.... than the word, "widowed".
I used to hate that word.
In the first two years out.
Refused to use it or answer to it.
I've come to learn that's a very common response.
The only widows I knew were older.
And I in no way wanted to be associated with them.
And then I started forming a group of young widows in my community.
By word of mouth.
We started with two. Now we have 12 - 15.
And as we started meeting for dinner every week, started growing closer to each other and support each other, the word "widow" held less negativity for me.
And then I attended the first Camp Widow.
And though I still hated the vision that accompanied that word, I started to embrace it.
And accept it.
Because, like it or not, it's what I am.
And yet, I am so much more.
As are you.
When non-widowed people hear about my weekly "Circle" of friends, they picture a table full of women who spend the evening crying into their beer, or wine .... or whatever.
They imagine a very sad, bleak evening.
The reality of our time together is so very different.
We laugh. A lot.
Sometimes we cry, but we laugh a whole lot more.
We crack "widow jokes" .... you know the ones. The ones that cause non-widowed people to become speechless, stare open-mouthed at us, or just look down at their shoes.
When non-widowed people hear about an event called "Camp Widow" they visibly cringe. And they picture a weekend spent with 200 people wearing black and crying into their beer, or wine, or .... whatever.
They do not picture us laughing into our beer, or wine, or whatever.
They do not picture us laughing so hard that sometime our drinks pour out of our noses (which burns, by the way, but is so very worth it!).
They do not picture us rocking out to a live band, line dancing, and shaking our "stuff" all over the dance floor.
They do not picture us bar-hopping until the wee hours of the morning, taking pictures of crazy things we're experiencing and laughing so hard that we wish we had bought a box of Depends.
They do not picture us sipping margaritas by a beautiful and fun pool, next to an ocean.
They do not picture us sitting together in various areas all over the hotel, talking and laughing until the wee hours of the morning.
They do not picture us being sad to leave one another at the end of that weekend .... sad to leave who they consider to be complete strangers.
And they are SO far from the reality .... from our reality.
Just as they are when they look at us, size us up and down, and then say how great we look (like they were expecting dark circles under our eyes, the wearing of all black, if not sack cloth and ashes).
Just as they assume that, because we look "good", we must be feeling good ... on the inside.
Just as they assume that, because two years, then three, followed by four, have passed so we really must be "all better".
And that could not be further from the truth.
We are more than their perceptions of us.
We are more than their definition of the word "widowed".
For good, or for bad, we are more.
We can, and do, laugh and we laugh long and hard.
We can, and do, find instant rapport and encouragement from each other, even if we've never met face to face.
We can, and do, feel happy for days on end, only to be knocked to our knees by an unexpected wave of grief that sometimes comes out of nowhere.
Yes, we are widowed.
But we are more.
We are women and men who have experienced the worst that life has to offer.
We know from experience that life is short.
We know how to take things one day at a time.
We know that we have to choose our battles and that very few things are worth a battle now.
We know to not take things .... or people, for granted.
We know so much more than we did "before".
Yes, we are widowed.