Curiosity. I encourage it in my kids. It's seen as a positive trait- both socially and at the workplace. But for me, 3 years out into my Widowhood journey, its what I hold my breath wishing against. I just don't like to be forced to pull out the Widow card anymore. You know the one- the card that gets stuck to your forehead whenever someone who doesn't know you quite that well asks a question you can't possibly answer truthfully without revealing the fact your partner/husband/wife is dead. Like, in the ground dead. From then on, they walk and talk around you a little differently. Its a shift I can't wrap my head around, but it's there. It reminds me of my difference- and I really don't need that reminder starring back at me through a stranger's eyes.
I used to avoid conversations just so that those questions wouldn't have the chance to be asked. I'd steer clear of "danger zone" topics as much as possible, but inevitably something would come up. I learned to be polite, to give them what they wanted to hear- "oh, its been X years ago and we are doing fine". But really, why should I have to take up those lines, to act the part in the play that society has set up for me as a Widow past the 1 year milestone (cause we are all the same in our grief after 1 year, right?!). I'm supposed to be over it. Right.
I've been trying a new approach lately. Something to get some of my own power back. It's choice. Its my choice to reveal or not to reveal. To give as many details as I want, or not. When the questions come up, I can give something generic like "oh, he's out of the picture". I know they assume we are divorced, which is a much more common occurrence, but I don't really care. It simplifies things. It makes me a little more open to connect with new people. I tried this approach a few weeks ago in a new music class I was taking for fun. I said something about my kids and someone commented "are they home with their dad?". I gave the generic "no...he's out of the picture. My mom's with them" and the reply was something about how typical that is these days, and "good for you". I didn't take it further and that was that.
Two weeks passed and I felt good about this new power. Back in class that week something unexpected happened. Another student broke down in tears in the middle of class. She was having a rough week as her mother's sadiversary day was approaching- she looked around the circle of seemingly younger students and said she was sorry for the disruption, and I saw in her eyes that familiar look of feeling different, of feeling like no one could possibly understand. Suddenly, another student spoke up and told her that her father had died when she was young and that she gets it, and that it was ok. I offered words of understanding as well.
At the end of the class, the three of us huddled outside in the crisp cold of the night and I felt that I wanted to share my real past. I told them both that I also lost someone- my husband. It was a choice, and it felt good. The three of us that night, in those few minutes shared moments of vulnerability that brought us closer together. We laughed, we cried. I didn't feel judged. I felt I had found friends- new friends that I wanted to get to know better. And the world became a little more familiar.