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My Husband Died But I'm No Widow (originally in The Wall Street Journal_

Recently I called my investment company to make a withdrawal. The representative, who sounded quite young, introduced himself as Matthew and reminded me that we were on a recorded line.

“Let me look up your account,” I recall him saying after the preliminaries. “I see your husband passed away recently. I’m sorry for your loss.”

There was a puzzled silence on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry,” said Matthew. “But my records indicate your husband passed away.”

“He did,” I said, “but I’m not a widow.” Matthew mumbled something unintelligible. I knew he had no idea what I was talking about. To be honest, neither did I. But I didn’t want a stranger on the telephone to tell me what I was. Especially that I was a widow.

“But I thought—” Matthew began.

“Don’t worry about my marital status,” I interrupted. “The IRS knows my husband passed away, and there are no tax implications for withdrawing money from a Roth account.” The thought flashed through my mind that our recorded conversation might soon make an excellent training tape: “How to Deal With Crazy Widows.”

Unlike others who have survived their spouses, I did not change my marital status on Facebook when my husband died. Whenever friends posted condolences messages, like “Our hearts go out to you during this difficult time,” I quickly deleted them.

I did sign into my husband’s Facebook account to “redecorate” his page. Nothing major, I just fixed it up a little. Well, maybe more than a little. Maybe I accidentally friended someone while I was in there. It seemed like a normal thing to do, at the time.

Shortly afterward my daughter sent me a text. “Dom is really freaked out,” she wrote. “He said Dad tried to friend him on Facebook.” I pretended it was all a big mistake, but I was glad I hadn’t friended Dom’s girlfriend, too. One friend request from a deceased person is a plausible mistake, but two would be hard to explain.

The truth is, I don’t feel like a widow. Our vows, after all, said, “till death do us part.” To me that means “till death do us both part” or “till double-death do us part.”

I realize that my status as a widow has no relationship to how I feel about it. Probably lots of widows don’t feel like it. And vice versa: When I googled “I don’t feel like a widow,” I found multiple references to lonely women who were married but said they felt like widows.

Who has the final say? If you google “Is a widow married?” this pops up from the Internal Revenue Service: “The year of death is the last year for which you can file jointly with your deceased spouse.”

This decree by the IRS definitively seals the marital bond beyond death. The Bible, too, has my back: “bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

God, the government and Google all speaking with one voice! This is a seminal moment, a moment of transcendent truth, of absolution. I am not a widow—at least not yet.

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Comment by Justme on September 13, 2019 at 9:32am
I totally get it. I am a wife. It's just a really long distance relationship right now.
Comment by renee on August 27, 2019 at 4:37pm

Steve has only been gone for two weeks, he was sick for over 8 months before he passed from pancreatic cancer. Last week I went to our bank to check on some business and to give them a death certificate. When discussing our account with the bank manager, I told her that I did not want Steve's name taken off of our account. However, she informed me that they would have to put the account just into my name now. While she was trying to explain this to me, I just started crying. I guess to calm me down, she informed me that this was something that we didn't need to right now. Later that day my daughter and I went out to lunch. While having lunch I noticed an elderly couple in their mid to upper 70s both had canes and were helping each other with their lunch. It just rolled all over me when I saw them because I remember the times that Steve and I would talk about when we were that age and the enjoy that we would continue to have with each other. The realization was that this is something that we will never share, that while the 34 years that we had were awesome and a blessing it was not enough and that we both wanted so much more.  

Comment by DIVA70 on June 2, 2019 at 12:03pm

I understand. Shortly after my dear husband passed away a relative remarked that I was now single. I didn't know how to respond then but later I wrote her a letter and explained that I was alone, not single. I also explained that I am still's just that my husband has gone on to heaven before me and one day he and I will be reunited. I added that on the day I die I hope there will be no tears of sadness but tears of joy because my husband and I will once again be together. I am sure she shared this letter with other relatives because I have not heard from her or them since I sent that letter. I am well aware of the definition of the word widow. I acknowledge that by coming to this site. But in my heart and soul I will always be married to my one and only true love. We all must deal with our new life in the way that is best for us. Be kind to yourself and cherish your memories. Take care.

Comment by sis on May 29, 2019 at 6:02am

Good for you! I also struggle with the word "widow". I'm thankful I don't have to deal with it too often, but when I do a sadness comes over me and the hair on the back of my neck seems to stand up. God Bless

Comment by Tekwriter on May 29, 2019 at 3:31am

It bothers me far more to fill out a form where there is no choice for me but to put single. I do not feel single. I am not single. I am at the very least widowed. 

Comment by laurajay on May 27, 2019 at 7:07pm

This  place  is  named   Widowed Village  and  it  consists  of  widows  and widowers.  If  you  join  here  it  is  because  your  husband or  wife or essential  other  in some  cases  have  died.  You are  a widow  or  a widower looking  to give  or  get  support  from  other widows  and/or  widowers.  You  are  welcome to  join in  or  observe  as little  or  as  much  as  you  like.  Feelings are  real  and  acknowledged as  part  of  the  grieving  process  which  is  different for  everyone.  But  what truly  unites  us  though  is  the  truth  and  reality that  has  become ours  not by  choice  but  by  circumstances.  We are  all widows  or  widowers  here  looking  to  heal  and  move  forward  given  sufficient  time.  May you find  peace  in  the reality of being  a  widow as  you begin   your  journey  here  at  Widowed Village.  

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