But I'm Still "Me," Aren't I?

But I'm Still "Me," Aren't I?

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By Carole Brody Fleet

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As defined in Webster's Dictionary, widowhood is characterized as:

"(Someone) who is made to be widowed by or through the loss of a spouse and who has not remarried."

However, in what we call, "Widow World," widowhood is defined as:

“A ‘club’ which absolutely none of us willingly joined and with which none of us cares to be associated; as well as a state of being that will upend and change the rest of your life as you know it."

One of the most common observations that I receive from widows (generally voiced in the form of complaint) is something to the effect of:

  • "Since my husband died, all of my/our friends have forgotten my husband and 'disappeared.' “
  • "I haven't changed, but everyone around me is treating me differently."
  • "No one brings up the subject of my husband, but I need to. Why doesn't anyone understand that?"

While people haven’t “forgotten” your husband, it is much easier for everyone else to “move on” with their lives than it is for you. The fact is that others are not going to be affected by the loss of your husband in the same profound way as you are, for one obvious reason—they aren't the widow. Absolutely no one is going feel this loss in the same way you do. Furthermore, it is a general fact of life that people are uncomfortable with the topic of loss, and simply don’t know what to say to you. (When people forgot that the words, “I’m so sorry.” are truly sufficient, I do not know.)

It is also an unfortunate fact that some of the people you once believed to be friends (or even family!) may no longer be a regular part of your life, for a myriad number of reasons. Some may be uncomfortable being around you now that your husband is no longer here. Others may take aim at and/or criticize you with the manner in which you have chosen to deal with and handle your healing journey. Most disappointing are those who believe that now that you are widowed, you have suddenly transformed into a scheming "mantrap," ready to pounce on unsuspecting and innocent boyfriends, husbands, or significant others.  (Seriously.)

Relationships, Friendships, Healing, & Happiness

Let's go over some quick tips on how to handle your healing journey as it pertains to relationships, friendships, and most importantly, your ultimate healing and happiness:

•    It is difficult to let go of friendships or relationships on which you may have once heavily counted—but in situations where people around you are not going to be a supportive and uplifting part of your healing journey for whatever reason … let go, you must. You have had enough "negative" in your life and if those around you are not willing to be part of your healing process in a positive way—they do not get to be a part of your "process" … period.

•    Your "real" friends and family will never "disappear,” however, they will move forward with their lives and they will be able to do sooner than you. Remember what we just discussed—they aren't the widow and just as no one can expect you to be "over" the loss of your husband in an especially speedy manner, you cannot expect others to grieve the loss of your husband in the same way that you do.

•    It can feel horribly lonely and very strange to see everyone going about their daily business when your world has come to a screeching halt. After the funeral is over and the thank-you notes are written, everyone else's life goes on, and you are left behind to pick up the pieces of a shattered life all by yourself. Understand that many people want to give you space and time to begin healing … or perhaps just let you get some well-deserved rest. These same people are not going to want to bother you with daily phone calls or visits, instead leaving it up to you to contact them. So go ahead and take the initiative—it's okay! If you are feeling lonely or "abandoned," pick up the phone and call someone for a cup of coffee, or for dinner, or for a walk around the neighborhood. Let others know that you wouldn’t mind a bit of company. Yes, this should absolutely fall to others to do, however, think about this—have you ever said to a friend, “We have to get together for lunch,” and then it never happens? Here’s the deal … if it’s not written down on a certain date at a certain time, it’s not going to happen. In other words, “sometime” and “someday” are not days of the week—make the plans!  

•    Do not ever be afraid to talk about your husband! You may be the one that needs to put others at ease, because people don’t want to upset you by bringing up the subject of your husband’s absence. If you want to talk about him—go ahead and talk about him! People will take their cues from you and if you are fine talking about him (especially if you’re smiling while you’re doing it), they will be comfortable with talking about him as well.  

•    Even though you still feel like "you" on the inside (i.e. "I haven't changed; what is up with everyone else?!"), the fact is that you have changed. You are not the same person that you were when you were standing up in the big white dress exchanging vows with the person who is no longer by your side. The experience called widowhood changes you forever, and while the circumstances are certainly tragic, much of that change inside of you is for the good. Most do not ever get to discover the depths of their strength, their mettle, and their resolve to recover from what may very well be the most tragic experience of their lives. You not only have that knowledge, you must take comfort in that knowledge.  

Most importantly, don't simply reach "out" for help … reach up for help! Reach up to those who have gone before you, those who will be only too happy to listen to your stories, your challenges, and your fears. Reach up to those who will celebrate your triumphs in healing, no matter how large or seemingly small. Reach up to those who will let you know how much they care and who will give you ideas and suggestions on how to make your journey into a new life as peaceful as possible. Reach up to some of the best "new" friends that you will ever know. They are each waiting to embrace you with open hearts—because those of us in "Widow World" not only understand ...  we will never "disappear".

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About the Author

Carole Brody Fleet is the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed, "Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow" (New Horizon Press) and, "I'm 'Heeling' One Day at a Time: The ULTIMATE Question, Answer and Reference Guide for Widows" (due in 2011); as well as the author and executive producer of the best-selling CD entitled, "Widows Wear Stilettos: What Now?"

Appearing on shows such as ABC's "Good Morning America" and "The CBS 2 Evening News" and in magazines such as Women's World Magazine and Psychology Today, Carole is featured on national, regional and local television and regularly appears as a guest expert on numerous radio programs nationally and internationally; as well as in national and international magazines, newspapers and websites.  

Most recently, Widows Wear Stilettos, Inc. has formed in-person support groups across the United States and announced the formation of their non-profit, "First Month" Foundation; designed to financially assist the widowed in three primary areas of need.  For more information about Carole and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com

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