Not an Identity Crisis~

I don't want to only be known as a widow. 

I'm more than that.

But I don't know what I am any longer.

I've heard and read such words so frequently in these 6 years since Chuck's death.

What and who am I now?

Am I single? Am I still married? How do I define myself?

Honestly, these are the same questions that most people ask themselves at a certain point in life, I expect.

Identity issues arise at each new season of our lives, don't they?

Widowhood merely exacerbates the questions. Speeds up the crisis.

It's nothing new.

I was always more than Chuck's wife. I was a hospice volunteer, then a paid employee. I ran a successful non-profit that I'd started. I was a mom, a daughter, a sister...I had all the various identities, like we all do.

But being Chuck's wife was the best. The happiest of my times. The most fulfilling. That was the relationship that called forth all the best in me and helped me live passionately.

And then he died.

Dead husband.

I practiced forming the word widow in the weeks prior to his death, knowing that was the only outcome. I'd let it roll around in my head. I'd say it aloud.

Of course I really had no concept of the starkness, the devastation of the word. It instinctively caused me to flinch away. 

I despised the word when it finally came home to roost, 3 weeks after the fucking cancer diagnosis.


What the fuck did it mean?

6 years later, I still despise it, even as I embrace it familiarly. 

But you mustn't define yourself in such a way people will say to an almost demanding tone that really means stop using that word!

Well, legally I am a widow, so there's that.

I was Chuck Dearing's wife and he's dead, which makes me his...widow.

It rolls off of my tongue more easily now than it did in the early years.

I still don't like it. Because, you know, the dead husband thing.

I hate it, really, but I still tell people that I'm a widow.

Not for sympathy or anything like that, but because it's true.

And the life I'm living now, the life that I've created for colorful as it is, as adventurous as it appears...exists only because I have a dead husband. 

Which makes me, again, say it out loud....a widow.

I'm still a mom. Still a daughter, though one with 2 dead parents. I'm a sister to numerous siblings. An auntie, a cousin. 

We all fill many roles in our lives.

Widow is the one that makes people squeamish, causing them to say oh, you're so much more than a widow! You're this and this and this. Pay attention over there to those, not to that one word.

Well, I'm here to tell you, folks. If Chuck was alive, I'd still be his wife.

Since he's dead, and always will be, I'm his widow.

And it's up to me to define what that word means to me in this life, same as every other role I fill.

We can't let others define us, no matter what.

We have to develop ourselves within each role and make them meaningful to us alone. 

Nobody else.

Even if a lovely and passionate man comes into my life again someday, I'll remain Chuck Dearing's widow.

And in my world where nothing is okay because he's dead and I can't stand it that he is, I've found a place for that identity too.

I'm making it mine. I'm owning it for me and who he and I were together and who I am now.

What anyone else thinks of it, or me, is none of my business.

I'm Chuck Dearing's widow and I choose to live life in the after as colorfully as possible, because I refuse to do it any other way. My very sanity is at stake here, and I know it.

So...I define it. For me. Nobody else.

And the rest of the world be damned.

I say that with great Love, of course~

Showing 3 reactions

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  • Beth Ensign
    commented 2019-07-20 19:14:32 -0700
    Thanks for this. My husband was snatched out of this life very suddenly. For the first several days I barely moved, just sitting still in shock. But I still remember the friend who came by, hugged me, and said, “I’m sorry to welcome you to the club nobody wants to join: the widows club.” I think that was the first time it really hit me: widow. I am a widow now. I guess I have accepted the membership; certainly I have felt so supported over the last 2 1/2 years by other members of this sad club. But I am still struggling to decipher what exactly this new life I am in really IS. Who am I, now? For so long I was one of two, we built a shared life, together. Now I am alone, trying to see what parts of that old life still fit and what parts need to fall away. It isn’t easy, especially since I was pretty fond of the life we had! But at 62 I know I could live for quite a few years yet. Should all those years be lives building a monument to the past?
  • Janice Hart
    commented 2019-07-20 17:56:32 -0700
    Interesting post, as always. It occurred to me, I never once thought of the word, “widow”, when John was ill. It never came to mind until a week after he passed. Thinking about it now, I find it strange that I didn’t even think of it at the time. I was so busy with the business of trying to not lose him, I didn’t think beyond the minute to minute struggle.

    I am glad you choose to live a colorful life, Alison. Not many could do what you are doing and what you have done these 6 years. I am happy to follow your journey, to where ever it takes you.
  • indie
    commented 2019-07-12 21:31:19 -0700
    Alison, you seem to be more adept at persevering through the muck than I do after the same amount of time (give or take). Honestlly I want nothing to do with this life and its not for lack of doing everything possible to reconstruct after my husbands death. I just don’t need it, don’t want it and it has no meaning for me to try harder than I already have to experience anything more than being left behind to struggle my way through moments in time without the love of my life. There never will be another. Of that I am sure. I’m so ready to join him wherever he is. I surely hope that is what will happen. I wish you well while you try to define what “widow” means. I know what its done to me and at 67 I’m tired. Ready to cross the threshold. No regrets, just lets get on with it.