Married Or Not, That Is The Question!

Becoming a widda renders many things, people, and events irreversibly altered, including your current marital status, or rather, the perception of just what your marital status is. Or isn’t.

And as even as the widda, it can even boggle your mind, too. If not initially, then later in your journey.

For the first few months after my involuntary induction into da’ hood, I wouldn’t have even blinked at being asked if I was married. Hell, yes, I’m married! He might be cardio-respiratorally challenged, but I have a husband. But, in the months to follow, I’d hesitate as to what I deemed my marital status to be.

My husband had left me–at least celestially–but there was no divorce–no severing of marital ties. I didn’t feel “single”, either (singularmaybe, but that’s a whole ‘nother post). I had zero interest in flirting, dating, or looking for a husband, especially when I felt so viscerally attached to my precious, but deceased, hubs.

Except, I began to feel less and less that I belonged in the “married” category. My husband was and is not present to eat dinner with, to brush our teeth in tandem before bed, or to fantasize about our future with, in the hushed, intimate ways that lovers do. The way we used to do.

And then there’s what the rest of the world thinks.

There’s the classical thought that if it’s “til death do you part”, then you’re no longer legally married. But, then again, you’re entitled to all of your late spouse’s benefits, pensions, properties, assets and life insurance policies (providing you’re the designated beneficiary, most natch!). You often declare yourself as the spouse’s “wife” or “husband” on these forms, as well. This seems to indicate a relationship that exists beyond death, which seems to murky the married versus unmarried question even further.

Then there’s other officials forms that ask you to declare your marital status by method of multiple choice: single, married, divorced, separated. I’ve noted there’s usually not a choice for “widowed”. (Why’s it the “separated” get a shout out, while the “widowed” get the finger on these forms, hmm’s?).

It isn’t uncommon to have various family and friends who all view it differently. Some will implore you to get back out there on the dating scene and find your next spouse. Others might get their spines in a twist if you decline to don your widow’s weeds til kingdom come.

When it comes to this conundrum, my suggestion is to go with the flow: call yourself what you feel like, when you feel like. If you want to identify as married for as long as you draw breath, do it. After all, society doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut answer for this, so how could we?

WIDDA B.

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.–Hosea 2:19

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Guess What, You Are Old News

Wanna know how self-absorbed the people around you are? No, you say? Too bad, widda, you’re about to find out. It seems becoming widowed is a great litmus test to discover the true colors of just about anyone in your circle, and a few people you encounter along the way.

The results are usually jarring. (Winces).

It began a couple months in. Those around me–mainly my friends and acquaintances (the ones that remained after the mass exodus of most of my friends)–ceased asking me anything pertaining to myself. They didn’t ask me how I was doing, how I was feeling, how I was coping… nada. Nobody inquired about my fears, shattered dreams, nor even about my flickering hope for a future someday.

No mentions were made of my dearly departed husband, nor of anything remotely tied to him. If I even dropped my husband’s name into casual conversation, my friends went radio – silent. And then swiftly re-directed the conversation (back to them).

It was like he’d vanished or never existed. And it was if I had, as well.

What the people in my life did want to talk (ad nauseum) about was themselves. Their husbands, vacations, children, dilemmas, vet bills–you name it. Overnight, I’d morphed into a proficient sounding board for all my friends. They profusely (over)shared their dreams, or vented their consternation, or ranted about one perceived personal injustice or another.

At first, I felt a bit marginalized but I also thought they’d eventually remember–like all adults should–that conversations are a two-way street. I figured they were biding their time until they felt “safe” enough to resume asking me about my life, that perhaps they were just fearful of saying something inappropriate.

Understandable.

Except, it’s a year later, and things ain’t changed! To wit, allow me to share a recent example. Three months ago, I hosted a ladies’ night at my home. After a lovely supper, we segued into chitchat of a more personal nature. We went around the room and each lady relayed the current events in her life and the rest of the ladies would pepper her with questions or feedback.

