Definition of a Widow

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.

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29 responses

  1. For me as the 35 year old widow,with 2 kids and not only working my job but trying to carry on my husbands farming legacy I must say I am feeling exactly like that in my first year and have had to do so many things I never had to do before. Thank you because for me I know I am not alone. I just know each day I am thankful to have God by my side.

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    • Heidi, I am sincerely sorry for your loss. You are so early on in your grief journey. No, you are not alone in this. I, too, am thankful for you have God walking alongside you and even carrying you when need be. Thank you for reading and for commenting.

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  2. Truly the best definition of widowhood that I have seen yet. I will be sharing it with family. I couldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the grace of God helping me through.

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  3. That is so, so right on, Candy! Wow, you have a way with words! I would be in the younger/middle age group with 7 of my 10 children still at home! So hard, and difficult, the ripping and tearing of our heart as we try to be that single parent, and for me – not only to young children, but teenagers!!!!!!, and my older married girls who no long have that Daddy telling them how proud he is of them, and help their fledgling little family’s into maturity…. but We do have the confidence that our God is with us whether we feel Him or not – He is there orchestrating every moment of our days. Thank-you, once again, Candy!

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  4. I have to give credit where credit is due, Sheri, because I know that it’s God that puts those words into my mind. Thank you for much for reading and for your encouraging words.

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  5. Sandra, no, I am not a widow and do not know or understand. But what I do undersand is that you and each and every one of you lovely, strong women are loved. My heart goes out to each of you and I will keep you in my prayers for a long time to come. I love you Sandra.

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    • Oh, Iris, my long-time dear friend!! I pray that you never have to experience this. I know you’ve experienced loss in your life in many ways, as we all have; however, nothing prepares us for the loss of your spouse. Thank you for never judging or condemning me – ever, even when we were growing up! I love you!!!! You are a gem!

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  6. I am in the younger group of widows with one child at home. I have been a widow for 10 months and 1 day. When I first thought of widow I too had thought of that title with shame and almost embarrassment. No one wants this title. I have been blessed with hearing different comments from so many godly widows. This has helped me to see the true definition of a Widow really come to life. God has also opened my eyes to see. You put real meaning of a Widow into words for me. I am printing out your definition and posting this right next to my computer so I can refer back to it often and I also am going to share this with a widow friend of mine. I am so thankful to God who has picked me and my children up and has been carrying us in our grief journey and so thankful to others (like yourself) who are able to put my feelings into words.
    I am in the younger group of widows with one child at home. I have been a widow for 10 months and 1 day. When I first thought of widow I too had thought of that title with shame and almost embarrassment. No one wants this title. I have been blessed with hearing different comments from so many godly widows. This has helped me to see the true definition of a Widow really come to life. God has also opened my eyes to see. You put real meaning of a Widow into words for me. I am printing out your definition and posting this right next to my computer so I can refer back to it often and I also am going to share this with a widow friend of mine. I am so thankful to God who has picked me and my children up and has been carrying us in our grief journey and so thankful to others (like yourself) who are able to put my feelings into words.
    Thank you Candy.

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    • Tanya, another young widow so early on in her grief journey. I am so truly sorry for your loss. It blesses me to hear that this post made some kind of difference in your life. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  7. Candy – dear “sister” and friend – yet unmet – so well said – who we are and what we face and feel on a daily basis. I am a widow and His banner over me is LOVE.

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  8. wow, what can one say after reading that? It is encouraging to have you all here who understand. September 1 is 10 yr anniversary for us, so this comes at a time that I really needed this. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Beautifully defined and explored. I like the way you have explored building of boundaries When I read this it leaped in my spirit that some of the steps I am taking as i build my boundaries will look unpopular and might offend some.I just pray that with time I will and people around me will understand that all what I am trying to do is rising from the ashes and rebuilding. God bless you Candy you are a great help

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  10. When you are the oldest sibling, the only daughter, and a pleaser (all those describe me), setting those boundaries is a great challenge to begin with, but especially after you become a widow. Yes, there are those who won’t understand, but we have to do what God show us is best for us in order that we can rise from those ashes and rebuild. Thank you, Gertrude.

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  11. This is a beautiful and fitting description of a widow. It’s been 10 weeks since Kevin died and I am still trying to pick myself up out of the dirt…collect the pieces left of my heart and find the courage to live this life without Kevin. Only through God’s love and strength is that possible. I too will print this out and refer to it often. I would also like to share it on my site if that’s ok with you, Candy.
    I really like the mental picture of Kevin on the balcony cheering me on:-) Thank you!

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  12. I’m so glad to have found my way here! Maybe part of His plans I guess…just as He took away my soulmate of 27 years, without any warning, two years ago. We couldn’t have children and that hurts more today than it ever did. There is nothing left of the life we devoted to each other.
    Ten months ago I turned 45 and had no clue how to start life from scratch again. I was introduced to this widower who lost his wife under similar circumstances..and call it family pressure, or fear of the lonliness, got married to him two months ago.

    But I still miss the love of my life so much..its comforting to know that this grief is a very long journey

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    • Hi Mini. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your soul mate and all of the other secondary losses that you are grieving. I hope that you can find something in this blog that speaks to your heart. I only share what speaks to mine or what God is saying to me as a widow. Thank you for being so transparent and for reading and commenting.

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