This post originally appeared on the website Young, Widowed & Dating. YW&D is dedicated to helping the young, widowed community restart their heart after the death of their spouse.
As I stick my toe back into the world of dating, especially online, I’m forced to choose a status: single or widowed. I’m always hesitant to select “single” because it feels like I’m denying my marriage. If I go with “widowed”, then I have to deal with all the assumptions and stereotypes that come along with this title.
To be fair, had you asked me five years ago what I thought a widow looked like, I certainly wouldn’t have pictured an energetic woman in her prime, raising children and juggling a career.
From John Q Public to family, friends, in-laws and church members, there seems to be no shortage of what people think of widowhood:
Aren’t Widows My Grandmother’s Age?
Yes, women do tend to live longer than men. But, the reality is that the average age of a widow in the United States is just 55 years old!
“Many of us are young, strong, independent, and rebuilding.” – Daphne
My Widowed Friend Will Go After My Husband
Do we really need to dispel this myth? We don’t want YOUR husband; we want our husbands back. There is no need to worry we’ll lay claim to your man. We don’t want him – not now, not ever.
“Apparently, if you are a young widow you somehow lose your standards and just want any and every man especially other people’s husbands. I’m widowed not desperate. I didn’t somehow lose my morals when my husband died and decided any man will do especially – the married ones.” – Julie
If a Widow is Dating Then She’s Over Her Spouse
Losing a spouse isn’t something you get “over”. A piece of our heart will forever be missing. Please understand that moving through the pain and ultimately deciding to open our heart to love again is in no way an indicator that we’ve gotten over the death of our husbands. How can we? Additionally, we want you to know that there is no “appropriate” time to wait before dating. There is no rule on grieving. Whether 6 months or 6 years, it’s our call and ours alone.
“I will never forget my husband or stop loving him. Nothing and no one takes that away…ever” – Rose
She Got a Huge Insurance Payout
Despite what you may think, not every widow is sitting on a large nest egg. Often, our spouses were the breadwinners and we’re now left to raise our children and run the household on one salary – and that’s if we worked. And, let me point out, if there was a policy in place, even a significant one, unless a spouse left you as a beneficiary on the policy or included you in the will, you have no right to feel entitled to a dime! I don’t care if he was your son or brother. We’d give it all back in a heartbeat to have our husbands back.
“[People assume that] because you are a professional and have a good job then you have sufficient life insurance. That’s just not true.” – Jennifer
Widows Have Lots of Support
From parents and sibling to in-laws and friends, you’d think widows were surrounded by a whole host of people willing to stand in the gap until we’re able to make sense of the world again. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. People return to their own lives and we’re often left alone to face our own terrible reality – our partner, soulmate is gone.
“Don’t assume I have all the help I need and if you have any inclination to help, act on that!” – Susan
But You Made It Through Year 1 – You’re “Okay” Now
Widows often naively look forward to the One Year mark. We think if we can just get to the first anniversary then we’ll get to the other side of grief. It’s what we’ve been told. The truth is, Year Two is a beast! The numbness wears off. Our minds slowly begin to realize that our lives are now split in two – before and after. We’re not “okay”; not by a long shot!
“I found myself crying more. I didn’t understand where these emotions were coming from. Year two was definitely my hardest year. I ended up going to therapy to help cope with the pain. – Rhonda
We No Longer Have Anything in Common with Friends
We’re going through a lot. We’ll be the first to admit it. There are times we want to be left alone with our grief. However, we also value your friendship. There is no reason for it to end simply because we’ve lost a spouse. The same bonds that connected us initially are still there. Yes, there are issues that you won’t understand about our widowed journey but there are lots of things we do want to talk with you about. Hold our hands. We won’t shut you out.
“Don’t think we don’t need your friendship because we really do. Please continue to call, text, and/or come by.” – Danyell
It’s All for Attention
You frown at our Facebook statuses when we mention our spouses. You roll your eyes when we talk about the challenges of being widowed. You think it’s all for attention. You think we want sympathy. The only thing we want is our husbands back. The irony of the situation is that you’re annoyed by things such as our social media posts. Don’t you think we’re annoyed at not having our husbands next to us every night? Your problem disappears with the tapping of the “unfollow” button. For us, death doesn’t go away. Instead of assuming we’re being melodramatic, try offering a kind word. Perhaps something triggered a strong emotion and we’re venting the only way we know how.
“As a matter of fact, I do want attention and plenty of it. We’ve lost our ‘biggest fan’ and are suddenly without attention. What is wrong with wanting attention?” – Carrie
Shhh! Don’t Say His Name
We love to hear stories about our spouses. Not mentioning his name isn’t sparing us from being sad. It’s just the opposite. When you fail to talk about him, we feel like we’re the only ones who are grieving his loss…like we’re the only ones whose lives he touched. Remind us of his favorite sayings; how he always had a way with words; how he was the class clown in high school. We need to hear those stories and our kids do too. Help us keep his memory alive.
“What I don’t understand is how some think talking about your spouse would make you sad. Many stopped even mentioning his name. I love the stories and the beautiful life we had together. I found that talking about him actually helped.” – Michelle
You’re Lucky That You’re Still Young
Enlighten us please. We fail to see how watching a spouse succumb to cancer or lose his battle with depression is associated with luck. How come we’re not feeling lucky when we’re picking out caskets or deciding what to do with his ashes? There is no ideal age to lose the love of your life. Telling us we’re young enough to find love again isn’t comforting; it’s hurtful. Trying to explain why not having children with our spouse is a blessing in disguise does nothing to lessen our pain. The plain fact of the matter is that being widowed sucks regardless of age!
“I had people not long after the funeral tell me I was young, I’ll find love again..that at least we don’t have kids. Yeah, because not having him or a little piece of him makes it so much better.” – Jeani