Today I changed my relationship status on Facebook from "married" to "widowed". I have been staring at that line on the page for many long months now. For whatever strange reason, it has given me great comfort to see it posted this way. Facebook may be a silly, meaningless network in many respects, but that status was still not something I could give up easily. In my heart, I have felt married to him still, and perhaps in a way, I will always feel married to him; he will always be with me. Giving up that label just seemed so...final. But I realize in this bizarro world of social media that maybe it had become appropriate to make this change. No matter where my life may take me now, I am in fact widowed. That is the simple, heart-breaking truth.
I'm not married anymore, and it was no choice of mine.
The day he died I took his wedding ring off his finger before the coroner took him away. It was a deeply painful moment I will never forget. I'll never forget the moment I placed it on his finger too, nearly 15 years ago. We designed our rings together and were always so proud to wear them. In the weeks following his death, I wound his ring into a Chinese knotted necklace and wore it nonstop for months; then, eventually I stopped wearing it all the time. But I still have it within easy reach, and often wear it when I'm alone in the house, or when I go to bed at night, or if I'm having a particularly sad day. It's still a great comfort and probably always will be. I'm wearing it now, as I type this.
I know some widows wear their wedding rings for many years; others take them off much sooner. Like much of what comes along with the processing of grief, I believe there is no right or wrong, and no timetable. I wore my own wedding ring for many months after he died, but one day it felt like time to keep it somewhere else, even though my finger is still discolored from that precious gold band. Perhaps my marriage to Mike will be forever etched there. And maybe that's as it should be.
Some widows might someday find they no longer identify with that label, and I think that's ok. Sometimes I resent the stereotypes and societal expectations that are often associated with it. But I think maybe we are all changing that a little. The beautiful, diverse widowed communities I've found such as this one at Widow's Voice make that clear to me. But the other side to that is, even if some of us have made positive steps towards the new and strange future we never asked for, we may still and forever also feel widowed. And I think that's ok too. I feel it's our right, if we so choose. One thing I do feel strongly about is not allowing anyone else to dictate how I grieve, or how I carry him in my heart. Or, how I label myself, and how I feel about that label. It's just no one else's business but mine.
After thinking about all of this for so long, I decided to look up the word "status" and learned a few synonyms include prestige, stature, regard, renown, honor and esteem. That makes sense to me. And maybe in time I will change my Facebook relationship status again. I guess we'll see how that goes. But for now, I feel strongly about my widowhood. Not in any morbid or unhealthy way, but just because for me personally, no matter what else is going on in my life right now, his memory still resonates across my days, and I am honored to have been his wife.