Every lady had spoken, but when it was my turn, one of the ladies piped in and smoothly changed the subject, scuttling me out of a chance to get a word in edge-wise. (Rudimentary manners, anyone? Try googling: etiquette!).

Here I was hosting the damned gathering and still I was purposefully left out. I was so miffed, and truthfully, hurt.

So I’ve made a command decision. No longer will I perserveringly indulge the egocentric prattle from these people. I will intently listen to them and speak with them until I’ve had my fill, and if the conversation hasn’t yet turned reciprocal, I will retreat by leaving their presence or by devising a fairly believable reason I need to hang up the phone.

It’s the only method I have of preserving my waning goodwill towards these folks. It’s quite possible you’ll have to countenance the same phenomenon on your widda’s journey. Fellow widdas of mine commonly report the same scenario more often than not.

While we can’t change their behavior, you can regain some of the control by refusing to be their constant ear. You are still a valued person with powerful insights, and you deserve an interested ear, also.

WIDDA B.

..who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.—2 Corinthians 1:4

Your Last Gift: The Headstone

Almost immediately after burying my young husband, I became obsessed with obtaining his headstone. The idea of his grave barren, save for the temporary funeral home placard and a floral arrangement, caused me great discomfort. I needed his resting place to reflect his significance to me; I needed it to represent the burning love I had/have for this man lying below six feet of soil.

I dropped into the best monument company in the area mere days after burial. As an aside, I will say that many widdas take their time with the headstone purchase due to budget constraints, a wish to research more before selecting one, or perhaps this is a step that feels too final, and they aren’t prepared to face it just yet.

Both approaches are normal. Allow no one to tell you differently.

As I was saying, for me, I had this insatiable desire to get it ordered and underway. (Especially after learning that it typically takes around three to over six months from the time you order it to the time it will actually be set). I settled on an opulent black granite with golden flecks throughout–when sunlight hits the flecks, they appear to dance. My husband loved plain black accessories, such as his wallet. I admire anything that shimmers and shines. This granite was a perfect combination of him and me.

I chose his scripture epitaph, and had a graphic artist sketch out a wind turbine design that would appear on his stone. (My hubs was a windmill farm manager; he loved few things better than being up a windmill tower). I also added two cornerstones bearing his initials to mark the bottom corners of his grave. I was so desperate to get his headstone that I paid double–yes, dammit, double–to get it in faster. This was my last gift to him. I wanted it to “count” and I wanted no more delays than necessary.

With all that picked and paid for, all I had to do was wait.

And wait.

And then wait some more.

The monument company kept giving me differing dates of estimated completion, shipping, and the setting date. I was so bereft and out of my mind by then that I did something I’m not proud of. I cursed out the monument company owner during one of my weekly calls! I can imagine the owner was tiring of my need for updates, and she got sassy with me. Oh, no, she di’n’t! Things quickly became heated from there, and she put down the phone when I dropped the F-bomb.

(Shamed).

His headstone ended up being set on what would have been his 38th birthday. It really was my last gift to him–birthday, or otherwise. What surprised me was just how bittersweet it was seeing his stone being set. It was finally here, it was beautiful, and I was grateful…but the realization sunk in that there was nothing further I could ever buy for my husband.

This was it.

WIDDA B.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.—               2 Timothy 4:7 (My husband’s scripture epitaph).

Yucky Lil Wid Days

Yucky Lil Wid Days. That’s what I’ve dubbed those days of pure hell that come sweeping in out of nowhere. Well, not out of nowhere. ‘Cause let’s just face it, there isn’t one thing about being widowed that’s light and arid. I mean, we’re living, breathing testaments of most people’s worst-case scenarios.

But I’ve digressed…(I very often do).

In my widdahood, there’s months of consecutive, daily sobfests followed by days or even weeks of–while certainly not bliss–alleviation. I’ll be able to move through my routines without meltdowns, epic or minuscule. There was even a four month stretch where I actually felt hope for my future.

