I often see stories by my fellow widows who meet a great guy post-loss – their ‘Chapter 2’ as they lovingly refer to them. The widow was deep in her grief, didn’t know her up from down and was unsure how to move forward with her life. Then she met him. He understood her and this new stage of her life. His love helped her heal her widowed heart and they lived happily ever after.

If that’s your story, congratulations! I am a great fan of love and the fact that you’ve found a new partner to pour love into your life and the lives of your children makes me happy. We’re all deserving of happiness after such a shitty set of circumstances.

But that’s not every widow’s story.

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For some, our spouse’s death birthed a fierce sense of independence. We found that the funeral was just the beginning of widowhood. Child-raising, home repairs, finances and careers where just a few of the things we were left to tackle…alone.

We celebrated each success—big or small—and our confidence grew. We learned how to potty train our sons, use the riding lawnmower our husbands just “had to have”, be the problem-solver and even remove dead rodents from the driveway.

We started loving the new person we were becoming. We relished the sense of “badass-ness”, daring anyone to try to stop us. Tell us what we can’t do and we’ll interrupt you to tell you it’s been handled. Doubt our abilities and we’ll shock you with our knowledge (thanks YouTube!).

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When we finally feel ready to date, we fight any attempt to “save” us. Sometimes, a potential partner hears the word ‘widowed’ and feels he needs to love us back to health or help make us “whole”.

Please know that every widow doesn’t need a savior. We don’t need to be handled with kid gloves or held so tightly that our independence becomes stifled.

We know there is a desire to keep us protected and not have us hurt ever again, but that’s just not realistic. We’ve worked hard to right our worlds after having them flipped upside down. So, understand that we don’t feel broken in that regard. We just want to be loved – with the assumption that we don’t need to be rescued. We won’t question your manhood for allowing us to tackle a problem on our own. Besides, after all we’ve been through, we know when to request an extra pair of hands.

Our sense of independence isn’t tied to our ability to love. It also doesn’t mean that we step on your toes or fail to understand the role of a partner in our lives. We know how to ‘let a man be a man’ but we also know if push comes to shove, we can roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

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Yes, there are days when we get tired of holding everything together…days when being ‘super widow’ feels more like a burden than an asset. It’s on those days when we need you to wrap your hands around us and reassure us that you have our back..that if we stumble under the weight of widowhood, you’re there to pick us up.

Don’t try to ‘tame’ us. Nothing sends us running for the hills quite like a threat to this newfound independence. Just love us ‘as is’ and allow us to let go the reigns on own terms – if ever. We earned these stripes. We’ve been through hell and back and have surprised ourselves with our ability to adapt, our will to survive, our drive to carry on in spite of…

We don’t need a savior. We need a man who loves us for the warrior we’ve become!

Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

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