Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Nice to Meet You.

Welcome today's guest blogger Kathleen Fordyce Rohan, who is filling in for Amanda.
The words come easy now; the problem is the timing.
How and when is the right time to tell someone that I am a widow? That I am not simply single, or divorced, or separated? That my husband –my son’s father – died?
feel the most conflicted when dropping-off and picking-up Logan from school, or on the sidelines of his soccer games. Friendly mothers strike up conversation, commenting on his smile, asking innocent questions, like, “Is he your only one?” I occasionally see their eyes glance my bare left hand. Sure, there are lots of other single mothers out there, but we always seem to be surrounded by couples and families of four or five or six. Just the two of us, we seem out of place. Is this reality, or all that I see?
I don’t want widowhood to define me but at the same time feel it is an important part of my identityI want people to know I was once loved and married, and we were once a traditional family. But while Nolan’s death has changed me more than anything in my lifeI don’t want it to be the only thing they think of when they see me. I want to claim and detest the title all at the same time, in the same breath.
So I try to navigate the tricky equation, calculating in my head as I indulge in conversation with someone new. I try to ponder the right moment, the right words. Sometimes people find a polite way to ask (So where is Logan’s Dad? Are you married or divorced?). Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it just hangs in the air and I spit it out in a rush of words; other times I hold back. I know sometimes some people wonder and guess, and other times people just really don’t care.
I wonder if telling the story ever gets easier, more fluid and real, or if I will always feel this way: unsure. I wonder when – or if – people will ever stop wondering? When or if I will cease to care?
As with everything else in grief, maybe only time will tell.


  1. Agreed. Especially the "tension" that you describe of meeting new people and what and when to say. And no matter how many times this happens, I still find both the question "Does your husband.....(fill in the blank)?" and the answer, "I'm not married...." very distasteful. It has been 21 months and this sort of awkward exchange has only happened to me twice and both times I was caught off guard. The first time, I explained in more detail about the love of my life and being a widow and the persons responding was so taken back - genuinely, but certainly it was awkward; the second time was the question above when at a shooting range - a new hobby I've taken up - and the gal next to me asked me "Does your husband enjoy shooing?" My girlfriend next to me sucked in her gut as she knew this could and would totally change the evening (often the one place I can get away from it all) for me and my brain scrambled to find the appropriate answer, I thought of "well only if there's guns in heaven...." but what came out was "I'm not married" and while that is the truth, it doesn't tell the story, at least not the one I want to tell. Like you I want to tell the details of being loved and loving......but am finding in so many cases, it's not necessary and many are not interested. I often struggle with social situations - when sometimes I am too much and sometimes I am a wallflower. Finding my new identity is difficult at best, let alone in my 50s.......and I too, don't want widowhood to define it, but somehow, at least for now, it does and I guess that's okay and how it should be for me, for now. Thanks for sharing similar feelings.

  2. Kathleen, what a great picture! You and your son look so much alike! Adorable! I, too, can relate to the issue and agree with not allowing the STATUS widow to define me. Conversely, like you, I want the world to know I was loved and in love and my children had a terrific father. I didn't chose to be single.

    I have been asked about "my husband" several times over the last 2.5 years. My responses have been mixed depending on the conversation. Once I blurt out that he died, the mood instantly changes and the person asking the question most times becomes subdued and uncomfortable.

    So, I think for now, I will continue to opt for "widow" versus "single".

    Thanks for a great post!!!!

  3. "I don’t want widowhood to define me but at the same time feel it is an important part of my identity. I want people to know I was once loved and married, and we were once a traditional family."

    This hits the nail on the head for me, too... It's been 4 years for me, and I still struggle with how to answer the question. It depends on my mood, depends on the person asking, and the situation. Sometimes I get tired of navigating my way trying to find the best way to answer and just blurt out the plain, painful truth. Then it's up to them to figure out how to deal with it.

  4. Yes, lovely picture.

    I find it sad that when we mention our widowed status many immediately become uncomfortable. Our society (and I guess that is us!) needs to educate others on what to say and what to do when family and friends face losses. We are all going to have losses in this life, you can't get away from that fact. I was prepping myself for my elderly parents to depart, and then my husband died. Wasn't ready for that one at all.