That’s not to imply I didn’t have tearful days dotted throughout that time frame (yes, that’s a disclaimer).

Yucky Lil Wid Days are those days when you wake up and the whole world feels wrong, bleak, and heavy. There’s no exact etiology behind these days; it’s not like you’ve been triggered by a picture, familiar scent, a song, or a memory.

Sometimes, you can’t make it out of bed, or negotiate yourself to go to work, or even to socialize on any level. It’s this feeling of despair coupled with apathy, and there’s no getting ’round it. Don’t even try to explain it to your nonwidowed fam and friends (those friends you have left). It won’t resonate, trust.

I wish I had some wisdom to offer that might help any widda temper his/her Yucky Lil Wid Days, but I don’t. My suggestion is to hunker down and ride them out. Let the tears flow, the melancholy pervade, and eat whatever you damn well please, if it gives you even the tiniest smidgen of pleasure. (Only try and tamp it down a notch if you’re at your j-o-b).

Know that these random ports of hel—I mean, random days, are par for the course. May your tomorrow be better.

WIDDA B.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted–Matthew 5:4

Anger Is A Four-lettered Word

Or, at least it was for me. Sometimes, it still is.

Anger is one of the well-known five stages of grief. I’d known about the five stages pre-widdahood, but since I’d never lost anyone extremely close to me, I didn’t truly “get” how anger factored in much. Depression? Certainly–that one’s a “gimme”. Bargaining? Yup, that also seemed logical for the bereaved to wish they could barter for their loved one’s life to be restored.

But, anger? I could never have predicted how angry I would become. And still am, at times.

It took a little over a month after my husband died for the anger to take root. And once it did, it was an incendiary fury. I was angry that my husband’s young life was over, livid at the seemingly random injustice of his brain tumor, of his death, fuming at how my life came apart at the seams upon his death, and ignited by the intact innocence that those couples around me still thrived within.

Soon, many other issues had my ire up. Real or perceived sleights…it mattered not, I was still miffed enough for two people. Ignorant–but ultimately innocuous–comments made by friends and strangers alike–I was steamed.

And so commenced the venting, the rants, the scathing assessments of others, and the cursing.

Oh my goodness, the cursing.

I’d really not been one to curse much formerly (save for a brief, experimental phase in middle school), and I also didn’t care to keep company around those who regularly did. Not that I judged them, it was mainly a preference thing for me.

And then I was widowed.

All the sudden, I was tossing out the F – bomb like it was my job. My vocabulary now included an arsenal of expletives at the ready, and my conversations would often be littered with a litany of them,  if my mood was particularly sour. (Which, it frequently was).

This alarmed my family and friends, especially the sacrosanct ones. This departure from my former self, whose regular language was hosed down in antiseptic, was too jarring and dramatic for them. Some of them started to avoid me or even abruptly end conversations with me if I started up.

I spoke candidly about this to my counselor, who happens to be Christian. He was not especially surprised or disconcerted. His thought was that it’s better to go through my emotions and all that that entailed, rather than try and go around them. He told me that God is big enough to take my anger and handle my cursing. He further stated that anger feels more like a position of strength rather than the feeling of helplessness associated with depression; in that way, anger is useful.

And I was so grateful for the freedom to express, not repress, my anger.

I needed to; it was a necessary evil. My counselor further postulated that eventually I’d revert to what is authentically me. And he was right. While I can’t claim that my words are always benign and sterile these days, I’m not as likely to erupt in a maelstrom of language suitable for an R-rated  movie.

Unprovoked, that is. Lol.

But, seriously. Anger is a part of the widda’s journey. While I’m not advising you to embrace it, I am advising you to give place to it. It’s part of the grieving process. You may find yourself utilizing language you never have before. Or maybe not. Perhaps you throw things in rage and disgust…Who knows what shape your anger may take.

