I am a card-carrying member of the same club. You know the one – the club none of us ever wanted to be part of. The club we were dragged into because of cancer, a drunk driver, a workplace accident or even suicide.
Club membership comes with gossip, innuendoes, judgment, alienation, loneliness, depression, solo-parenting and more. Widowhood is something we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy.
Because this card has been forced upon us, we often feel it should come with certain “privileges” (for lack of a better word). We have a dead husband, right? Shouldn’t that count for something?
Sure, I’ve played my widow card a time or two. I’ve dropped that I’m widowed at the bank to elicit sympathy when I was missing a required document. I’ve even dropped the ‘widow bomb’ on a prying sales rep demanding to know why I wasn’t involving my spouse in my decision-making process.
Though those two incidents seem minor, there are times when we play the “widow card” and it is unfair to the people around us. I know there’s the whole ‘but we have a dead spouse…’ argument. I get it, trust me, I do. But I’ll share some great advice my mother-in-law told me about my screw-everyone-else-I-am-widowed attitude: None of these people killed your husband. You don’t have the right to be unkind, rude or think the world revolves around you!
Time after time, I see us project our bad attitude on others. I won’t lie, sometimes we do need to stand up, assert ourselves and demand to be respected. But there are also many times when I see us being hyper-sensitive, self-entitled and downright nasty.
We expect friends and family to extend courtesy and graciousness to us far beyond what we would (and do) give to them. Our world was upended and we feel they should move mountains to steady our lives. How dare they put their “trivial” matters before our needs, not realizing that we were once in their shoes.
We huff and puff when social media friends and acquaintances post “I love my husband” quotes, yet ask that our posts about grief and loss be respected and rightfully acknowledged. We gripe about “happily ever after” statuses, threatening to remind the person posting it that death is just around the corner, but we held on tightly to our happily ever after – before the diagnosis, the doctors and plan of care.
We expect others to “just know” that we need support, help, etc., when we haven’t even bothered to make our requests known. It is unfair to complain about something we haven’t asked for. And, even so, we have to keep in mind that others have their own personal issues going on so it’s unrealistic to expect them to cater solely to our needs. Think back to before you were widowed. It took your losing a spouse to realize that day-to-day issues paled in comparison to the trauma of losing a spouse. Don’t think you have a monopoly on problems. We don’t own sadness.
When it comes to dating, we often sit on our widowed high horse and thumb our noses at potential partners. We won’t accept this and we won’t accept that. He comes with too much emotional baggage we tell ourselves. Do you know how much baggage we have! We can’t require a partner to cater to our every need while giving nothing in return. We’d rather say he wasn’t there for us than to admit that we wanted to be the receiver 100% of the time. A relationship is a balancing act. While we do carry a heavy load, asking someone to carry that load without bothering to check on his/her load is wrong on every level. As one widow pointed out, “I find we tend to make the relationship all about us and all about our widowhood, which leaves no room for the life our partners had prior to meeting us”.
I mentioned that membership in the widow club comes with a lot of negativity. That negatively can either continue to stifle us or we can channel it into independence, service to the widow community, love, new friendships, determination, perseverance, confidence, fearlessness and resolve.
Which will you choose?
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.