Is there a widow expectation?
Is there an average widow?
Is there a widow mold?
I don’t know honestly. Many times over the last three years I have expressed that I don’t fit the “widow mold.” Other widows have responded saying there isn’t one. But in my experience, through my lens, I have felt a level of expectation from both society and other widows that there is a “way to do things.”
And like I have felt much of my life in many regards, I don’t fit the “mold.” I am like a square shaped wooden peg trying to be shoved into one of those toddler shape toys through the circle hole. I don’t fit.
Our world population is over 7 billion and I feel completely different, unlike any other, and alone in my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. I have met and been a part of widow groups either in person or online and I can’t help but feel alienated.
My husband was a deputy killed in the line of duty. Gunned down by a mad man. And his death and our story was very public. With that came news coverage, law enforcement memorials, groups that offered services and supports for law enforcement survivors, plaques, state government recognition, national recognition, and National Police Week.
For me, I felt I was in a fish bowl. I went from being a teacher and new adoptive mom anonymous in our community to feeling a tug of war in all directions shoved into a public spotlight. Reporters left notes on my front door for God’s sake. People I didn’t know dropped off gifts on my doorstep. Threw dog toys into my backyard without my knowledge. Do you know how unnerving it is to know strangers are coming to your home unexpectedly? That they know where you live? That you and your children are there alone and ANYONE may show up?
“Why is she not crying more? She must not have loved him.”
“Why is she crying so much? Doesn’t she know she has to move forward?”
“Go here to honor him. You must stand and accept this award.”
“Go here so his service can be acknowledged.” Don’t mind the bagpipes and 21 gun salute that will through you into a PTSD panic attack because the last time you heard them you husband was lying dead in a casket 10 feet in front of you.
“Pose for a picture with this donation to you. The company would really like to include it on their social media platform.”
“You have to say something to the media. If you don’t want to actually be interviewed, write your deepest thoughts and release a statement because they need to hear from you.”
“Attend this or that with other widows. It will make you feel better.” Never mind the fact you had social anxiety prior to this and sitting with a bunch of strangers that you are now connected to because they too lost their spouse horrifically. “We will totes be BFF. You’ll heal this way.”
“There is a group that wants to show their appreciation for Jake and his sacrifice. But by the way, it will only be meaningful if you come and shake hands and thank them.” Again, don’t worry about that social anxiety, your feelings, grief, etc.
“Start a scholarship.”
“Name a therapy dog after him.”
“Go to the National Capital and participate in police palooza, aka National Police Week.”
“Did you write the thank you cards? No, why not? You were crying in bed and then battling with your toddlers? I don’t understand.”
“We had another fundraiser. People won’t think you are grateful unless you come and make your presence know.”
“We made something for you. We want to give it to you but we need to do it publicly, call the media, and please hug the volunteers.” Oh, you don’t want to? You ungrateful bitch. Instead we will give it away to someone else, including the personal property you gave us to make it.
“When I lost my husband I did this.”
“When I lost my husband this helped me so much.”
“These other widows understand. Your friends don’t. This is where you belong.”
“You started dating when? You must not have loved your husband much.”
“Why do you go to therapy so much? Haven’t you gone through all the stages of grief by now?”
“You take antidepressants and anxiety meds?? You really need to learn to manage this on your own.”
Now please DO NOT take this the wrong way. ALL of these opportunities, offers, and people had the BEST of intentions and that is not lost on me. I am so appreciative support from my friends, others who walked this path before me, my family, and the community.
My focus is that grief, being a widow, losing someone you love, is not a one size fits all. And it took me some time to find my voice and set boundaries. And believe you me, I did not do it gracefully in the beginning.
You take paralyzing grief,
mix it with a woman who has survived life by suppressing core emotions,
a long lived habit of masking emotions with anger as an armor,
sprinkle in a bit of anxiety (nix that–pour it all in)
and a dash of depression.
My voice was raw, unfiltered, and fueled with rage at times. Three years out, I can totally see why many tucked tail and ran at times. Which now only adds to the isolation I feel.
I’m now learning to speak with grace and love. Set my boundaries, confront conflict within me, and rest with the fact that if I speak my truth gracefully, I am not responsible for what others think or how they react. That is theirs to own.
The point is, everyone’s journey is different. You DO NOT have to do what anyone says you need to do. Do what feels right in your heart. Think of your lost loved one and what they would want for you. Because I know Jake would want me to follow my heart and my gut, not fit a mold, because God and I both know he didn’t.
I don’t fit the widow mold. I’m not a yes man. And I am perfectly fine with that. Believe in yourself, your heart, and do what is right for you and your family.