Why I call myself a widow even after I have remarried

The author, who lost her first husband, recounts how she has learned to live with the grief that continues even after she has married another man

Woman in one swing pointing towards the accompanying empty swing / widow concept

On 9th October 2009, when the love of my life was tragically killed in a small crash, I never imagined the day would come that I would marry another. Tragedy like that changes you and, in many ways, shapes who you are at a deep level. At the age of 36, I figured being married was part of my past. Fate had a different plan, and into my life walked an amazing man who I would marry four years later.

As a widow, I call it ‘moving forward’ because to me it’s not a matter of ‘moving on’. I know it’s semantics, I know the phrases are similar, but to me they represent such different moods. I will never move on from my loss. It will always be with me and it will always form who I am as a woman, as a mother, and as a person. I will forever love my late husband and I will forever grieve his loss. For me, moving forward means I accept all I have been given in this life and I have made the conscious choice to make positive forward steps with the days I have left. These steps for some time had included finding myself as a single woman, a solo mom, and a person of loss. Now these steps may also include a new and interesting twist to my life’s storyline—remarriage.

My new normal

For the most part I have become accustomed to my life post loss. Life never goes back to what it was before but I have learned to live a new normal and take it all in stride. My new normal includes many parts of my old normal, but the backdrop has shifted and the photos are minus one very important person. My new normal also includes my chapter two, and as we create new memories together, my life seems less awkward and out of place and more, well, normal.

Life never goes back to what it was before but I have learned to live a new normal and take it all in stride

For nearly three years post my husband’s passing away, I often saw my life from a strange, far off vantage point. I felt like I was an observer in my own world, watching from above, like I was living parallel lives. I could observe the life that I once had, complete with my best friend of 15 years and my two beautiful children.

At the same time I observed the new life I was actually living as I had begun to embrace being a widowed mother of two, and suddenly stumbled into a new relationship that was neither expected or requested. I can only explain this feeling as if I was floating above my body seeing it all, feeling it all, and yet somehow feeling completely out of place in both worlds. Huge parts of my being would pull me back to my old life while reality kept me in the present. You see, my chapter two does not replace my late husband. My chapter two is a completely different person and we are creating a whole different life, complete with the challenges that go along with my new reality.

The gifts of grief

My new reality comes with a knowledge I never had before. This knowledge keeps me balanced, centred and ever aware that my time on this earth is short and relatively insignificant. This new reality enables me to swing for the fences, follow my dreams and love in a way I cannot even put into words. You see with great loss comes this great perspective—I feel more deeply, I love more completely and I take each day in stride knowing my problems are only as big as I allow them to become. I call this perspective the gifts of grief. These gifts are priceless, yet I do not wish them on one additional person in this world. I wish you all this perspective minus the grief that normally accompanies them.

My chapter two does not replace my late husband; my chapter two is a completely different person and we are creating a whole different life

I wish I had been gifted this perspective before I lost Mitch. I wish I could have given him the love, the patience and the ability to not sweat the small stuff that I am able to gift to Keith, my amazing chapter two. I wish for each person who has not had to endure great loss to cherish these gifts second hand via the lessons from grieving. Life is short, and while you are here you should really dance. Don’t wait until you live in a parallel universe to figure out what really matters most. Embrace today for its many gifts and live endless and lovingly in the moment.

I believe that widows/widowers offer a unique and special perspective to their new relationships. They love deeper, they are more forgiving, and they appreciate life in a deep and profound way. I always say that those who are blessed enough to marry a widow/widower are given a rare and beautiful gift. Here are some tips for those who have decided to become the second chapter of someone’s life.

Tips for those marrying a widow/widower

  1. Don’t rush their grieving processMan proposing a woman
    Grieving takes time and cannot be moved at a faster pace than the grieving person is ready for.
  2. Don’t be jealous of the past
    Your partner loves you for you. Comparison is not necessary or helpful. Trust that love makes the heart expand and there is room for new love in their life.
  3. Be understanding
    Grief comes at different times and in different ways. Lend an ear, a hug and realise you can’t fix the pain. There is no time limit on grief so don’t expect it to end when you say, “I do.”
  4. Be accepting of family, both new and old
    Accept their in-laws and their children with loving arms.
  5. Be confident of the future
    Nothing is more appealing than confidence in a spouse. This is your history to create with your new spouse.
  6. Don’t judge
    Until you walk another person’s path you can’t fully understand their journey.
  7. Love moments
    A widow/widower has a deep and profound appreciation for memories and moments over monetary possessions. Spend quality time.

[A version of this article was first published in the June 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.]

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Michelle Steinke is the founder and CEO of 1FW Training and the One Fit Widow Nonprofit. After losing her husband in 2009, she found a new love in fitness as a coping mechanism. Her foundation helps fund widows bucket list dreams to honour their late spouse.


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