Recently a widow shared with me what picture came into her mind when she thinks of her new title – WIDOW. Her exact words were. “Something old and used up with lots of baggage that nobody has any use for anymore. I have no clue where that imagery came from, but when I became one that’s immediately what I thought of – and it brought shame with it.”
My picture of a widow before becoming one was of a little frail sweet white-haired lady. But the truth is that widows are many different ages – young, middle-aged, and older – and that picture changed when that title became my title. At first it was a broken-hearted, shattered faith, vulnerable, helpless woman because that’s how I felt. But now it’s a woman who has gone through the deepest, darkest pain in her life and is still standing.
It’s a woman who has had to rethink her life, start rebuilding her relationship with God and others, a woman who is figuring out and setting new boundaries, a woman who has had to figure out who is real and who is not and let go of those who don’t really care. It’s a woman who has discovered that she is so much stronger than she ever knew she was and that it is only by the grace of God that she was able to walk through the death of her husband and not lay prostrate under the bed over in a dark corner and never come out again.
A widow is a woman who crawls through that first year in a fog, but is able to make more important decisions in her life than she has ever made before. Her second year that fog lifts and the reality of her situation hits her so strongly that she doesn’t know if she can go on. But she keeps waking up to another day where she gets up out of bed, puts both feet on the floor and places one foot in front of the other just because she really has no other choice but to do so. As that third year rolls around, she sees her journey now as a singular one instead of a “couple” journey and she has the courage to begin finding out who she really is as someone other than a wife. Yes, she still struggles to “do life alone”, but she is finding that her tandem journey with God is becoming more of what is “normal” for her now. Beyond that third year, I don’t know for I am not there yet.
A younger widow becomes the main provider and protector for herself and her children. She is no longer a co-parent. She’s the ONLY parent and the strength that she has to have to make all of those myriads of parenting decisions alone is greater than ever imagined. This widow must somehow allow her children to see her grieve, yet at the same time be strong enough to help those children in their grief. Then at night after the children go to bed, her walls come crashing down and she faces life without the love of her life for a few hours until morning dawns and she starts the process all over again.
The older widow faces the reality that she will have no one to grow old with unless she chooses to take a chance at love again and risk losing another husband. Not only that, but this widow realizes that she will have no soul mate at her side if and when her health fails and she will have to face it all alone. Yes, she may have adult children, but no one can ever truly comfort her and take that special place in her heart that was occupied by her husband.
Both younger and older widows, who know the Lord as their personal Savior, now discover that there really is no one in their lives like God. Yes, she may feel like God has betrayed her and doesn’t really love her, but somehow she knows in the very depths of her heart that there is one else that can truly understand what she is going through. There is no one else who is there all of the time to hear her cries of “OH GOD! PLEASE HELP ME!! I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS ANYMORE!” She grovels in the dirt of her soul digging for that tiny grain of a mustard seed faith and when she finds it, she holds onto it as tightly as she can. She reminds herself that her husband is up “in the balcony” cheering her on telling her not to give up, but to keep on going because it’s going to be worth it all. Her focus is on her and God now. Things of this world are no longer important because her priorities have changed.
What is a widow? She’s the woman that death has thrown on the ground and stomped on as he waves his hands together in the air in seeming victory. And she may stay on the ground for awhile, but then God helps her find the courage to crawl up from those ashes and rise like the phoenix. Her ashes are just a part of the testimony that she wears in her title – WIDOW. She becomes persistent and her own champion in standing up for herself simply because she has to. She wears the title WIDOW as a banner of love showing others that she is someone who was deeply loved and not willingly discarded.
If she allows it to, widowhood shines a bright light down into the darkest recesses of her very heart and soul. Widowhood deeps her giving her even greater value and worth.
I dedicate this post to all widows but especially to Sandra who was vulnerable enough to share her thoughts with me.