When you look at the images that come up after googling “widow” about half of the pictures are of the spider and the other half are of the Marvel character. (I have to cosplay Black Widow at least once, if only just for the irony.) There’s also a handful of gothic deviantart drawings and a few paintings from the 1800s, a stock photo or two. But none of those images look anything like who I am.
If you were to ask the average person what the first thing they thought of when you say, “widow” was, they’d likely summon an image of an elderly lady or maybe women in war torn 3rd world countries. But they wouldn’t think of someone like me.
I’ve come to understand that the young widowed community is practically invisible in society. No one thinks of a 20-something mother-of-two, who enjoys fantasy novels and hiking, when they think of someone who is widowed.
Though, at least they get my gender. Virtually no one thinks of a guy when they think of someone who has been widowed. WidowERs truly are unthought of outside of romance novels.
Perhaps it’s because up until very recently widowed people were expected to keep their grief to themselves. Actually, that still seems to be the expectation, but more and more people in the widowed community are stepping forward sharing their experiences in spite of that expectation. This is a good and healthy shift, even if it makes those on the outside a bit uncomfortable at times. It’s important that we de-stigmatize grief in all its forms (not just for widowed folk) and let people entering into this awful exclusive club know that they are not alone.
Thank God for the internet. Thank God for people sharing their grief on social media. I am so grateful for people like Michelle Miller, John Polo, Kerry Phillips and Gabe Easter who have all used their voices to create safe places for widowed people to come together and be their unfiltered selves. Without them and countless others that I’ve come across online, I would have felt even more isolated than I already did. There is so much strength in knowing that you aren’t the only one.
Seriously, these people are awesome.
In community we are able to find the courage to be who we are. It kinda reminds me of the Bad Guy Affirmation from Wreck it Ralph where the various video game baddies come together to understand that that it’s ok to be themselves: “I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad.”
Something similar can be said of those widowed:
WE ARE GRIEVING. AND THAT’S THE PROPER RESPONSE TO WHAT HAPPENED TO US. WE WILL ALWAYS GRIEVE. AND THAT’S NOT SOMETHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
It is only in accepting who we are now that we can come to this conclusion, and it is community that helps us get there. Eventually enough of us will rise up from the destruction of our lives and begin to share our unfiltered stories of overcoming that our cumulative voices will be recognized. When that happens, the widowed will no longer be invisible in our culture, grief will no longer be a taboo topic and we may finally live in a culture that is educated on how to best serve those who are walking through tragedy.
For me, as much as I never wanted the title and I still hate that I have it, “Widowed” has come to mean more to me than death and darkness. Those things are still attached to it, but “Widowed” is also a badge of strength, resilience, and an unconquerable spirit. Widowed means I have touched death and lived. I’ve walked through hell but the fires have not overcome me. When I see another widow or widower, I see another warrior. They might be fresh to the battle and still finding their strength or a seasoned veteran of grief, but they are warriors, all. They are warriors because they have to be.
I’ll finish this post with a special announcement:
I’ve joined the widows and widowers I mentioned above in an endeavor to bring recognition and representation to the widowed population. We’ve each started our own lines of clothing and accessories for the widowed population. (I’ll have some designs for overcomers in general as well.)
Sports fans, dog lovers, gym rats, pop culture fans and every other niche population has access to clothes that reflect who they are. The widowed community deserves that too. We deserve to be seen. We deserve to be proud of what we have endured.
Keep an eye out on my facebook and instagram for continual updates!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.