National Widow’s Day is in just a couple days on May 3rd and International Widows Day is on June 23rd. I have been contemplating how I feel about the mere existence of this day for now the third year in a row.

On the one hand, speaking as a young widow, I hate it. It is a reminder that, not because of who I am, but because of something that happened to me, I am somehow separate from the rest of society. It is somehow isolating in a way that makes me feel like a bit of an outcast (which only exacerbates the already present feeling of being an outcast as a young widow). So I hate this. I hate that there even exists a day to collectively acknowledge the widows of the world for their achievement of having experienced this kind of mind numbing, life altering, soul shattering pain of losing your other half (and half of yourself).

On the other hand, it’s nice to be acknowledged. Widows are easily forgotten and pushed aside. Widows are a very tough reminder of pain and fear and mortality. To acknowledge a widow’s pain takes courage, and not all of us are quite so courageous. So as time goes on, we start to view a widow’s widowedness on a diminishing scale. The more time that passes, the less we allow her/him the space to feel pain and the patience to grieve. And the younger she is, the less we accept her as a true widow. We decide that she is young and has the time and potential to find another life partner to love and settle down with, as though the solution to the pain of losing a spouse is to simply find another. We forget to acknowledge that the loss of the love she used to have is no less significant a loss than if she were 70, 80, 90 years old. It’s a different loss, but it is no less significant. The loss of what could have been is no less significant or traumatic than the loss of what was. It is different, but not less.

Many young widows have felt the social pressure of those who say “get over it”. I have been there, though typically, those actual words never get spoken. Instead we hear words like “time to move on” and “let go of the past” and “you’re still so young”. And there’s my personal favorite, “there’s plenty of time to have more children, you’re still so young!”.

I just want to scream “fuck you!”… but I don’t. No matter how much I want to scream it, and sometimes I would absolutely be justified in screaming it, I don’t. Not because of some social protocol or because they mean well despite their poor decision to say words to me regarding something of which they know nothing about, but because they genuinely don’t know better. They haven’t experienced this loss and their judgements about how I handle my situation speaks more about them than about me. You can think of this as ignorance, though I prefer to think of it as simple naïveté.

The truth is, if this happened to someone you know instead of you, you probably would have handled it wrong in some way or another at some point in time. You would have said the wrong thing, spoken when you should have said nothing, or done nothing when you should have simply showed up. If this were someone else instead of you, you would have gotten it wrong, too. And chances are, you, too, would eventually forget that a widow, no matter how young, is a widow for life. Your ability to maintain that relationship would depend on your ability to listen and empathize, and all that would still be relative to so many other things.

The thing is, it isn’t easy to support a young widow, but it is much harder to be the young widow. If you haven’t stood in the shoes of a widow then you have never known how lonely loneliness gets. So I guess I’ve decided that I am supportive of National Widow’s Day. In some ways I really appreciate it. I appreciate it because to be a widow is to be an outcast. And to take a single day in the year to acknowledge the significance of widowhood is to acknowledge the significance of her loss, something that society tries very hard to ignore. And to ignore the impact of her loss is to ignore her and everything she has become since that loss. To ignore that is to ignore the person she lost. There is no greater crime to a widow than to ignore the life that once made her whole.

If you know a widow, support her, applaud her, and most of all, hold space for her. If you know a young widow, learn from her. She will always ache for the life that was almost hers. She will always wonder what could have been. And she will always love the one she can no longer hold. No matter how young or old, she has experiences that you do not have. She knows things you don’t know. She grieves for something that she wishes you could understand but hopes you never will. A widow is not a sad little person with some pathetic life. A widow has profound knowledge of life, love, and death that is hard to put into words. And most of all, a widow has a unique compassion that comes from her life experience.

National Widow’s Day happens on May 3rd. If you know a widow, please remember her on this day. Truthfully, she would rather you remember her every day, or at least on any other day than this, but at least give her this one. Widows feel invisible and forgotten. They are lonelier than lonely and often feel expected to satisfy some expectation of “happiness” that may or may not be real simply because some allotted time has passed. A widow knows how to master the fake smile, talk the small talk, and tell you how well they have been doing, regardless of the truth that you may or may not want to hear. A widow knows that talk about sleepless nights, unstoppable tears, or the fears of living a life without the one we miss are all topics of conversation that will leave us feeling emptier than ever before, so instead we talk about anything that leaves you telling us how strong we are; a phrase most despised among the bereaved, but often brought on by our own decisions to put on the strong face.

