The Widow Word




Over the years, I've been asked many times what I think of the word widow, and specifically if I'd prefer we use a different word that has a more positive connotation to label the widowed experience.

When the word widow first applied to me, I told myself that I hated that word. I shuddered every time I used that word to describe myself, and the unwanted situation in which I found myself. I avoided saying the word "widow" if I could, and certainly did not use that word to publicly describe myself.

But here is the thing, I have been widowed. My husband died, and the word "widow" IS going to be applied to me whether I like it or not. Eventually I realized that hating the word (and the experience by extension) didn't change anything, in fact, for me, hating the word made it more difficult to bear. I felt as if hating the word widow meant hating a part of me that I could not change.

Instead of changing the word people use to describe a person whose spouse or partner has died, I seek to change the negative connotation that is applied to the word widow.

The widowed people I have met over the past nine years are remarkable. They are resilient, powerful, broken, rebuilt, struggling, growing, generous, and many are more alive than any other group of people I have ever encountered.

I don't want to change the word widow. I believe that the connotation around the word is a result of the fear our society has of death, grief, illness, and all things that can't be "fixed." Whatever we call ourselves, we will always have to find our way to own our re-born selves, and to handle other people's discomfort with our grief process and/or our choices post-loss. That said, I am all for whatever change of language or perspective each of us needs to walk this widowed road; to each his or her own.

Widow is a powerful word, and I am proud to be known as someone who loved my person to his very last breath. Cheers to all who have been a part of the true to you.

Showing 4 reactions

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  • commented 2016-04-09 15:23:59 -0700
    Just letting you know this post has sparked many a wonderful conversation with my widowed friends down here in Australia, thank you xo
  • commented 2016-03-31 09:53:05 -0700
    Well said. The widows that I met when I became a widow 4 years ago today are so resilient and have the most beautiful souls. I don’t know where I would have been without these wonderful women.
  • commented 2016-03-28 11:38:17 -0700
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Martha. I am always fascinated by the ways in which the word widow impacts people..both the ones for whom the word applies and those for whom it does not. And, I love the story of Madame Clicquot!
  • commented 2016-03-28 05:22:01 -0700
    I once researched the etymology of the word widow. It has an ancient meaning: “empty”, the same root for the English word “void”, and the French “vide” . “Empty” certainly is one adjective that I apply to myself as a widow…and yet, consider that some of the finest Champagne houses in Europe were founded by widows! (Where would we all be without the Veuve Clicquot?) It is a term of sorrow and emptiness, but also one of power and respect. We lost our love, our joy, our life, through no fault of our own. We have paid our dues to the Universe. WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT!!!!!