Being a Widow Versus Living Like One: Hanging up the Widow Yoke

This past weekend, I helped a widower friend clean out his basement where he had compiled a married life’s worth of junk. And books. Stacks and stacks of books that he tells me his wife had collected over the years. And I thought I was a book junkie! We filled his Eurovan, his recycle bin, his garbage bin and there was still more. There are more rooms upstairs that I would love to get my organizer bunny paws on, but they will have to wait for another day.

After we unloaded the Eurovan at Goodwill, he got back in to drive away and looked at me with an amazed look on his face. “I feel so free!” he said, throwing his arms in the air. I remembered that same jubilant feeling when I cleaned out my house in New Jersey in preparation for the move to Seattle. I was finally unburdened of more than just physical stuff. I was also free of a difficult-to-name emotion. It was a feeling of rebirth. I rid myself of a portion of what had been my old life with Arron, and was free to create something new in the space left behind.

Sometimes inspiration bounces all over the blogesphere as it has for me today after coffee with a new friend and fellow widow blogger Allison Ellis. We had a very interesting conversation about many things as she mentions in her (incredibly flattering)  blog. Of particular interest to me right now was the conversation we had about being a widow. Although she was widowed 8 years ago, she has gone on to marry and have a second child. We had opposite conundrums. She was grappling with the realization that perhaps she had usurped her widowhood too quickly and hadn’t really grieved, where I had certainly done the work of grieving but was perhaps stuck in it, unable to get to the business of getting past being a widow.

As I go through the course I wrote about the other day, it’s slowly dawning on me that although I feel like I am in a good place in terms of being “over” Arron (if that makes any sense), I am still struggling with releasing myself from the widow yoke. I have written about this before, with a great debate in the comments, and perhaps it has taken me this long to really see just how ensconced I am in the widow thing. I’ve written a book, I speak publicly, I blog widowhood. It’s hard to get escape the label when it has become a career of sorts. And yet, as I do this course, I am realizing that it’s my widowhood and not Arron that’s been holding me back from engaging fully in a new relationship. It’s an identity that I wear every day that’s safe and can be incredibly nurturing and gratifying. I meet the most wonderful people through my widowhood and I would never want to give that up. But it can also be threatening to some, downright terrifying even. The question is, how to find a balance between being a widow and being a single woman.

Thus, I am setting an intention here that from now on, I will be writing less about widowhood and more about other things. I’m not quite sure yet what those other things are exactly, and it will be a work in progress, but it’s time. I’m cleaning out the proverbial closet of my widowhood and packing that symbolic black dress away. I will still take them out now and then to remember, but they will no longer be front and center, taking up room in my closet.

I hope you will all understand. Thanks to all who have inspired my mini transformation, (in particular, mum, Theo, Allison, Kristine), though really, you have all inspired me with your comments and friendships.

And have no fear. I will always BE a widow, I’ve just decided that I don’t always need to LIVE like one.

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  1. Rebecca Young October 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Good on you Abby!
    I’m off to check out Allison’s blog…that story sounds familiar too…
    : )

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks Rebecca!

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      I’m working on it. It’s not easy to change gears on what has become a career widowhood.

  2. Tom October 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Reminds me of how I think about myself in regards to what I love to do almost more than anything else, surfing. Despite how important that is in my life I’ve never been comfy with being a “Surfer”, as I kinda think am more than that, but prefer “a person who surfs”. Same with being a widower, I’m a person who lost my best buddy and wife. She helped to define who I have become, but I was more than Linda’s husband. For a long while I was pure widower and nothing else. But the goal has always been (unconsciously early on) to live a new life. No choice really. It started the moment she died. Just takes time to realize it and embrace it. Letting go seems to change the color of the sky. Like the physical sensation that all that stuff we dropped off had actually been sitting on my chest. Felt like taking my 100lb backpack off after a long hike into a remote surf spot:) So Thank You! You are an awesome friend.definitely one I will pay forward and encourage everyone to help a friend cleanse the clutter of a past life. Give the gift of “the incredible lightness of being” who you are now.

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Nicely said Tom. Thanks for your perspective. Love “Letting go seems to change the colour of the sky.” So true and beautifully said!

      I love the paying forward the incredible lightness of being. Who could ask for a better reward?

  3. Allison Ellis October 20, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Oh Abby, what a wonderful post! I am so thankful that our paths have crossed and that we are able to inspire each other in new and unexpected ways. You’ve given me the kick in the rear I’ve needed to write more and stew less. There is much beauty and wisdom in the journey, no matter what path we take. I say we should toast a glass and ENJOY this phase! Clutter clearing/energy shifting/identity redefining is on the list of things worth celebrating.

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

      Hey, I’m always up for a toast! Any excuse, but this one seems pretty monumental!

  4. annie October 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I think Tom gets to the heart of this with his surfer analogy. When you go from being a widow to someone who was widowed once – then you are there.

  5. Kristine October 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Abby, I am very proud of you and the insights you are divining. How easy it can be to get wrapped up in one title when actually we are so many things at one time. I look forward to sharing your new directions with you, too.

    1. Abigail - Site Author October 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

      You too Kristine. Thank you for inspiring me with your wonderful Excel ways! 🙂

  6. Hifza Mazhar October 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Dear Abby

    I have read your book…it helped me a lot. Wish you had written it in 2007, that’s when I needed it most. My 43 year old husband drowned in St. George’s Island Park, Florida on September 23, 2007.We were married for less than 6 years and our daughter was four years old. I did what I though was right then…..moved back to India to be around my extended family.
    I totally agree with you about being stuck up in the widow-phase, I myself am trying to get out of it. I am regular reader of your blog…its most inspiring. thanks for sharing your story.


    1. Abigail - Site Author October 21, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Thank you so much for your post. I am sorry to hear of your loss. Indeed, widowhood can certainly have a chokehold sometimes, and finding a way out can be tricky. We each find our own messy ways. Perhaps that’s the beauty.

      Thanks for being a loyal reader. Amazing to think my words make it all the way to India!

      Warmly, Abby

  7. Michele Neff Hernandez October 23, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Widowhood can be a very comfy place, which is odd, but also weirdly true. Yeah for stepping out, and for embracing the infinite possibilities that being a single woman holds. I can’t wait to see what color you choose for your next dress. Love and cheers.


    1. Abigail - Site Author October 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      Yes, comfy is right. It’s so hard to force such a huge adjustment upon oneself.

      You KNOW what colour dress I would choose, since you chose it too! Electric Blue! Yeah baby!
      Heehee. Abby

  8. julie pehar November 1, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Hello Abigail,

    It is very nice to meet you (albeit electronically). I saw an article about your book and have since purchased and read it. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible journey with others.

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