So, much like other groups of people who are sharing a similar life experience, the widowed community at times has a language of its own when talking with each other. Some of this vocabulary has developed naturally over time and then spread through the community, and some of it was created or started by someone in our circle of people, and then just kept growing. There are the phrases or “mottos” that often appear on Soaring Spirits International t-shirts or mugs, such as “Hope Matters”, “Long Live Love”, and “Love is our Superpower.” These are hopeful and real phrases that embody and help demonstrate what SSI stands for, and what our community strives for and believes in. While writing my TEDx talk, I came up with the phrase: “Love Grows Love.” The more you allow love into your life and open up your heart to love, in its many forms, the more the love in your world will keep growing and expanding in ways you could not have ever imagined. For me, this is how I live my life and this is what I firmly believe. There are many more phrases and words that we use that are considered hopeful or positive or inspiring in our attempts to build a future and a life that we can be proud of. But those words are not what this blog is about.
In the widowed community, there are also words and phrases that some widowed people find offensive, while others embrace them and choose to use them in their lives. These phrases and how people feel about them vary from person to person, but there are two that I want to focus on today. These phrases and their possible affect on some were not brought to my attention by another widowed person, but instead, by my own husband, Nick.
The other day, there was a discussion about the phrase “my second chapter”. This is a common phrase used by some in the widowed community, when they have found love again after their loss. Some widowed people like to refer to their new relationship as their “second chapter.” Personally, I have never liked this phrase and I don’t personally use it. I don’t see people as chapters in my life. To me, this implies a beginning and an end to things, and it goes against everything I believe in. Merging, integration, the blending of all our collected love and all our collected experiences – these are the things that make us who we are, and that allow us to keep growing and keep learning. People are not chapters, just as people are not replaceable. Every relationship is its own unique thing, and the significant life-changing ones deserve much more than a chapter. What struck me about my husband informing me that he does not like this term, was what he said after. He was asked (by our couples counselor) “what do you hear when you hear the phrase ‘second chapter?'” His response hurt my heart. “Second choice,” he said sadly.
Before that conversation, I was only looking at that phrase from my own point of view, and why I don’t like it. I never stopped to think or I wasn’t aware that Nick also didnt like the phrase, and his reason for not liking it makes absolute sense. Never do I want my husband to feel like my second choice, second place, second thought, or second anything. The idea of that is heartbreaking to me, and it started me down the road of really thinking about how difficult it must be at times to be the partner of someone who has been widowed. There are so many times where I say or even think to myself that Nick is such a supportive husband, and how amazing that he is so understanding of my loss, my viewpoints about “moving on” (it’s not a thing), and my widowhood in general. But here’s the thing – just because someone is supportive or understanding, doesnt mean they arent affected, and sometimes even hurt by things. I feel a little bit ashamed that I was so busy thinking about why I don’t like the phrase “chapter two”, that I didn’t really stop to think about how my husband feels about it. Now that I know, I can hopefully do better. And now that you know, maybe you can too. Maybe those of us in the widowed community who are now married or have new relationships, can talk to our partners more about how these things might feel to them, and how it feels to love a person who has been widowed.
There are a few other phrases that came up too, and they are a bit more tricky. The other one that was brought up to me by Nick was the idea of widowed people in new relationships or marriages referring to themselves as being “re-partnered” or “re-married.” Again, it’s the “RE” part of those words that can make someone feel like second fiddle. And with this one, although I understand it, Im not so sure this is a phrase that is specific to the widowed community. I have heard many divorced people and pretty much anyone who has been married more than once, use this phrasing in casual conversation to describe their situation. It’s tricky, and I’m not sure what other term would work here to say that you have been married, and then your husband died, and now you have found love and are married again. It reminds me of those boxes on medical forms that lots of us widowed people hate filling out. Usually there are options for “single” and “divorced”, and usually “widowed” isnt even on there as a choice, as if its not a thing. And most of us do not want to put “single”, because its not the same thing. At all. So when they finally decide to add “widowed” as an option, which sometimes they do, maybe they could also add one that just says “It’s complicated.” Or maybe “there is no box to describe this”, or even “Nobody fits into a box.” Who the hell knows. If someone can come up with a better way to say re-partnered than “re-partnered”, I would certainly welcome it, and I’m sure my husband would too, as well as all the other beautiful partners out there (I use the word partners on purpose because not everyone is married) who love someone who has been widowed. This is all so complicated sometimes, but for my part, going forward, Im going to be more aware of the words I use, and how they might be affecting my very wonderful husband. I love him very much, and I’m so glad that he brought this to my attention.
Thank you for listening.