identity

When do you stop being a widow, …or can you?

There have been many moments throughout this walk as Shayne’s widow I don’t have all the right words or phrases or even authenticity locked and loaded.
I have struggled with finding the words for my emotions.

The words don’t always match the weight of what living this truly feels like.

So is it the word, the title, the definition that makes me a widow?
Or is it really, the experience.

I was asked something recently by my fiancé.

His sincerity in learning more is why I love him. That, and his bravery.
He has the strongest spine of anyone I know. I love him for braving the wilderness that is walking this with me, much less even showing up for these types of conversations and leaning in. He is the only person who is physically, mentally, emotionally, knows everything and in proximity, walking this with me.
I love him for asking these questions, because it shows his care.
It shows his interest in understanding this and me. It shows his love.
Its his way. And I am more than willing to walk this with someone who is interested in listening and hearing and learning more.
I love our talks. I love our communication. Its probably my very favorite, favorite thing about us. We are not perfect, we are so incredibly flawed and hurt people, and blind leading the blind, but watch out world because we are willing to communicate our individual human experiences, interested in knowing what the other is here to learn and how we can help.

He knows me and how I think about this but he asked me something and encouraged me to pose as a question to our Widow Speak Community.

When does someone stop identifying as a widow, and more as someone who is engaged/married?

Because reengaged/remarried women can’t also be widows… can they?
You can’t technically be both, can you?
You have to set down the identity as widow once the question gets popped and the ring gets put on the finger, yes?
Wouldn’t that be the fair thing to your new husband and your new life together?

I’m trying to answer the question honestly but I also have a difficult time, again, finding the most poignant, to the point, wham bam thank you ma’am honest language for the feelings that I have. Because what my answer is may not be shared with the millions of other widows.
And who has the definitive answer to how they came to absolute healing while being in a new relationship?

My first gut instinct for anyone asking me this is to become defensive.
And full disclosure, I could feel the thorn being poked as we talked.

I listened to his stance, his confusion and curiosity and explanation of why someone would wonder this, and found myself honoring him even more.
I dismissed my ego, masking itself as defensiveness and chose to listen and see him through the only eyes that matter.
He’s trying to understand. He’s trying to help you through this.
He’s trying to be here with you now. Honor him in that. He’s speaking for people who don’t understand, so help him.
He can’t help but want to be your only focus.

Helping him understand what sometimes you don’t even understand is going to be …difficult. But it will be worth it.

There are a few ways I took this question. I absolutely took it to the Widow Speak Community and waited. And while I waited, we talked in and around it.
And I know this answer will change shape the farther I get in this, too.
Just like grief, just like my healing.

Lets set aside the technicality.
No, as far as the big book of words goes, my widow card gets revoked when the clock strikes midnight on the day we consummate our marriage.
But we all know textbooks can’t give what they don’t have and that’s: perspective.

However, I may no longer be a widow in Webster’s translation, but you can’t take away the experience I inherited when Shayne took his last breath and simply say that I am absolved of being a widow when I remarry.
Like it never happened.
All is well now when I am finally remarried, all is healed, and all that grief and pain and hurt is washed away with the tide because the solution all along, widow, was… get remarried.

You get to not be any sense of the word widow anymore because someone has accepted you as their wife now and you have accepted the new role as this person’s wife.
You can really get over it now.

Writing it out makes it sound a little presumptuous, right? Thats because it is.
And it just doesn’t work like that.

And side note, if the person you are remarrying takes up issue with your widowhood and is waiting impatiently for you to drop it, that’s surely confusing.
Because its you… in widowhood… they fell in love with, yes?
They fell in love with and kept choosing you through grief and being widowed.

Its like, the thing they want you to separate yourself from completely is the very role you were in when you were brought together. Its not the death that brought us together… I believe it was my growth, my perspective, my resilience that allowed for our meeting.
So, what then?

I’m also wondering, what exactly does life together look and feel like if I was to magically be able to set down my widow club card?

Do you think my love, and expression of it, would become exponentially bigger if I wasn’t widowed?
Is me being a widow equate to being less than, or unable to love you fully, in our relationship?
Do you think its the title, its the role, that is holding me back from giving you more?

I wish it was as easy as just a dictionary definition thing.
I wish it was the swift movements of an eraser that got rid of something like this from heart and mind.
I wish that when certain things happen and you cross certain thresholds after they die, it removes it more and more from your heart and mind.
I wish. So badly, the triggers still didn’t happen.
And maybe thats both of our expectations creating disappointment: time does not heal. Neither does placing yourself in new places, situations and with other people.
Its you that creates, dictates, manipulates and progresses healing, if any.

