A Reflection – or Two – on Widowhood

Solitary by Chibbitsuki

For the record: widowhood is the pits.

I can say this with some authority, having inhabited this strange new realm for roughly two months now. And though I concede probably 90% of the widows of the world – more, if you count Syria, Afghanistan, Mozambique, etc – are way worse off than I, still I can feel pretty pitiful about it with very little effort at all. Because:

No matter how independent you might have been for how long – and in six wearying years as a caregiver I have surely gotten used to flying solo – there is a weird stigma thing one now feels, as if an indelible W had been surreptitiously stamped onto one’s forehead. Accented by a gray veil that is technically invisible, but all-enveloping. The status is distinctly different from being single, or divorced, on both of which I can also speak with authority. Singlehood and divorce imply a chosen freedom, an aura of devil-may-care, if you will. Unless one all but takes out an ad proclaiming I don’t want this! I need a partner! (been there done that too, I’m afraid) the solo by choice can have a pretty good time doing exactly as he or she pleases.

Widowhood, on the other hand, is the Great Unchosen. (Well, unless you do in an unloved spouse with an axe or something, and choose to spend your widowhood in the penitentiary.)

It is like being suddenly halved. The other side of the bed is too vast and cold; the placemat on the left too perpetually vacant. The ability to spread out the New York Times without knocking over the adjacent morning coffee does not compensate for the darkness spoken by that empty space. Half of you reads the paper and sips coffee; the other half of you waits in vain for commentary on today’s breaking news or for the request for another piece of toast. The toaster isn’t even half functional any more; it only grudgingly accepts the new reality. Doors

Widowhood is forever opening doors onto sadness. Occasional doors open to rooms full of people who feel sorry for you. They’re only being kind, but still. Many doors open into areas of couplehood where you no longer belong. And who can predict how many zillion times you open the door on coming home, calling out greeting and overflowing with tales that can no longer be told — because who can tell tales into a void?

The world shifts and resettles. Life goes on. Widowhood – even for the young, who lose husbands to stupid wars or senseless tragedies – is likely forever, since we females have an unnerving habit of outliving the males of the species. One adjusts, explores new avenues of finding joy.

But it’s still the pits.


  1. My god you pulled me in Fran. Thank you for sharing with such meaningful clarity.

  2. Hi Fran, You got this one right!  We are sharing a journey, though I’m 6 months earlier.  It is not much better now but some days I do see a light at theend of the tunnel.  I miss Herb more than I could even imagine.  I’m having trouble with my eyes so I’m home more than ever — no golf!Feel my driving is not as good but I will give it up if things don’t improve.Just had my 89th birthday and that was fun and I do want more inspite of my vicissitudes. I know more of those will come but that’s partof living. Proud of you for pressing on to the “high calling”. Love,Doris

    1. Bless your heart. As I just replied to an earlier comment, I think the bottom line is simply to cherish each day, with or without the Beloved. And to cherish friends who are on the same journey — or are here to help when their own journeys are on such different trajectories. Love you.

  3. It is the pits. Been there, done that. That is why I warn my second husband at 85–“Duke, don’t you die on me.” Fran, I think of you often.

    1. Ah so. Pls tell Duke I am on YOUR side. I think the bottom line is, though, simply to cherish each day — on either side of Widowhood. PS, was Duke a 1933 babe? We are pretty sturdy.

  4. Powerful and as always you made room for humor.

    Thank you and sending lots of love and comfort.

    Xx Lucy Bowen


  5. Oh, dear Fran! Thanks for sharing. It’s hard to imagine how hard it must be. Much love, Shelly

  6. What a beautiful piece. It will resonate with many recent and not so recent widows.

    Watched the sfpl dying panel on faith. Your contributions were spot on. Janet is really doing a great job with all the topics and speakers. Am trying to get them all taped for future use.

    Thinking of you


    Sent from my iPad


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