So this Widow’s Day, please acknowledge a widow. She is lonely, whether she admits it or not. She hurts, whether she talks about it or not. She hates how happily married you are, even though she loves it for you and wants you to live happily ever after (this not about you, this is simply envy that she will never get that happily ever after herself). At the very least, send her a message, give her a phone call, or just post on her Facebook wall. If you are feeling ambitious, send her flowers or make some kind of thoughtful action that tells her she isn’t invisible to you. I know how much that would mean to me. Just don’t forget the widows of the world. Healing doesn’t happen on some time table, and while you wait for her to heal she gets lonelier and life gets harder. So just don’t forget to remember her this year. Life is full of treacherous terrain, and widows are the ones who put on that smile and feel greatful for the pain and torment… because at least they got the chance to experience joy and love and laughter and life.

To my fellow widows and widowers, Happy Widow’s Day. If you hate reading those words, me too. I understand and I can take those feelings so don’t hold back with me. I get it. What I want you to take with you is that we are a community. And whether you have ample support or are feeling forgotten or left behind, I do understand. It’s easy to be left behind in today’s world living this life of a widow. This is why I write, and this is why I believe social media can be so influential on the healing process.

It’s nearly Widow’s Day. Reach out to a widow and affect her day, because you never know, it could affect her life.

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22 Comments

  1. I didn’t know there was such a day. I am two and a half months into widowhood, and have already been told how young I am, with an implication that I will find someone else. Like it’s a job opening.
    I was brought to years by your mention of hating being called strong. I thought it was just me. I hate it. When my kids were born premature, I got that a lot so I was already tired of it. I’m not good at being gracious with that one. I’m not rude. I keep the smile on my face, but I do respond with, “Well, I don’t really have a choice.” To call me strong implies I accepted some challenge. I did not accept this. It happened to me without my consent or foreknowledge. I am not strong. I am just here. In the place I must be.
    So thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Racheal. Please accept a hug from me. I’m also at the 2.5 month point and while whether I’m “young” or not probably depends on who you ask, I love your line, “Like it’s a job opening.” They tell me it gets better, some, with time, and for both of us, I hope that’s true.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I am sorry for your pain. I am 4 months in on Thursday. I agree the word ‘strong’ can kiss off. I’m not strong. I have no desire to be strong. I heard it when my 15yo son had a stroke, when I had heart attacks, and when I had cancer. I’m tired of being ‘strong’.

      I just want him, but I’m forced to move forward without him… and I hate it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am a young widow too and I hate how people say ‘oh you’re still so young. You have your whole life in front of you’, like I don’t know that. It’s almost like they are comforting themselves because they think I’ll find someone else. It makes me so angry that ‘finding someone else’ is even brought into the picture of my grieving and it gets associated to my age. Yes I have my whole life in front of me and it sucks because he is not in it anymore. Young or old, doesn’t change the pain that comes with losing a life partner.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. hear hear.
      it so hurtful and frankly, insulting, for others to speak to a recently bereaved and still deeply grieving widow about “meeting someone new”. holy cow. remembering these thoughtless words when i was barely 3-4 months without my husband angers me to this day. so empty and without care. as though we aren’t aware of the grim reality from the moment we realize we are going to lose our spouse that we face a life alone and that the only alternative to possibly meet another person.
      like duhhhhhhh.
      i mean really people.
      thankfully i can personally only count on about three fingers the people who have been thoughtless enough to say this to me. and they are the kind of people who often blurt out foolish comments in a variety of situations. it’s insulting nonetheless. insulting to a widow/widowers feelings and —depending on how it is said and when it is said— insulting to the memory of the spouse who has passed, in my view.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. hi. profoundly honest and accurate.
    i however differ on one point in that i do not “hate” to see others happily married. rather, those are the people i prefer to be around. only a happily MARRIED couple understands a HUGE part of my perspective and my endless stories of my husband and of being married. there are far too few that i feel so at ease telling my Geoff stories. far too few who care to ask about him or listen to my memories aloud. i feel a connection with happily, truly happily married couples. i bask in the warmness of such company. i UNDERSTAND a happily married woman who’s husband is truly her life partner and best friend. i understand her perspective and cheer for her happiness. i am a HUGE fan of marriage. obviously. i honestly think most widows and widowers are. i doubt many of us “hate” to see others happily married. i think that would be an awful to feel.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for this article. I suppose I am a young widow, too. We never married, but we were together for more than 30 years. My soul mate died in my arms on January 6th. Yes, I’ve heard all the platitudes and stupid things from people, friends and family members. That’s why I have isolated myself and I don’t want to see anyone. My only wish is to die soon, because I can’t live without my life partner.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so refreshing to see this article. I didn’t realize there was such a day. I’m only 8 months in, and find being a young widow so trying because, as you mentioned, we are so often viewed differently and told we have time to start over. I think it’s great such a holiday exists because society is naive about grief and widowhood, so it’s a great opportunity to educate as well as recognize those of us in this aweful “club”. Thank you for such a great post on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m 47 and last year made me a widow for a second time. This time has been different because we had children (12 & 14 today). It seems that the world thinks you should just turn the page and move on. Our lives are shattered and turned upside down and we are supposed to go on like nothing happened. My kids and I are still grieving and I’m sure will for a while in some ways…especially at holidays, birthdays, other big (family events). My daughter has already asked who will walk her down the aisle when she gets married since her daddy is in heaven. People need to stop and think before they say these thing like …Your still young, Life goes on, Get over it, It’s been long enough you should move on. Maybe when they have walked in our shoes they will understand the hurt and pain we go through and the pain and hurt our children go through. Why is it when something like this happens it seems like everyone (friends & family) runs from us when this is the time we need them the most? Today I pray forl the widow’s and children that are hurting. I know to well what it feels like. Prayers and love