Whether those around you advocate your anger or not, you need to let it wash over you and through you, so that you can move forward, eventually.

Be angry and do not sin–Ephesians 4:26

WIDDA B.

Widda Lethargy

Hi, my fellow widda peeps! Today, lads and ladies, we’re going to discuss the energy suck that is grief. Most widdas know–present blogger included–couldn’t even fathom rolling out of bed or heaving his or her tired widda ass off the sofa in the weeks and months after their spouse’s celestial departure.

Making dinner? Too exhausted. Running errands? Forget it. Even making a decision–no matter how miniscule–feels burdensome, so, we don’t care or it can wait.

Outsiders look at the widda who is loathe to arise from a seated or lying position, and they can’t understand why we are so tired when we appear to be doing nothing but staring into a void.

Firstly, your brain is so over sensitized–make that, traumatized, from all you have witnessed and endured, you’re basically in a protective, shut-off mode. You are processing internally the memories, flashbacks, emotions,  and the “what-if scenarios” that encircle your head endlessly.  Life’s just spun off its axis, so that’s a lot to cope with.

And mitigate.

Secondly, being widowed can often wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns. Most wids I know report either over sleeping, intermittent sleep, or insomnia. The anxiety almost inherent in widowhood can seriously impede your body’s ability to relax enough to obtain restful sleep. Likewise, the oft accompanying depression can make you feel constantly groggy to the point of sleeping most days away. Either way, you aren’t going to be energetic and alert, as a result.

Grief saps energy. Your body may appear to be lazing about, but your head and heart are in turmoil, and you’re struggling to retain any semblance of sanity.

I’m a year out from losing my hubby, and I can tell you that I still haven’t regained my stride. An afternoon of errand running leaves me winded, and while I used to go to the gym five times a week, I don’t think I’ve been five times total this past year.

It’s okay. Don’t be goaded into doing more than you can bear. Handle yourself gently, and with kindness. Whatever calms you or lightens you, even marginally, do it. For me, it’s reading or watching reality TV gutter trash. Anything that doesn’t overload my circuitry.

Give yourself time and space, widda friends.

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest–Matthew 11:28

WIDDA B.

Widda Attire

I’m a girly gal to my curly headed, highlighted roots. I used to relish shopping for cute threads and anticipating the wearing of them. I adored strategizing my outfits, spackling on my makeup, and coiffing my ‘do. Seriously, my heart would go all fluttery scoping out the aisles of Ulta or Sephora…

And faster than you can say, “double burial plots,” I became a hot mess.

Ah, the unimaginative, yet comfy thing that is the widda wardrobe. As soon as my funeral dress was doffed, my go-to uniform of choice is track pants, tee shirts, and hoodie jackets.

And those are the days when I make it out of my pajamas.

Makeup is relegated to special occasions: lunch out with my parents or the in-laws, my nephews’ birthday parties, and the like. The mass of curls that is my hair is either in a messy bun (no, not the trendy cute ones you see on YouTube tutorials) or a pony tail. Hygiene is fairly intact, but I’m not gonna play like there aren’t days you could grate parmesan cheese on my leg stubble

So, what the hell happened?

The overwhelming malaise and apathy that comes from being widowed, that’s what! Grief obliterates your drive, saps your energy, and let’s not forget that it’s not as if you have now have anyone coming home in the evening you’d like to impress. ..or entice.

So, cue the stretchy pants! I’ve finally made peace with it. Will I return to my once quasi – glam ways? I hope so, because that’s a hallmark of the old me– the me I may never fully be again–but I’d like to get back to at least a semblance or version of her.

Anyway, widda peeps–give yourself a break. You’ve been through the wringer. Now is not the time for preoccupation with your outer image. It’s your inner being that needs extra TLC.

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all his splendor, was dressed like one of these. –Matthew 6:28-29

WIDDA B