I just completed my taxes this year, and I cried (again!, because I did the same thing last year) when I had to check the “Single” box.
There is a reason that we always check off “Widowed” on government forms, instead of “Single”. That’s because being widowed is different. I don’t consider myself single in the same way that other single people are single.
As widows, the label of “single” can feel very confusing. To be honest, even the word “widow” can be jarring when you first hear it. I remember changing our auto insurance policy early on after Frank died. The agent said I qualified for the “widow discount”, and the words sent shivers down my spine. It didn’t register that I could possibly be a widow.
Now, here I am being labeled “single”.
The things we never thought we’d have to think about, right?
Are we single now? Not exactly. It’s a little more nuanced than that.
Single. This word just doesn’t make sense to me. Frank and I didn’t break up. We didn’t choose to be separated. And I absolutely refuse to believe that he just ceased to exist. He’s still here, just in a different way.
On February 19th, I celebrated our 40th anniversary. It was the second anniversary I celebrated since Frank’s death, and it was torture. As I ate dinner at our favorite restaurant all I could think about was how I wish we could have made it to this special milestone together.
I got my first tattoo to commemorate the occasion, and I felt Frank’s spirit urging me to be brave. I still cried, though, because it hurt like hell!
Now, here I am, eighteen months into this nightmare. A nightmare that is slowly softening at the edges. One in which I find myself able to carry a heartbreak so great, I initially thought would kill me, too. And with a brand-new joy and love for life that I could have never imagined in my “before” life.
I am so proud of myself for making it this far. I do my best every single day, even if my best is just putting one foot in front of the other when I get out of bed.
When Frank first died, I hated hearing about how he’d want me to keep living. I hated hearing from people how precious our memories and lived experiences were. How lucky I was to have had true love at all because most people don’t. I truly hated all those words of encouragement.
But slowly, I’m recognizing that I do want to live again. I want to experience life. I want to try to embody every good quality that my husband had. I want to keep doing better and better – for my sons, my granddaughter, and for me.
If only I could have been this person when he was alive.
And yet, despite this new-found love for life, I get conflicting feelings about how this new label of “single” fits into my life now as a person whose time on this earth may continue for many years to come without my husband. It’s a lot to think about.
Here’s something else to think about: Even parenting is different.
Just to emphasize how different it is, here is a list of things I have realized in the 18 months of being a solo parent.
- I co-parent with someone who cannot physically do anything to help me out.
- I have zero parenting back up.
- I am the only parent to my sons.
- I am the sole advice giver.
- I am still deeply in love with my children’s father.
- I am not part of a living, breathing couple.
- I know that it is 100% possible to be forever in love with one person because I have done it for the past 4o years…and counting.
- I consider him an active participant in our lives even though we were ripped apart by death.
- I don’t have a physical parenting partner, and my sons do not have another parent who has a body. And yet, he influences how I parent on so many levels.
There is no one else on this earth who cares for my children the way I do and that is an incredibly, deeply lonely experience.
When they do something worth celebrating and I get so excited, my options are to smile to myself, connect to a person who is dead, or call another family member or friend (who does care, but not like HE cared).
I am not a single mom. I am not a partnered mom. I am something else. Something that is hard to explain or understand. I don’t quite fit in – in the parenting world, or the dating world for that matter.
And so, I inhabit this strange in-between. Not quite single, not quite like other parents, but something else entirely.
The word “single” will never fit right to me. It’s like a pair of jeans that I just can’t seem to fit into anymore, no matter how hard I try. But I’m not quite coupled up the way I once was, either.
Will I ever be? I don’t know. I doubt it. But I’m open. Open to the nuance and grey space required to be in a new relationship as myself. If it ever happens.
Sometimes I think about Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, two amazing women who became widows when both of their husbands died at the young age of 39. They never got remarried, but instead chose to focus on carrying forward the great legacies of their late husbands.
To be honest, I think that will probably be my fate as well.
Sometimes I feel Frank urging me on, encouraging me to have fun, to experiment. But for me, committing to a new partner has always felt a bit strange, maybe even a bit disloyal.
Being widowed AND in an alive relationship with a breathing person is a thing, for lots of widowed people. And I’m sure many of you are making this great, brave leap into finding new love. I congratulate you! That takes courage.
Like so much in widowhood, it asks us to stretch and expand. To open our hearts and hold space for two great loves at the same time.
But for me? I don’t know. I’m not in a relationship the way I once was. I’m something else. Something that maybe, we just don’t have a word for. Sometimes language lets us down. And I think that this is one of those times.
How about you? Do you consider yourself “single”?
