How Can You Be One Happy Widow?

one happy widow widowhood Mar 13, 2022

How can you call yourself One HAPPY widow? Didn’t you lose a spouse?

You might be wondering why I call myself One Happy Widow. Yes, I lost my husband on June 17, 2017 to cancer. It was a very sad time in my life, both his illness and his death, but it did not turn my whole life into sadness. It did for a while, but that’s not my whole life. I am not my grief. My late husband is finished living, but I am not. I spent some time crying, grieving, hiding. But I am tired of grieving, and I want to be happy. I can only do that if I allow it to happen. I need permission, because widows are supposed to be old, sad, and lonely. Besides, if I don’t spend my days sad and crying, what would people think?

People want you to “move on” but when you do, they whisper and wonder if you are being careful (as if grief makes us incapable of making decisions for ourselves). The only thing that I can say about grief is that we all experience it in our own way. What’s ok for me is not ok for someone else. What qualifies me to speak on the topic of grief? I have experienced it- in a profound way. But my being a grieving widow also qualifies me to be happy, and to know what happiness is, and how to feel it, find it, and experience it. 

Widows Can Feel Like Outcasts

Non-widowed people are not comfortable thinking or talking about the grief of the widowed. They don’t know what to say, and they don’t want to hear me talk about my dead husband. They just want me to get back to my “normal” life so they don’t have to deal with it….as if I have a time frame that I am allowed to wallow in my sadness, then I either need to go away or “move on” with my grief.

I have talked to many fellow widowed people, and they all process their grief in their own timeline. Some glide quickly (I think I was one of those), and others seem to get stuck in their grief like a merry-go-round that they can’t let go of or they will get flung across the playground and be destroyed. When I hear about them digging their heels in and declaring their undying love for their spouse, saying they will never find another, and will always consider themselves married to that person, I want to ask them what “Til death do us part” means? But then I have to remember that every grieving timeline is unique…although I’m not sure it’ healthy to remain stuck in such an acute stage of grief. At some point, we do need to learn to live without our person, but some people seem to be able to do that quicker than others.

Too Busy To Be Sad

I knew that stewing in my grief was not the answer for myself. In addition, I had a job and 4 children to finish raising, and they were stuck in their own versions grief that needed to be handled. I dove into my job, my health, and my children. I got into habits of the routine of life, and that way I didn’t have to think about my feelings, I just had to get up and punch the clock and come home and do it again tomorrow.

I realized that I had neglected my own grief, skipped over it in a way- avoided it. And on top of that, I was tired of being known as “The Widow” to everyone I knew. I live in the South, so I was the object of a “Bless Your Heart” sentiment weekly. Maybe that’s not what people thought when they saw me, but it’s what I thought of myself everywhere I went. And I wanted my own identity, one that was not tied up in being the living half of a couple. I wasn’t a wife anymore….was I? I was still a mom, a teacher, a woman…right? But not a wife, and I liked being a wife. I missed that.

A Change of Scenery

My surroundings triggered my emotions and memories every day. I was living in the house where my husband withered away from his cancer. I was driving to a job where everyone knew me as Mrs. B, the one whose husband died of cancer over the summer break. My co-workers cared about me, and they did what they could to make me feel better, but none of them knew how to act or what to talk about, especially if/when I brought up my husband.

Driving the same route to work only triggered the same sad emotions every day that I went there. It was like a Pavlovian response, but instead of salivating every morning, I cried. Then I had to stop, take a few minutes, and regroup in the car before entering the building. On the outside it did seem like I was “over it” but inside I was stuck in my grief and I didn’t want to be. It finally dawned on me that I had to give myself permission to be happy again. And that meant making some changes in my life as well. I requested to go part-time with my job, and was denied, so I found similar work in a different school. Part-time was just what I needed.

Let the Healing Begin

I moved out of the “rat house,” as my children called it (it was a rental, and the mice came in the small print of the lease), and into a new home that was built just for us. Instead of being forced to remember sad moments every day, I took control over my own memories and now I choose what I get to remember about my late husband. I choose the laughter and the good times. I choose to carry on his legacy through my own actions and those of our children. But most of all, I choose to be happy. I give myself permission to be happy.

I have beautiful, smart, strong, flawed, broken, loving children who share the grief of losing their dad with me. I have caring co-workers who never met my late husband, they only know about him in passing, but they do know my current husband. Yes, I have moved forward. I haven’t left my late husband’s memory behind, I carry it with me each and every day. And I have learned from my loss about how to be a better wife today than I was before. I don’t know how the logistics of Heaven will work out with me having 2 husbands up there and my husband having 2 wives…but I’m sure it will all work itself out. As for my days here on Earth, I choose to be One Happy Widow, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. 

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