When I became a widow, 15.5 months, ago I instantly knew that I would never marry again, and for some reason people seem to have a hard time accepting or believing that. I recognize that part of the reason is because I’m young (currently 32 with our 2 kids under 3), however that doesn’t automatically require that I marry again. I AM married, and I talk with my husband every day – he just doesn’t have a body anymore. I tried endlessly for months to find relatable stories, people or information about young widows who chose not to remarry, but I failed every single time and eventually gave up on even bothering to look. First it got me wondering, why does society pressure (consciously or unconsciously) for remarriage? Theres nothing wrong with remarrying – if that’s what you genuinely desire – but why is it the only societally acceptable option? And second, it got me thinking and eventually inspired me – I’ll just have to carve out a new version of normal and shout it from the rooftops. I’ve always lived in such a way that when people say “You can’t do it” my response is “Oh ya? Watch me.” And here I go, just watch me.
Since pretty close to the beginning I have gotten many unintentionally hurtful comments about this subject, many of which have unfortunately come from some of those closest to me. We widows all know them well. “Don’t close yourself off to loving again” or “you’re so young, you can find love again” or “don’t worry you won’t have to be alone forever” or “oh I totally see you marrying again.” Like these people seem to have more insight or authority over my heart and life plan than I do. The worst part is that everyone that says these things feels as though they’re helping, when unless you’ve been in a widows shoes and even more specifically my shoes, you have no idea that what you’re actually saying to me is “your husband is forgettable” or “there’s someone better out there, someone who didn’t die on you.” I’ve tried very hard to just allow these comments to pass me by, in one ear and out the other, knowing that the intentions are well meaning, albeit confusing as hell to me. However, I went for dinner with a friend the other night, one I haven’t seen since before losing my husband, and despite wearing both our wedding rings as usual, I got my first “So, are you seeing anyone special yet?” She very cautiously and delicately asked the question, but it was still the dreaded question. My answer? Well it was even more comical and organic than I knew it would be. I unintentionally burst a quick laugh out loud and then the words “Oh GOD no!” fell out of my mouth before I even realized I was responding. She felt bad, I could tell. But I didn’t. You see, while I think its beautiful that some widows open their hearts and choose to marry again (and if its right for you I encourage it), I just know its not for me, and that’s perfectly okay too. I’m sure many of you are reading this and chuckling to yourself thinking I’ll change my mind as I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s fine. I’ve realized that societal doubt is going to be a part of my journey, and instead I chuckle inside and confidently say to myself “you just don’t know me that well, watch me.”
There are a few things that really bother me about this notion that a widow needs to remarry. First off, love never dies and we never die, both things just transform into new versions of the same energy. My love for my husband is just as alive as when he was physically alive, its just transformed into a new version of the same energy, as has he. Love is transcendent and doesn’t require a physical human body in order to live on. I am still in a relationship with my husband, it just looks a little different now. I understand that to some people that might sound a little weird, but I’m not here to make others feel comfortable. I’m here to live my life in the most authentic and meaningful way to me and me alone, and for me that means remaining married to my husband no matter what side of the increasingly thinning veil he’s on.
The other thing that bothers me is on a more collective level, and it’s this idea that we need a romantic partner in order to be happy or fulfilled in life (and on a more sexist level, that as a woman I need a man to ‘take care of me’ – hello, join us in the 21st century). While I understand and agree that as human beings we thrive with connection to other human beings, what I disagree with is that a romantic connection is required to thrive. Have you ever heard that expression “you have to be truly happy alone in order to be truly happy in a relationship?” Well, you can also just be truly happy alone. The idea that our happiness somehow requires being tied to another human beings presence in our life is quite frankly a little insulting. Do you know how great the company of myself is? I am actually quite content being my own best friend, my own source of income, my own travel companion, my own dinner partner. And when I do want the connection with other people that we human beings thrive on, I’m quite content with familial love and sisterhood love.
This second year of widowhood has brought in a whole new world of challenges, and this is one of them. While its hard to have to hear those statements and questions from people, I know that they don’t mean the harm it feels like. And although I like to prove people wrong about their speculations about me, I also don’t like to be stubborn or competitive about it to be honest, I just want to live my life leading by authentic example. So I continue to choose to let the comments float past knowing that they only want to help, and instead of sniping at their unintentional hurt, I choose to be a vocal beacon of light for those who feel the same as me. Fellow Hope Sister, if your heart hurts when you hear those comments, if you never want to remarry again, if you still wear your wedding rings, if you still commit to and connect with your husbands spirit – you are not alone. I see you, I hear you and I stand with you. Just watch us.