Let’s keep in touch! If anything resonated with you, please leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @tofrankwithlove
Joyce – I was so relieved to read your story. I feel the same exact way. I’m not single and I never will be. I don’t want to check single on any form. It’s not correct and did not leave my husband willing to be single.
It hurts so much and I still can’t believe after 14 months that he is gone. I have two teenage boys who are struggling too with the reality of our lives now.
We know we need to work through this. We can’t MOVE ON as I keep hearing but we can work through what we have together.
Thank you for being a part of the Hope for Widows site. I’m new and really finding it inspirational.
Thank you so much for reading and relating!
Wow, 14 months! It’s been 18 months since my hubby Frank passed and every day is a struggle.
I understand and empathize with you about how hard this is, especially with helping your boys through their grief. Being the solo parent is not easy and I pray you find the strength, for yourself and them.
I agree. Why do people always think that grief has an endpoint? If love never ends, then why do we imagine that grief has to? It doesn’t make any sense.
I have enjoyed being a part of HforW, and I am grateful to be able to share my story with other widowed people. This experience has been phenomenal.
Joyce your brother is so very proud of you and the stand up way you’ve begun to deal with losing your hubby,not acceptance, but find ways to deal.You are so talented and I’m glad you’re my baby Sister, the words on your blog has helped your big brother come to terms on losing my Wife(Evelyn Kay),Chi Chi,keep inspiring me, and others we need you,you don’t pass judgment say speak from heart,even though it’s all new to you too,but you have a way with truth, and heartfelt senses, thanks agin love you,Don Hishaw 💖
Thank you big bro for your comment. It was beautifully stated.
Frank and Kay was the absolute best parts of us, and we honor them by doing everything in the spirit of excellence that they expect from us.
Also, I appreciate you for recognizing the effort that goes into writing these blogs. All of the women who contribute do such an amazing job telling their stories. Thank you for reading.
With love & gratitude,
I became a widow in Jan. Very painful. Lost, things seem so overwhelming. I found your blog search for widows blog- Most people are very kind. I had lecture this last week not being depressed, doing things. You know I know all that but when people who’ve not walked your journey lecture you- they don’t know about feeling there is a hole in your heart. They don’t know about the lonely nights because you and your husband evening talking, praying together, reading your Bible together. Life is very hard right now. You are responsible for everything. thank you for your blog.
Thank you for your comment. That means so much to me that you took the time to read and leave a response.
I know just how you feel when you say you are overwhelmed, and hearing lectures from people who have not experienced a loss of this magnitude is the last thing you want to hear. People can be so insensitive in these situations.
My heart hurts for you and I wish you all the peace and blessings that God has in store for you.
Joyce, I had this conversation with a neighbour this past weekend. I told her how my label is ‘widowed’ and not ‘single’ and how I admire ladies who are dating and remarrying . I know for sure I will never ever remarry and the thought of a new beau is boring just thinking about it. My life now is without borders and I am fully engaged with living my life….for moi.
You’re right; the edges of grief and pain are softening but the ache is still there.
Once again, you have published another beautiful tribute to dear Frank.
Thank you my friend!!!
Thank you for your comment.
You cracked me up when you said “boring”! I feel the same way. There is no one on this earth who is worthy after Frank, and I’m sure it is the same with your beloved Martin.
We are very kindred spirits on this journey. I’m glad to have met you and call you my friend.
I was in such a trance reading this article, almost as if I was in tunnel vision eagerly trying to get to the next paragraph. Each one of your articles are clear cut and heavily based with substance. But I have to say this is my favorite one. You write with immense honesty and transparency that it leaves the reader with alot to analyze. I wish you nothing but blessings, prosperity, life, and happiness on your journey of widowhood. Your love and loyalty for your husband places you into the same realm as Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz. -Domonick Willis
Thank you for reading and commenting.
What you said really touched my heart and was so beautifully stated. I’m glad this one was your favorite and that you felt the honesty in it. Frank resides in my heart always.
Also, you saying that my love and loyalty for Frank puts in the same realm as those awesome women is humbling. Thank you for that.
Thank you so, so much for your comment!
I carry Frank in my heart, so everything that I write comes from my heart. I love that this article touched you so deeply. And I appreciate you more than you know for supporting me on this widowhood journey.
Wow. That was Deep! It is amazing to read your story/post and how you put your most innermost feelings in words from your heart as a widow who has lost the love of her life. You have endured so much mentally, physically and emotionally. My heart bleed for you, my heart is broken 💔 for you. I will continue to love and support you on this journey of life and being single for for this moment. All I can say is to “trust God “. He is in control of your life. He still wants the best for you and He will take care of all your NEEDS. Love you much.