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I have been a widow for 10 years on Valentine’s Day. I will never get over the loss of my soul mate. I was 54 when my husband died suddenly. And I cringe when I hear people say get over it or move on. It takes everything within me, not to properly tell them off. And No, I have not found someone else. I could never find the love I had with this man again. And you find out who your friends really are after you lose your spouse. Talk about lonely. You do feel like an out cast. Friends I thought I had with my spouse. No longer , are around. But,not only are you a widow. But you feel abandoned by society. So , Do what you can to keep on living. But so many days. I just want to be with my spouse. And other things, don’t matter as much !!!☹️ Hugs to you all !!!! We all feel the pain.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. My anniversary would have been tomorrow. I am almost 28 and I became a widow when I was 26 and my husband was 24. He passed away from complications to a rare incurable lung disease that we never even knew he had until 8 months before he died with no known cause. I also HATE being called “strong” like it’s something we chose to go through, a battle we wanted to fight. We’re strong because we have no other choice! It’s either be strong or give up. When Tyler first died I HATED all happily married couples. I wanted them to know the pain I was forced to endure. But what I hated to see more was to see a married couple take their marriage for granted. Couples that didn’t appreciate their marriage. I wanted to know why didn’t this happen to one of them, to a couple that didn’t even take their marriage seriously. Why me? I took my marriage serious. I wanted to be married. I wanted a family. I honored God in my marriage, from start to finish. Why me and not them? But I realized that was the “anger” stage of grief, which I stayed in the longest. I hated when people would say “I know what you’re going through” I would be hateful say “oh, so your husbands dead?” and walk away (Knowing good and well they were sitting on the couch at home watching Monday Night Football) or when people would say “He’s in a much better place now” because when you’re a fresh widow all you hear is that being with you was shitty, being with you wasn’t what was best for him, he wasn’t being taken care of, being with you meant he was in pain, he’s much happier now without you, being with you wasn’t where he was meant to be. That is the absolute worst thing you could possibly say to a widow, no matter how fresh or healed the wound is. It’s the worst thing to hear! On a brighter note, I have found someone new. He’s amazing. He understands that I still have bad days and he so supportive. I love him so so much. He’s never told me get over it he lets me vent and talk to him and he calms me down when I need it. It does get easier but there’s not a set time that it gets better. It’ll happen on your own terms, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I feel like a widow, yet I’m the only one who acknowledges that…It was my boyfriend who suddenly died. Boyfriend really isn’t a proper term…future husband, future fiancé, my future. ..our future. Both in our 50’s we knew this was the best relationship we had each ever experienced. So happy & in love were we. Planning our future together, and it was gone in the blink of an eye. My world crumbled and our relationship has been discounted because we weren’t married or formally engaged. Marriage was our plan, who knew we would run out of time. Did I need a licence or a ring to know his love; no. Do I need those things to be a widow; I don’t believe so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You ARE a widow, Deb. And you’re not the only one who acknowledges that. Find your tribe; they are out there. Soaring Spirits International, Camp Widow, Widowed Village, private Facebook groups.

