I’ve been asked 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 publicly.
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 myself 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 own way to own our reborn 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.