I did, I wished so badly that once I fell in love with Jessep, I would forget the hurt and pain. That the longing for my old life would magically go away. It didn’t. It magnified it.
Loving and being loved by Jessep has held a mirror up to me to what is important in a life and a marriage with someone and putting to the test the love I have in me to give.

I wish when new things came into our lives, we halt everything, set down what we have going presently and just flutter into the wind, completely unbothered with a case of amnesia, with our newness.
But we don’t.
The majority of us don’t forget we went through things with certain people that left marks on and in us.

We’re human. And we carry things around with us.
We add layers. We compound what is already there.
Think of the thorns you still carry around from childhood traumas or that relationship that wrecked you, and then ask a widow again if she can just stop being widowy once the wedding night has commenced.

I think instead of asking when she’s going to get rid of this, ask how helpful your involvement in her life has been in her healing and moving onward.

You love her. As she is. Just as she is. As the widow. As the daughter, sister, friend, insertoccupationhere. Because she is the widow and not just the widow, she takes it all on and creates beauty because of it.
And will still be widowed once she is your wife. Because thats who she was when you found her and you began loving her for it.
Its an experience. Its not a title.
Its not just a word.
It encompasses a whole lot more than a woman who’s bummed her husband died and hasn’t been scooped up yet.
Its a brand on her entire being.

You love her despite all her pain because you know she is a fierce lover and fighter for it. She’s the type of woman you want as your widow, deep down somewhere you maybe haven’t admitted to yourself you’ve thought that.

We don’t have the luxury of simply pretending things never existed to overcome them.

I don’t think its about “when are you not going to identify as a widow anymore?,” the question should be geared more inward…
What does healing look and feel like to you? Thats a heavy one, but there may be more insight to be gained from wanting to figure that out, inquiring about that instead.

Because the way I feel it, I will always be Shayne’s widow.
I will never not get to wear that hat. I hold wisdom about life, love, relationships, death and living that not a lot of people do because of a tragic accident.
Its not about identifying with a title, its coming through and out and beyond an earth-shattering, life-altering experience and not just surviving, …thriving.

When my brother died… I didn’t set aside the bereavement I held for Shayne and had the arrogance about grief to say, “Alright, since someone else important to me has died, I will be done with my widow grief and be all in 100% with my sister grief.”
I loved what the Widow Speak Community ladies said, I will never not be his sister who lost her brother. If your parent dies, you are still their son/daughter.
You are just these things. All of them. Still very much you, the essence of you is still in there just holding onto all of these experiences.
You will continue to be, and grieve and heal and grieve and heal and the ones that love you will honor you through it and your attachment to the person.

When you strip it all down to its source, the only thing real that separates you from the one you lost is …a physicality.
The love is there, will be there, but just doesn’t get to further grow.
That doesn’t make it any less, or any indication that you need to quick pick a side… either the living, or the dead. Choose… because my love is only so patient and is ultimately conditional on you choosing.

Well I choose both. And have emphatically said this all along.
I am living in the in-between. Of living fiercely in tune with my life and the love I am here to give, all while walking this radically open and emotional. I can do both. That is the answer I have for me now. I am doing both, living both, carrying both. Not knowing when I will set one down, if ever, and being okay with that.

I was left holding an exposed, sacred space for the life I no longer get to continue living with someone, and creating and expanding every day in the life I am in and finding my way through with someone I am in love with and fighting my grief to be with now.

The glaring fact that I was and am willing to place myself in the position to be loved and love another again should offer proof enough that I have grown through this grief. It should be proof enough I am moving onward.
It should be proof enough that I have set several heavy things down and made room and space in my heart to pick up more good.
It should be proof enough that I am not willing to stay anywhere close to stagnant in grief or silence in any role placed upon me because of circumstances out of my control.

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It should all be proof enough that the title doesn’t matter as much as the growth.

Its more of what I am doing and do with that identity/role that matters.
Its what I do to come back from a tragic experience.
Will I use it to elevate myself and those around me? Can I create and hold space for meaningful conversations and higher awareness around what it truly means to be a widow, and not just what the dictionary says?

In short, thats what I think about setting down an identity that, the very least, changed the path your life was taking completely.

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