Masthead header

The Question Widows Answer All. The. Time.

 

924427_311437545704164_1576684737_n

(I can’t knit mittens, but I love my grandboys more than anything.)

Someone sent me an article recently about how widows in America are perceived.  The author concluded that we are lumped into two categories and they are – hold onto your hats – Grandma or Vixen. The “grandmas” are those who decide to throw their energies into kids and grandkids and – oh, I don’t know – knitting mittens and baking cookies and other things that our tiny minds ascribe to excellent grandmothering.  They stop coloring their hair, stop fighting the wrinkles and embrace the wisdom and invisibility that comes with old age.  The “vixens” are those who  have decided it’s not too late for a second act.  They take singles cruises, shop dating sites, invest in botox and aren’t often invited over to couple’s homes for dinner (I’m not making that up – turns out widowers are included far more often in couples’ events, since the women planning the events are not threatened by them.) (I’m also not criticizing the article – it wasn’t bad or accusatory.)

 

 

I know. You’re shocked by that grossly oversimplified compartmentalizing of an entire group of women. I was too.  But the more I think about it, the more I believe that the heart of it is this: widowed women are generally perceived as either wanting to remarry or not wanting to remarry.  In spite of the fact that the institution of marriage has taken a beating in the last few decades, it’s still a central focus in American society.  We still love love and romance and weddings.  We still subconsciously gauge someone’s happiness by their relationship status.  Every time I go out to dinner with couples, I feel the weight of their sympathy at the end as I walk to my car alone.  And the reason I think I feel it now that I’m single is because I remember feeling it towards others when I was married. We are a society obsessed with belonging to someone and we assume that most widows are focused primarily on the will I or won’t I question as well.

 

 

I certainly don’t speak for all widows on this subject, but I can give a little bit of insider information from those I’m privileged to know.  While a few women in my circle have decided that remarriage is absolutely, positively not in the cards for them – now or ever – most have not made that decision.  However, I also cannot name a single woman who is dead set on remarriage either.  Because it’s so much more complex than that.  The idea of marriage is different at this age and stage of life than it was the first time around.  Couple of reasons for that:

 

 

 

  1. We’ve already done it and we know it’s pretty hard.  Even those of us who were married to amazing men have very realistic views on the complexities of joining two lives together in holy matrimony.
  2. We have kids and families in the mix now. Part of what held Steve and I together during the seasons when marriage wasn’t fun was our shared love for the children we created together.  It’s hard to imagine sharing a marriage with someone who doesn’t also share your love and commitment to your children. I know it isn’t impossible, it’s just hard to imagine from this vantage point. It’s also hard to envision the seamless mingling of two family entities.
  3. For widows my age and older, we just don’t need marriage for the same reasons we used to.   There are definitely still reasons to want it, they’re just not the same as they were when we were twenty.  When I married Steve, I was focused on the family we would create, the home we would build, the ministry we would share, the money we would save.  Now, I have all those things, which means I’m making decisions through a different grid.
  4. We are afraid.  We have endured the death of a beloved.  In some cases, we cared for them through the long, treacherous process.  The idea of loving to that degree again is all tangled up with the very real risk of losing that love again.  And it’s almost impossible to consider surviving it again – at least it is for me.

 

 

So you can see why it’s a hard question to answer with a Yes or a No.  And, I tell you what, I am asked this question a lot (or I wouldn’t waste blog space on it.)   At first I was shocked that people asked – not offended, just shocked. Now I’m neither (though I am thankful no one has so far asked:  Grandma or Vixen?)  My answer – and I believe this would be reflective of many widows I’ve talked to – is this:  I haven’t made a decision about the idea of remarriage and I don’t think I need to.  The institution of marriage, in and of itself, will never be enough to overcome all the concerns I have enumerated above.  However, the possibility exists that somewhere in this great big world is an actual person who could convince me to take a risk on love.  Not yet. Maybe not ever.  But also: maybe.  Someday.

 

 

I do not kid you when I say I feel zero inclination to push my way forward on this or to spend any precious minutes worrying about it.  I feel 100% peace in living and building this amazing life God has given me, while trusting Him with every person, project and possibility that exists in my future.  I don’t want to disappear into grandma’ing, though I love it.  I’m also not going to fight my age (except I still color my hair and I won’t apologize for it!) or live on the lookout for someone who will please, please love and validate me.  I just want to live out every minute in an all-caps YES toward the plans God has for me and the days He’s already written for my life.  And most widows I know are in the very same place.  So maybe, in the final analysis, our categories are too weak to hold the weight of life’s complexities.  Maybe we should just let widows be women.  Regular, wonderful women who want to live and love well with the days they’ve been given.  Wouldn’t that be a good start?

