Monday, March 31, 2014

The Person Underneath


In the beginning, I couldn't imagine talking about anything else. Did you hear? My husband died. I'm a widow. You have something else to talk about? Why? Is there anything else in the entire world that matters as much as this fact? 

Talking about anything else felt like forcing my brain to think around the sound of a tornado tearing through my head. It felt like pushing aside a mountain of heaviness on my chest to speak and then not mentioning the mountain perched on me. It felt insane.

If I met someone new I'd blurt it out almost immediately. It was the only fact that mattered. It was all of me. My previous life had dissolved, the future was wiped clean, like an etch-a-sketch, and the present moment was full of he is dead.

At some point, I didn't feel the need to talk about it all the time, but I felt a fierce need for anyone new I met to know ahead of time. I wanted to explain away my bad behavior, the vacant stares, the rudeness, the impatience, the forgetfulness, the random storms of tears. I wanted people to know that they weren't meeting me, they were meeting a facsimile. Some sort of replacement me who was just a shell with a broken interior. I wanted them to know why I was altered so dramatically.

And then, I began to wish I didn't have to tell them, but when they'd ask about my marital status, or why I'd quit teaching or moved to a new city, I'd feel the words pushing forth no matter how badly I wanted to swallow them. It felt like a lie to not mention it. It felt like revealing my worst parts to mention it. I could see the reaction once the words had been released and it almost always made it all more painful. I didn't want to talk about it, but not talking about it felt almost as uncomfortable. The words still pushed to be released.

Finally, now, lately, I'm not tempted to tell people unless they themselves turn out to be widowed. Otherwise, I have no desire for them to know about it. If they ask and prod, I'll tell them, but it will take much longer now.

I'm proud of where I've come and what I've survived. I'm not ashamed, but it no longer becomes my identity as I meet new people.

It's me I want them to meet, not the widow. I want to stop excusing myself and my behavior. I'm me. I'm not grief or sadness or widowhood. I'm so much more than that. My life has more meaning than my husband died.

I am so much more than that...
I am brave enough to quit a steady job and move to a new city. I am extra flexible and bendy, I write, I help people, I sing in a choir in service of others, I am good with words, I am terrible at most games except Mancala. I'm an animal lover, I'm a foodie, I'm smart and kind and artistic. I'm good at science. I like to do basic algebra for fun. I'm introverted but love people, I can be shy. I don't like to drink a lot. I have a million bottles of nail polish. I bite my nails. I own a home. I love to be outside. I hate crowds. I love silence. I have bad knees but strong legs. I hate televised sports and talking about cars. I sing songs to my cats. I'm woefully ignorant when it comes to politics and finances. I'm a good friend. I'm an only child.

I'm a million things and widowed is one of them. It has been the most important fact about me and the most shattering fact about me. It is not ALL of me. I'm more than that and I want to let other people know that before they begin to see me as the widow. I want them to meet me. I don't want to hide behind the shield of widow anymore. I don't need it to explain my behavior anymore. I am who I am, widowed or not. It's not everything about me, even though it has felt like it in the past and sometimes still does. It's time to take off this mask and reveal the person underneath. I've been hiding and I don't want to anymore.

So now, when I meet someone, I tell them who I am and I don't feel compelled to include widow in that description. Progress.


  1. Wow, this really hit home Cassie. I can relate to everything except the end, but I am just starting to glimpse that place which you talk about. I can see myself as not only a widow, but I'm still seeing myself as being dominated by being a widowed parent. I really appreciate your being able to lay it out and help me see where I (hope I) am going. Have a great week.

  2. thanks, my love. I so much needed this this morning. You rock.

  3. Cassie, this is one of the best posts I've read on here. It really hits home and although I'm not there yet, I'm getting there. Thank you for writing this for all of us and you ARE so many wonderful things.

    1. Wow. Thank you so much! Glad it resonated for you.

    2. Thank you so much. At 8 months, I'm starting to wonder when I'll stop defining myself as a 'suicide widow'. It is the biggest part of me at the moment but I'm working hard on getting through this and am hopeful and excited about living a long, happy life. Thank you for giving me even more hope. It's funny how sometimes these post topics come at EXACTLY the right time :)

  4. I can't even put in words how much this meant to me..thanks so much.

  5. I tend to not tell others I am widowed either, it often changes the dynamics of the gathering, at least for me.
    Now, if I could just get those that know I am widowed to stop asking me how I really am! I'm still grieving my person, and probably always will. I do sense a shift this spring, new beginning, new growth, new light. "Time to take off this mask"...aptly said. We will always be widows/widowers, but I no longer feel I'm branded by it. Good to see progress, isn't it?

  6. Your words have brought an all too familiar tear to my cheek .It will be six years in may and I still feel like I have to justify myself to new people I meet.I hate myself for this reflex response but cannot seem to stop. I am growing ever more terrifies of my 10 year old daughter growing up and leaving me. It has been just the two of us for so long now and thinking about what has been and what is to come makes my heart ache.

  7. Fantastic post---- who am I without my spouse is such a huge question as so much of one's identity is tied up with being a couple. One year for me and I am just getting to dig out the "I" that has been covered with my pain and grief. Thank you!