I have met them at various places – at the Bereavement Support Group, church, community meetings, Tupperware parties, etc. I don’t want to become one of them, even though we share a common fate: widowhood.
I am surprised when I learn how long it has been since they lost their beloved husbands. In some cases it has been decades. Yet their wounds seem fresh and raw.
Many of these women are attractive and well dressed. They wear make-up and have nicely coiffed hair. Yet they never remarried, nor do they even date. The reasons vary. For some, the marriage was unhappy, so there is no desire to do that again. Others still feel married, so getting involved with someone else would be cheating. Or they are convinced that past happiness cannot be duplicated. And, for some, the passage of time has resulted in beatification of the deceased, a stature to which no living man can compare.
They are the Raisin Widows.
There is very little new in their lives. It all happened in the past. Their past is their present, their frame of reference. They seem to be stuck in a holding pattern, waiting...waiting to rejoin their husbands.
Society tends to romanticize continued devotion to a deceased spouse. But to me, they are the modern day version of the jilted Miss Haversham of the Dickens novel, wearing a cob-web covered wedding dress, with uneaten wedding cake still on the table.
They do have their children, or jobs, pets, volunteer work, housekeeping, and so on. But their existence is static. As if their lives ended when they lost their husbands. They seem dried up. They have clearly given up on love. Some have given up on life. They are resigned and defined by their widowhood.
Initially, I thought I would end up like them. But eventually I came to realize that, while I could never replace my late husband Doug, nor did I want to, my heart might be capable of expanding to accommodate caring for someone new.
Then one day I met another widower - Patrick. His wife had died almost three years earlier. Friends introduced us in the hope that his experience might help me wade through my grief.
I was terribly lonely. I asked Patrick if he had ever considered dating. He told me that he had already had his Golden Years, and those days were over. He had settled into a life of solitude. I asked him if Platinum Years might be possible.
I knew that my own life would never be the same again, but hoped it could still be good. And that there might be more yet to come. My marriage to Doug was so happy that perhaps it was normal that I might hope for another relationship where I could experience that kind of happiness again.
If given a choice, I would want life to be the way it was. For Doug to have the opportunity to live again, for me to have him back. But the Universe has not given me that option.
So these were my choices - to live in what was, or to create anew.
As L. Thomas Holdcroft noted, “The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.”
Another day came when I realized that Patrick and I were no longer speaking only of death. The subject had changed. We were discussing what interested us, what made us laugh, and future plans. I realized I was moving away from wanting to wallow in the past, and moving towards living in the present.
So I made a new New Year’s Resolution – To Be Present. This resolution is not typical, as it is good for one day and one day only – Today.
Note: A widow wrote to me and said she found this post terribly offensive and judgemental. I must have hit a nerve. I don't know if she was newly widowed or not - most of us do get upset right after losing a spouse when someone suggests there might be love out there again. And I suppose the post is judgemental...and it's just my perspective. Personally, I'm glad I didn't stay stuck in the past.
The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.
~ L. Thomas Holdcroft
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