 

 

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

 

 

March 29, 2016 - 10:18 am

Mitzy Zahm - My feelings exactly. Especially, over all else..#4. A reason that most don’t even entertain. We know that this ‘in sickness and in health’ is real, and real hard!

March 29, 2016 - 12:13 pm

Molly - Absolutely Bo! Live life, love God and those kids! Keep preaching n keep writing! You da best!

March 29, 2016 - 1:01 pm

Deb - The obtuse thing about a question like this is that it assumes there is a whole conga line of eligible men dancing circles around you! I used to get similar questions/comments as a late 20’s singleton. People would be like ‘Why aren’t you married?’, and I’m like ‘Cause the last guy that tried was a socially backwards chap that lived in a shipping container. That’s why.’

March 29, 2016 - 2:00 pm

Cathy Denney - I’m not a widower, but I am single now. Not exactly by choice, but because of a complex set of circumstances. I feel the deep loss of my loved one. I am moving on with my life and have been asked this same question many times too. This so speaks to my heart and puts into words my thoughts and feelings. Your gift of the written word continues to bless and inspire me! Thank you Bo!

March 29, 2016 - 2:28 pm

Kathryn Vai - Well Bo, once again you have nailed it. When, after looooong consideration and efforts to choose otherwise, finally divorced my ex-husband, I was shocked to discover that I also lost my entire social network. I had NO idea that people (mostly other women) would perceive me as a threat and that I would instantly become friendless. All but a very few people from my church (at that time) reached out to me, mostly to offer understanding, but after one phone call, I never heard from any of them ever again.

It’s been ten years. I am more convinced than ever that I did the right thing, and since that time I have made new friends composed primarily of other single women. Some are widows, some divorced, some never married. It’s a supportive and loving group that has been there for me over the past ten years in ways my church never was. Pretty pitiful commentary on the church, when I stop to think about it. I have a career and can support myself, volunteer, spend time with my now adult kids and my new friends, and try to do good where I am. But I am constantly aware that I am not welcome in the land of couples any more. I am mostly okay with it after having ten years to figure it out.

Since you are a leader in your church, I can imagine that your experience is different from mine, but I tell you what, I can still remember the shock of discovering myself really alone that first Thanksgiving. It really sucked.

March 29, 2016 - 6:31 pm

Tammy A - This is the most adorable picture. Just pure joy!

March 29, 2016 - 6:47 pm

Nancy Shaw - Lesson – 1 Don’t ever say ever. Every time say that it’s so have to eat my words.

2 You are to young into widowhood to be entertaining such thoughts

3. Time will tell you if you will marry or not. If one has had a marriage that was comparable and you were friends as well as spouses. The day will come. When one will start missing things they didn’t necessarily to much about
At first loss. For instance, just being able to sit with another man and have a
Woman to man adult conversation. Someone to have coffe with I. The mornings or someone to cuddle up next to at night. And then if one does get remarried they realize how much they have missed the physical.

March 29, 2016 - 7:26 pm

bo - Nancy – I didn’t say never and I don’t think there are any rules about how soon is too soon to think about the future. My point was that I am just trying to follow the plans God has for me without pre-determining which direction those plans will go….so I think maybe we’re saying the same thing and maybe you misread my post or I am misreading your comment. Bless you, friend.

March 30, 2016 - 12:39 am

Amy Crombie - Bo, You are one of the most incredible women I have encountered. You have such a beautiful and authentic view of life and you inspire us all to open our hearts and minds to all the possibilities in this big ol’ world. I love that you share with us all, and I pray that this new Chapter of your life is bursting at the seams with joy, laughter, and new memories. Regardless of if you remarry or not someday…you are a beautiful radiant light in our lives and deserve every blessing under the sun. I hope you feel all of our love.

March 30, 2016 - 10:28 am

Megan Robertson - My dear Bo, I just love reading your blogs. I usually never post a word, but today I felt compelled to say that reading your words never fails to uplift and inspire me. Love and light to you!

March 30, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Susan - Bravo, this is perfect! I would love to be married again, but I have a pretty darn good life now, and I don’t want to mess it up. I am focusing my energy on raising my daughter. If God wants to bring someone into my life He will, at just the right time.

April 4, 2016 - 12:06 pm

Lottie Ennis - Bo, my husband passed away from ALS a month ago on March 3. My friend gave me your book (Beautiful Battlefields) to read when we were in the midst of our journey. Then, she forwarded me a couple of your blog entries this week. I have signed up to receive them because they have truly helped me as I’m navigating this new journey. Thank you for sharing!