“Martin Anthony(Tony) Barnes, age 47, passed away peacefully with his wife Cheryl Barnes at his side on Friday, August 29, 2014 at Florida Hospital after battling a long illness.”

That is the first line of my husband’s obituary and my official initiation into the “club no one wants to join and into the “privilege” of “celebrating” National Widow’s Day.

Terrific, right? 

When we exchanged our vows, I never even considered that we wouldn’t be together forever. Who thinks about that line “til death do us part.” I said it and so did he, but we never really thought about it. We were more concerned if I would say the word “obey”–he didn’t want me to say it, I didn’t care if I did or not. It wasn’t like obedience was happening anyway. But I digress.

We lived our married lives like death and dying weren’t eventually going to happen.   We never even talked about it, ever. The only time it ever really came up is when my father passed away 16 years ago. Even then, it wasn’t about anything major except his saying: “I want to be cremated like your father was.” My response was: “Me too.”

Discussion over.

Even when he was sick, I refused to believe he was going to die. Please. Have you met him? He is stubborn as hell. He isn’t going anywhere. Besides, he promised he wouldn’t leave me. We never even entertained the notion of his dying, let alone my becoming his widow.

I do believe this is typical for most souls on this planet. We don’t like to think about dying, death, and what comes after for the ones left behind.  Let’s be honest – that conversation can be unpleasant, painful, and devastatingly sad. Through death, we are separated from someone we care about. It’s a depressing subject. Who brings it up in the middle of a vacation or while having dinner…hey, so death, that sucks, right? Not a light topic by any means.

But then “it” happens… 

Your world comes to a screeching halt. What are you supposed to do now? Cry, kick and scream? Call everyone you know and tell them what happened?  Plan a funeral? Buy a nice new outfit to wear to the funeral? Figure out what the rest of your life looks like now that he’s gone? What does it even look like?

Why don’t we know how to deal with this?


And…very few want to hear about it at all.

This is why we have National Widows Day. The day is not a celebration by any means. The day is about support, understanding, and love for those who were forced to join the club.  It is for recognizing that being a widow is really hard and just sucks.  It is about really “getting it” and knowing what to do for a widowed sister.  Even if it is just sitting next to your widow friend on the beach and saying nothing while she stares out at the ocean with tears in her eyes. Something like that means the world to us.

Because people really don’t know what to say to someone who has lost a loved one through death, many uncomfortable things happen. People fidget. They stare at the floor, or worse, at a point behind the widow. They act as though it never happened or worse, they blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind is not helpful. They don’t know what to do to help the widow but make promises to “be there if you need me.” Sadly, this promise is broken more times than not.

To me, National Widows Day is a good way for the non-widow to at least try and learn how to support their loved one. Another way for non-grievers to realize widowhood is NOT catching and it’s okay to love on their widow. Widows aren’t going to make you join the Club. We don’t even want to be in it.

I digress again.

Much less of this:

“How long are you gonna grieve?”

“He’s been dead xyz years (or months!) Can’t you be over it already?”

“I can’t even talk to you anymore without hearing your dead husband’s name over and over.”

“You’re wallowing in your grief. Let it go.”

“You really should stop posting about your dead husband on Facebook.”

“I bet if you fixed yourself up better and lost some weight, you could find a new man to help you forget Tony and be in love again.”

“Why are you still crying? He died six years ago!”

“Live your life. Your boys need you to stop thinking about him. The past is no longer important.”

(Things said directly to my face by the way)

Instead, much more of this:

“Hey, chick, throw on some clothes. We’re going on an adventure.”

“Here’s a gift card. Go get a mani-pedi and a massage. I’ll take care of the kids and/or dogs.”

“Something told me to call you tonight. Need to talk?”

“You don’t want to talk? Okay, we can just sit here and stare at each other. Whatever you need.”

“Go ahead and cry. This right here is a judgment-free zone. ”

“I’m gonna hug you…deal with it.”

“I brought some fried chicken and ice cream. Let’s binge some Bridgerton, stare at Rege-Jean Page’s butt and stuff our faces until we pass out.”

I believe that many widows are missing the unconditional support, understanding, and love they need to help mend their broken hearts.  This is why I am glad there is a National Widow’s Day. The day demands that the conversation be had.  Getting what we need at the moment is so important to a widow. Having friends volunteer to be there for us and actually doing it is even more important Losing our loves is hard and sometimes nearly impossible for us to comprehend. Members of the Club need to be remembered and taken care of while they keep on living and nurse our broken hearts.

One last point…Club Members need the loving care and support of others every day. National Widows Day is definitely a great place to start.

“Happy” National Widows Day, Sisters!

Have you heard about Hope for Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K on May 15 and 16? Registration is now open! For details, FAQ’s and to register/support go to: https://racewire.com/register.php?id=12122 Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support, or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcomed to participate. The deadline to register is May 15, 2021. The proceeds will directly support widows directly through their annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and our Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program.


Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia and after several moves with her family, settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While she attended college, she laid eyes on Martin “Tony” Barnes and was completely lost. They became inseparable and were married on December 24th, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida. Tony worked as a counselor, while Cheryl got her dream job working at Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son, Miles, was born in July 2004. Cheryl left Disney and took a job in accounting at a property management company. Everything seemed to be going well for the family and Cheryl made plans to attend nursing school. However, in July 2011, Tony was diagnosed with end stage renal failure caused by lupus. For the next three years, Cheryl cared for her husband while taking care of the boys and working. Tony’s health deteriorated as a result of several complications until he passed away on August 29, 2014. Thus began her new journey as a widow and solo parent.
Cheryl was devastated at the loss of her beloved Tony, but continued to work and care for their sons as she had before. As a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Along with writing and being involved with several widows groups on Facebook while raising her boys, she works as a training bookkeeper at an association management company.
She plans to go back to school and obtain a Master’s in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their losses. She is also working on a book about her grief journey.
Her hobbies are reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, and just chilling with her boys.
Additionally, she is also the founder of Black and Widowed: A Unique Journey, a Private Facebook group and a contributing author of the book, Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle and Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women.
You can also reach Cheryl through her public Facebook page, Widowness and Light, which is based on her widowed journey.