us; when our hearts are ready, we have to remember to love ourselves, too. Each of us is so much more than a widow.



Sue Leathers is an English teacher and mother. She had a huge crush on her husband Todd Kleffman, a journalist, when she was in high school, and she'd save his columns and stories. Decades later, she and Todd found each other through Facebook. He was the love of her life, her high school crush, and she was his biggest fan. She lost Todd in October 2017 to a heart attack. She has found solace in Hope for Widows and in writing of her own journey, and hopes to help other widows by sharing her experiences here.

Sue can be found on Instagram: @susanjanie