    In response as to what to say, I think it depends on the situation and how much you want to share with that person. The truth is always the best, especially if your child is with you, but remember, they are listening. Telling it over and over is so very hard, but that is the reality we live with now. I remind myself over and over that this is my reality, no matter how much I don't want it to be. The hardest conversation I had was 6 months after he died, at a outdoor gathering, when I was asked "How is Doug?". I know he is ok, it's me that is hurting.

  5. I often use the term their "late" dad or my "late" husband. I think people get the get the idea and it keeps me from having to say I am widowed with an explanation. If someone does't they usually ask and then it is information they asked about rather than a topic that they might not be ready to hear. It actually has helped make it easier for me to talk about my husband and still let people know that he has died. I just wish there could be some kind of ring like a wedding ring that distinguishes widows from other singles,because like you I feel different than other singles! It's also like saying single parent- I am not a single parent- I am the only parent, which I say too.

  6. I can totally sympathize with your position. I just took off my wedding bands but I do wear a widow's ring. When I am asked questions about my husband I feel so bad telling him that he died because I know that they will be shocked and also feeling guilty for asking a very simple question. I also want them to know that no, I am not a single parent through: accident, divorce or choice. That yes I was married and we did love one another.

  7. That picture is so cute. Those big smiles are heart warming :)

    Telling anyone about my loss always causes this anxiety to rise from the pit of my stomach to my throat. No one ever expects to hear those words come from a woman in her early thirties.

    I remember having to tell a brand new coworker (and now a very dear friend) about my loss, just a 4 months after he died. I saw his heart break in his eyes. And after I poured my heart out and told him every detail, his words to me were "He was so lucky to have had you as his wife. You were the best wife any man could ask for. I have gained so much more respect for you, more than I ever have for anyone. Ever." It brought us closer. He feels like he took the job offer at our company and that we were brought together as friends so that he can help me heal from this pain (and he has, I am so grateful for his friendship, he will never know how much I've grown to love him).

    I just had to tell someone yesterday I was a widow. I was talking to a very pregnant coworker, we just had her baby shower today. One of the building employees that I chat with from time to time asked me when I was going to have a baby. Wow. I just said "Oh, no, not me, not any time soon.." and he was asking why not? So I said I'm not married nor in a relationship. He was shocked and said "That must be by choice! Who would be foolish enough to not be with someone like you?" So I said "Um, yes and no. It's a long story." So he assumed a guy broke my heart. So I just sighed and said "My husband died last year, 14 months ago." He felt terrible. But he was so kind after that, very encouraging.

    But we have to acknowledge that part of our lives. It's become one of our identifiers, as women, men, spouses and now widowed. We can't hide that from anyone.

  8. Another thing I think we all relate to and I wish I there was one answer. Sometimes I think the old rule of what to wear as a widow etc had one good appeal. It took away having to know how to identify ourselves. I am definitely not advocating going back to that(even though black is slimming), but man it took this awkward part off our plate. ''Ah yes..there's the widow Levesque." Like so many of us I want people to know I was married and it's end was beyond my control...I'm an Only parent not a Single one. These kids don't see their Dad on weekends...They don't see him at all....we visit him at a cemetery. (Btw I realize some single parents are also Only Parents with exes who are non existent) I don't want sympathy or pity for us and that is why it is hard because it can turn into that if you say the words. 22mos and I still panic a little when these moments come up. Plus, you hear a story that reminds you of when you had a spouse and want to say "Oh yeah...I know how that goes!" and you just don't know if you should go there. I try to remember something Michelle Neff Hernandez said at Camp Widow. When you tell someone you're a widow, they kind of step back.."widowhood creates a space between you and me". I think I try and change that and close that space wherever I can. I started back to school in January for OT and of course we had to share things about ourselves so all these young ones(and some folks my age too) have, I hope, a different perspective on what widowhood is. A widow can be this lady who laughs and talks about her experience but doesn't want your pity, and, look, her life didn't end when her spouses life did. At some point most of them will experience loss of a spouse and I hope when they think "How can I do this?" they will remember that I was able to survive and thrive and cry and laugh and reminisce and Live!

  9. People treat you different. Family and friends. I found this to be the worse part of my life. I went back to school. I found that people take advantage of you also when you are a widow. It has been 4 long years for me.Every year get harder.