Surviving Widowhood
Spirituality & Health|January/February 2022
GUEST COLUMNIST LESLIE GRAY STREETER
LESLIE GRAY STREETER

THERE WERE MANY startling, terrible moments in the first few days after my husband died suddenly at 44. Shock. Periods of eerily self-possessed calm punctuated by sudden violent, uncontrollable crying jags. The simultaneous urge to hug someone or beat someone up.

What I wasn’t ready for (OK, I wasn’t ready for any of it) was that insulting “W” box. The nerve of that evil thing.

I’m talking about one of the forms I had to fill out not long after Scott suddenly collapsed of a heart attack in my arms. (I’m convinced that bereavement is one-third sorrow, one-third anger, and one-third paperwork.) On the marital status line I instinctively started to tick the “M” box for Married, the one I’d only been ticking for five and a half years. I’d gotten used to it. “M” was my box now. Except now, in an instant, it wasn’t, no matter how much I wanted it to still be. My eyes, swollen from the tears I couldn’t stop crying, wandered tentatively down the form. “D” for divorce? No, that’s not me. So what was left?

I didn’t want my eyes to have to go lower, to the only box I knew was left. But it was there, ghoulishly waiting for me, the “W” for widowed. Gross. I knew that technically was what I was now. But the word seemed wrong and deformed. Widowed people are either old ladies in black shawls or hot dudes in Hallmark movies raising precocious kids and waiting to fall in love again.

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