Redefining Widowhood: A Young Widow’s Perspective

As a young girl, mowing yards for elderly widows with her grandpa, I saw what widowhood exemplified by some of the most beautiful souls in the world. They were sweet, worked in their flower beds, baked yummy-treats for me as I finished mowing their yards, and talked for hours with my grandpa and I on their front porch. They were classy, tactful, full of grace and wisdom. They all also had another thing in common: their age. Their age was reflective of the lessons in life they were talking about, the wisdom they had to share, and also reflective of their occupation: retired. They were all at a certain life stage. They had raised their children: watched them go to college, get married, and have families of their own. Although I am certain they were lonely, missed their spouse more than words would ever be able to describe, they were older. Maybe, just maybe, failing health and age was more foreseeable in their future, than that of mine.

Not long after my husband passed away, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire. Not even foreseeing what was about to be asked, I willingly did my duty. I cruised through the usual questions of name, address, phone number, but then the marital question was asked. “Married? Single? Divorced/Widowed?” My heart and hand froze, my throat clenched, and right there in the middle of the doctor’s office, I lost control of the masquerade I had put on since he passed. I was still married. But society’s form I was filling out had me listed with those that were divorced. As if divorce and widowed were the same thing. They were not. They didn’t even come close. And I was not ready to answer that I was “widowed.”

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I was though. I was twenty-five years old, and had a one-year-old baby sitting in my lap. I was a widow. I will forever be a widow, whether I marry again or not, until God calls me home. And yet, I don’t fit the bill of a widow. My age doesn’t qualify me to be in this unwanted club. I am nowhere near retirement. I am too young to receive widow’s benefits from my deceased husband’s Social Security benefits. Yet, I am too young to be identifying with those widows that are retired, are able to meet in life/connection groups mid-day. I do not, necessarily, have a social cohort that I meet entirely with. My friends are all in a similar life stage of adding to their families, buying/building their second homes,  and some, are unfortunately going through loss of divorce.

Widowhood at a young age has proved a very difficult stage of life to navigate, in my late twenties. On the outside, I have been told, my confident presentation comes across as though things are going as planned in life. I have a great career, excelled in furthering my education with a master’s, raising a brilliant and handsome child, and have a beautiful home. At surface level, society says I have it all. But how do you navigate being a widow at such a young age? Who do you identify with? How, exactly, do you wander what life is supposed to look like beyond this point? How do you tell those new acquaintances when you are a widow, not to run away, you just want to connect with someone, anyone?

MASTERS GRAD

Widowhood is not just those that are at a later stage in life, that maybe has casual past times at their leisure. It is not someone at failing health and age. Widowhood is young. Widowhood is juggling a full-time career, raising a child, living through all of grief’s nasty punches, and still trying out to figure out what you want for the rest of your life. Widowhood is still trying to connect with friends, yet feeling the awkward difference of losing a spouse. Widowhood is trying to figure out when it is acceptable to take your wedding band off, when to trade it out with your widow’s ring, and then eventually if you are supposed to stop wearing that, as well. Widowhood is not being able to articulate your wants and desires that conflict with guilt at an every-hour-of-the-day rate. Widowhood is uncertainty, sadness, fear, walking the unknown. Widowhood is still having dreams, hopes, and desires for the future; just a future you don’t know what it looks like, or who it is with.

Widowhood is young. It is old. Widowhood has no boundaries and does not discriminate in age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or life stage. It is hard. Widowhood is just that–living life without the person you committed and planned the rest of your life with.

Just remember: widowhood does not have a number. It may be a twenty-eight-year-old woman, raising her son, uncertain of every move she makes. It may be that woman, hopeful that each choice leads her to a future of promise, hope, and love; all-the-while always carrying the love that was once given to her by a husband taken from this world far too soon.

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Dreams, Hope, and Love,

A 28-Year-Old Widow

Finding Purpose Through Grief

I’m not one hundred percent sure when it happened. The moment that I realized I needed purpose through the grief. The moment that I knew I needed something more, bigger than me, in order to help ease the never-ending, gripping pain of grief. It happened, though. Possibly in the fate of things, when something bigger in-and-of-itself, brought purpose to me.  And when that moment happened, it changed me. It changed my journey through the darkest time of my life.

We’ve all agreed that grief is ruthless. It clenches, drowns, and completely encompasses every thought, muscle and action of our bodies. It is never ending, it creeps up at the most unexpected times, and it truly has no concern for the moments you may be in. It’s nasty, ugly, and it only belongs to its beholder. There is no guidebook, there is no medicine to alleviate every one of its side effects. It simply just exists, and trudging through the trenches, is the only way through it.

I despise many of my moments of grief. I loathe the feelings of loneliness, the countless nights of not sleeping, and the too-many moments of my young son watching me weeping in the floor, as I beg God to reverse His decision of taking my husband away from this Earth. I’m not proud of the many moments I escaped away from those wanting to comfort me, or the many instances I lashed out in anger, because no one else could possibly understand my pain, my anguish, my guilt that never seemed to end.

I’m also grateful for the journey. It has taken many times of telling our story, lots of prayers and scripture, and countless talks with God among friends to be able to say, “I am grateful for this journey.” I am grateful for the cancer brought into my life, right at the very moment it came. I am grateful for the hardships of being a new mommy and caregiver to my husband with Stage IV Colon Cancer. I am grateful for the humble experiences of relying on others to help us through financial difficulties and medical bills. I am grateful for every single moment of it all. And yet, it feels so strange to say that, “Yes, I am grateful for these things.”

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I’m grateful because it changed me. Every ounce and breath of my soul–cancer and grief has changed. Some for the better, some not as much.  However, as I stand here today, stronger, more passionate, more caring, more empowered, more empathetic towards others, I have found a purpose through grief. No, I do not wish I was in this club. No, I do not wish I was robbed of a lifetime of memories with my husband and our children. No, I do not wish I was a widow at the age of 25 and beyond. My purpose is for those that are hurting, those that are fighting, those that need a friend, someone who just gets “it,” someone that just needs to hear all of God’s promises.

I never dreamed God would give me this life–the bad, but especially the good. He did though. I am grateful for every moment of the good and the bad–without one, I cannot appreciate the other. The people I have met, the friendships I have made, the family I have accumulated through this journey, is unmatched–and you see, it isn’t over yet. The lessons I still have yet to learn, the people I still have not had the pleasure of meeting, the love and compassion I have yet to share with others.

It’s not easy–the road of grief we travel. It has no manual, it has no “normal.” The moment you can see you are a part of something bigger, something more, is a turning point in the journey though. That moment may be small, it may be a big “ah-ha” moment, but keep trucking through those trenches until you get there. I promise, it is so worth it. Mine happened almost four years after Joe was diagnosed with cancer, and nearly two and a half years after he passed away. Being apart of the Fight CRC organization that fights for a cure, early detection and prevention of colon cancer has brought countless blessings and purpose to my life. I never knew I needed this community of advocates that just “get it,” but I did. And somehow, I feel like others there needed me.

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I don’t know what your moment of purpose will look like. Quite possibly, it will look entirely different than mine. It’s out there though. In it’s very own time, in it’s very own being, it will present itself if you look for it. Today, will you look around and see if there might just possibly be a purpose in your grief? No matter how small you think it might be, no matter how many lessons you might have learned, can you see God at work in your journey through grief?

Purposeful, Fighting for a Cure, Kristina