Friday, October 22, 2010

brand name








Labels are words that used to describe ourselves and others - a way to quickly and efficiently identify traits and tendencies.

When I think about the labels used to describe or identify me, the one that gives me most to think about is 'widow'.

Initially, I despised this branding. I hated the term and what it meant - that my husband was dead. I didn't see myself as the typical widow in black gracefully and wisely fading into the background. I wasn't sure if my personal portrayal of this word was proper or made me a 'good widow'. Somehow this term seemed to mean to me that I had failed.

Over time this feeling has changed. Now I wear this name tag with a little bit of pride and a lot of awe. I have made it this far. Two and a half years ago I would never have believed it. I did not think I would genuinely laugh again. I would not have imagined that I would enjoy life and all its' mysteries. It astounds me.

At the risk of sounding pompous, I am kind of proud of myself. I am stronger that I ever thought possible. I'm not a warrior, but a widow. And I have chosen to get out of bed each morning despite believing that the last morning that mattered had already happened. The loss of my husband has taught me that there are few things in life to be feared and that taking a leap of faith is far less terrifying as I once thought.

Now that I carried the 'medal' of widowhood, I wonder how long do I get to wear it? In five years, does the noun 'widow' get taken from me and get replaced with 'widowed'. Will it cease to be a label and instead become a verb? If I ever enter a relationship again, do I stop being a widow and become one of the ones on Facebook with the status of "Married"? I feel that I would be both....Would "It's complicated" be offbase?

I now wear my label as a mark of my late husband. An etching of "Jeff was here" in my perverbial bark. Although I may be ready for another label or two, I would like to keep my hard-earned 'widow badge', thank you very much.


  1. Interesting thoughts, Jackie.

    I know for me, I switched from saying "my husband died" or "I'm a widow" somewhere during year 3-4 or so, instead saying "I'm widowed" or "I was widowed [etc.]." And then in the last year or so, I prefer to generally avoid the whole widow/widowed/dead husband thing entirely in the general public, instead choosing to just wear the "single parent" badge. I shifted the nuance of my badge over time as I felt better, as I got tired of dealing with people's reactions over dropping the W bomb, and just because it was easier and I didn't really care about the specific badge anymore.

    We've talked about the importance of the wording at my local support group a few times and whether saying "I am a widow" identifies yourself as that one thing versus saying "I'm widowed." We talked about how the subtle difference or the label might be a restrictive--I'm a widow and that's all I am--versus describing an event that has happened. We never came to any consensus or anything, but it was an interesting conversation, and I know that I, for one, definitely prefer "widowed" over "widow" these days. I'm more than just that one thing now...but that certainly wasn't the case in the first year or two of widowhood. If I couldn't technically be Charley's wife, I was his widow, dammit.

    Thanks for sharing this. =)

  2. How long you carry the name tag or if your ever put it in a drawer is up to you. Like getting married and keeping your maiden name widow/married.

  3. We do get attached to our labels, and as far as i am concerned i am still 'married'! I had a friend at a kids party tell me that i was 'single'. I was shocked at the insensitive comment and after I gained my composure I pointed to the fact that i still wear my wedding rings so consider myself married not single!

  4. I personally feel that we need to use the label more.I even wish there was a title that represented widows, as we have with Mr., Mrs, Miss.or Ms. I work at a school as a teacher and struggle with how to label myself. I am, not married nor do feel single or as a divorced person. I really feel that being a widow makes our experience very different than others. If we had a title we would not have to explain and we could identify each other more easily or we would not feel so alone.Right now there is no way to know this about someone else, but to ask them, if we had the title maybe this would help making the conversations about our situations less uncomfortable for everyone. As Mrs. no one ever had to ask if I was married, they knew. I am assuming that when I choose to give up my Mrs. title - I go with Ms, not miss?

  5. I have no intention of giving up Mrs. until I re-marry. I earned it and get very annoyed when people change my title. I'm not divorced and I have been married, so I'm not really single. I correct those who refer to me as Ms. and tell them to use Mrs.
    I hate the "widow" title but that's what I am, unfortunately. Proud to have had 20 years of a very good marriage, wear my wedding ring on my right hand. F*ck 'em if they can't take a joke.

  6. I love this. I'm still hating the label 'widow' for myself, but I like the way you've reframed it for you.

    This, particularly, moved me: "And I have chosen to get out of bed each morning despite believing that the last morning that mattered had already happened." I know that feeling well... and it's a hell of an accomplishment. People who have never walked in our shoes have no idea.

  7. Great post. The homily at Mass included a discussion on active vs passive prayer, God I want or need versus God be merciful as an example.

    This post seems to go hand in hand.

    At 17 months I see myself transitioning to widowed I think.

  8. "And I have chosen to get out of bed each morning despite believing that the last morning that mattered had already happened."

    I found myself nodding when I read this line. I've been thinking along these lines lately. Not exactly sure how or why, but when presented with a choice I go with "live" every time.

    At first I hated the term "widow" because I pictured an old crone/witch - complete with the wart on the nose. After reading your post I do now understand that it is something of a indelible mark left by my husband.