      Like

  10. For the most part, I agree with what you are saying except for “It is harder to be a young widow”!!! I agree with someone else who commented that she guessed it is in what you deam as “young”. I was days away from turning 50. I had been married 27 yrs. Every widow/widower is experiencing a loss. I think it is hard no matter the age, how long you were with your soulmate, and surrounding circumstances. Everyone’s experience is their own….different in so many ways and yet the same in just as many. We are all grieving together, yet on our own personal journey through this grief.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I am a young widow too..just 3 months into it.. i am 30 ..he was 31..he was the fittest person i knew.. so active.. he had a sudden heart attack and the whole world came crashing down..we knew each other since a long time and were married just before 2 years.. he was everything to me.. a friend a philosopher a guide.. the fist and the only love of my life.. we were so so so happy together.. i have started working tto manage my finances and have moved in with my parents since the place we had was a rented one.. i agree that he is in a better place with god by his side and everything.. but i hate it when people say oh you are so strong.. i wonder how you made it..you are so brave.. good to see you smiling now.. as if we have a choice.. my biggest regret is that we could not conceive.. i dont have kids.. life is so aimless without him.. this article makes so much sense.. widows grieve and feel and go through the same kind of emotions all across the globe..love and strength to all…

    Like

  12. I believe that being widowed is painful at any age. We all lost a person we loved and that hurts beyond words no matter what age we are when they died. National Widow’s day is a nice way to remind people of a widow in their life. I was widowed in September of 2015 when my husband of 9 years died by suicide. I will miss him and feel the loss for the rest of my life. Grief starts to fade and the hard days become less painful. The loss is always there in my heart but I am also learning how to fill up that space with grace, gratitude, and hope. I definitely do not think that I am half of a person or half of a soul because my husband died. I am a whole person with a piece of her heart missing. I don’t look at married people and hate that they are married. I feel compassion towards them for the trials they have to face being married and I only find myself hoping they appreciate what they have. I hate the tragedy that took my husband from this earth. I wish that mental illness never wrapped it’s spiny arms around his soul. I am a widow because I was a wife of a wonderful, beautiful, and loving man. Being a widow (with young children) is hard, really hard…..but I don’t hate the word widow….it’s just a label and it’s a label I wear with love, strength, and grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I just lost my partner of 18 yrs (im 34 he turned 42 the day prior to death from a sudden massive heart attack). 2 kids aged 12 and 3. It’s not fair, not fair at all. It’s been 17 long days 😦

    Like

  14. I am an older widow, when I was 63 my husband of 42 years died suddenly from cancer. That was 5 years ago. I so agree with the thoughts you wrote, especially the “strong” part. You are only strong because you have to be, not because you want to be. I feel like my life was taken from me through no fault of my own and I hate it. Yes I am dealing with it, adjusting to it and living it, but I really want me old life with my husband back.

    Like

  15. I am what I refer to as a mid age widow. I lost my soul mate husband 5 years ago when I was 52. Neither young nor old. The powerful feelings of loss, devastation, pain and loneliness are always the same no matter how old we are. The sad thing about my loss is that I have had to go through my process alone. My family live far away and as we know the young are busy and have their own day to day to take care of. A year into my widowhood my mum lost my dad and became very ill herself as a result of this I moved states and moved in to take care of her. She is now considered palliative with time growing short for her. I haven’t had the time to grieve for my own loss let alone for my dad and soon for her. I cannot go around crying all the time (which I so want to do) nor to lie down and not want to get up (which I also want to do so very badly). Someone called me strong once but I don’t consider myself strong I consider myself shut down and there will be a day to open up and express feelings I have locked away, so look out world when that day comes there will be nothing strong in me then. I miss my old life, I miss us, I miss so much of what I used to be. I’m different, I have changed but somehow I’m not sure how just yet, I will go on. Happy widows day to us all 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I have been a widow for 11 months, my husband went for a drive and never came home, I waited, I called the police and they came to tell me he wasn’t coming home. We have 4 beautiful children, 13, 10, 5 & 3. They are my world, I am so over being told I am strong and amazing, I have no choice I have kids who depend on me. I had someone tell me one day I was lucky I didn’t need to have a custody battle to have my kids full time, guessing they really don’t understand the pain of loosing the love of your Life. Reading this post made me cry, I don’t have any friends who are widows and although they try I feel isolated so often. I have amazing support but still feel so alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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