Sunday, June 10, 2012

Good Little Widow

Half a dozen of us widow and widowers went to see a play called Be a Good Little Widow at Collaboraction Theatre. Written by Bekah Brunstetter and directed by Anthony Mosley, the play takes place entirely in a small apartment where a newlywed couple is trying to find where they fit into one another’s lives. The cast of characters includes an overbearing mother-in-law who doesn’t think the girl is good enough for her son.

The husband leaves for a business trip, - “don’t worry, I’ll be back before you know it” he says, as if there is a law that any story featuring an upcoming death must say this line (see the movie Castaway for another reference) - and his plane crashes leaving the young girl to find her new place in life and redefine her new relationship with her mother-in-law.

For me, the most intriguing character was the mother-in-law. Her back-story involves losing her husband years ago and becoming a” good widow.” She now tries to teach her young daughter-in-law to do the same. These rules are mostly comprised of being polite and knowing your place by not making a scene in public. The nice character level is she is now dealing with the loss of her son. The best line of the play was when she finally opens up about her pain to her daughter-in-law and breaks her stiffness by telling her, “I lost both my husband and my son. There is no word for me.”

In reading the authors bio, it mentions she was never a widow but was interested in the topic. I thought this line was by far the closest the playwright was able to figure out the world of grief. I love the fact the mother-in-law needed a word to figure out her place in this world. I almost felt fortunate for having the luxury of knowing I was a widower. It’s a crappy place to be, but at least I have a word for society to fit me in a box. Here was this woman, who has lost two loves and she doesn’t even get the luxury of telling people on the street, “Hi, I’m a doubler.” “Oh my, both husband and son. I am so sorry for your losses.”

I feel much of my grief journey has been trying to own my “new normal” life. Be a Good Little Widow touches on the “new normal” aspect as the girl is lost and trying to get out of the fog. It doesn’t surprise me that someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a spouse chose to write about the “in the fog” stage. An outsider can make guesses about that stage: you get angry, you drink to forget your problems, you fight with the in-laws, and you keep picturing your dead spouse in the house with you. All of it made for some interesting theatre.

But where the playwright missed the boat was the deeper introspection that is needed to move on. The understanding that it is not getting sober after a night of binge drinking that shapes your new life or yelling at someone and realizing you’ve gone too far that allows you to cross the line into healing. It’s an inner struggle of what you thought you were and what you are about to become. What you thought was life and what life is now. What you thought you were owed in the world and what you find the world is really going to give you.

Maybe this journey isn’t as exciting to turn into a play. Fair enough. The play did leave our group talking for hours afterwards, debating what the playwright was correct on and what the playwright missed. For my money, I would like to have seen a show that went deeper into the process of grief. But maybe this play wasn’t written for us. Maybe it was written for those on the outside who can only guess what “a good widow” should be.


  1. How true your words are! You can not explain this longing you feel when this has happened to you! As for the doubler, how about a tripler! I have lost my husband, my mother and my brother,but the most difficult has been my husband, because as you say, it cahnges who you thought you were and who/ where you were going? I struggle ever day to find a way to re-invent myself, the struggle is even tougher when you have teenage daughters who only tell you what you can not do right! It been really hard to keep picking myself up and to hold onto the esteem I have left.

  2. Oh, a good widow. That's what I am, defined as "a grieving, but strong and courageous woman with two wonderfully strong children" . Obviously, you haven't got a clue what you are talking about and I hope you never have to experience this level of pain.
    Thanks Matt for another thought provoking and oh so true post.