“How long are you going to drag out this widow thing?”

“I don’t know. How long are you going to drag out that ‘we’re married’ thing?”

There’s variations on this theme, ranging from the blunt “Get over it” to the head-shaking “Why is she still talking about the dead guy”? I suppose these sort of comments come from nervousness on the part of the speaker. They don’t know what to say. They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they blurt out this really wrong one. Or they’re trying to mold their world how they need it to be. Or they think if only you’d start dating again, things would be fine. Whatever the cause, it’s going to cause hurt feelings on both sides.

I think others just don’t quite get why it’s still hurting after all this time has gone by. I certainly didn’t understand this before being widowed. Unlike any other loss, this one has been such a profound sea change. It’s not just the grief of losing someone you love—it’s the grief of losing the definition of self you’ve worked so hard to create. You were a wife, a partner, and you looked at the future through that lens. You were entwined in a thousand ways—in bed, financially, sharing a house, chores, meals, vacations… the list goes on. And now all of those are on your shoulders, you’ve got to figure out which to keep, which to carry on, which to drop. On top of grieving.

I feel like a little sea creature that has been through a terrible hurricane, beaten up and tossed up on the land and left in a strange new world. Eventually, the little sea creature figures out the ocean is still there and starts the struggle back to it. That’s where I am.

Another widow pointed out the thought to bear in mind is the storm is now over. Now repairs must be made to all the things that were damaged, broken and destroyed. Now I have to find new things to replace the old things, like the dreams, hopes, and visions for the future and my heart.

The irony is the struggle is not just getting back to the ocean. There’s still storms going on out there—there always has been—and possibly another storm of the same magnitude. Just like the real ocean when I’ll get back into the water and what it will be like when I get back in is completely out of my control. And sometimes, just when I think I’ve made it, the waves toss me way back on to those dunes.

But the ocean is beautiful and necessary and life-affirming. So off I go back again across the sand. It’s been eighteen months since John died. The ocean is a lot closer than it used to be.

Born in 1961. Married in 1990. Widowed in 2007. Blogging in 2009.

53 comments On “How long are you going to drag out this widow thing?”

  • It’s been 20 months since my husband passed away from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Totally unexpected. We were married for 45 years – I’m almost 70 now. He was 69. I can’t believe the intensity of the hurt. We were true soulmates and did everything together. I’m blessed to have a great family and lovely grandchildren, but I don’t want them to feel they have to look after me. I still have my parents. They are both in their 90’s in Long Term Care and that feels kind of strange. Sometimes I feel resentful about that and then I feel guilty about having those feelings. I’ve never lived alone before and I’m finding that really hard. Some days are much better than others and I don’t have trouble sleeping, which surprises me. It’s living with the constant stomach churning and feelings of total desolation – crying at the least little thing, sorry and sad that he’s not here to enjoy the family and everything we used to do, and sorry for myself that all the things we wanted to do, and places we wanted to go, just won’t happen. No more road trips, no more country drives, no more sharing thoughts and feelings, no-one to bounce ideas off, no more lovely spontaneous hugs. I’ve been trying very hard to accept my new world, but I can’t help but wonder if the pain ever stops.

  • My wife passed away 9 months ago from breast cancer after the cancerous cells travelled to her brain membrane and spine.

    Before that,she was coping reasonably well with chemo and radiation and we were confident of the cancer going into remission, but it wasn’t to be.

    We had been married for 26 happy and fulfilling years, you just don’t think it is going to happen to you, and when it does it is numbing.

    The first month or so I was a basket case, not sleeping, eating, but it is amazing how resilient humans are when we put our minds to it. My wife was always a positive person and I draw my strength from that when things are tough.

    At some stage during this period I decided to surround myself with all things positive, be it thinking about the good memories we had, exercising, trying to find things and activities that I enjoy doing and that I feel will help me in this process.

    i still have dark moments, but less frequent now, my adults kids and extended family help me a lot, I try and keep my life as uncomplicated as I can and stay positive, I don’t know any other way to deal with this, but I find this works.

    Eventually I am hoping I will find a companion to share my life with, I don’t want to grow old alone, I feel that I can love another person again one day,.

  • I read your post with a smile the positive part of it by no means the lost of your wife. It has been a month since my husband passed,what has struck me so is you feel you can love another again one day. And that is a beautiful thing This is the second time for me I as married very young 25 years and he died of cancer. Well to make a short story 11 years later I found the love of my life we only had almost 9 years and he passed last month. My fear is I do not think I am capable of ever loving again. His love was so powerful that I do not think there is a man that could ever love me that way. Sounds crazy but my thinking is that way

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One more thing…

How else do I know what hurts and what helps? Because not only were they done to me… I learned through this process that I am certain to have done the very same "Don't" things to others at some point along the way. If you're one of them, I am genuinely sorry. I'm trying to learn.