Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Identity Theft

Monday, February 4, 2013
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I recently saw an ad on TV for identity theft prevention. It was one of the usual ads hawking xyz service that will alert you to unauthorized use of your name and credit. It boasted guarantees of protecting your identity, and offered solutions of how it would maintain and correct it if it was compromised. It kind of made me laugh in sarcasm.

On this journey of widowhood, I have often felt robbed of my identity. When you go to bed a wife, and wake up a widow, there is a lot of confusion. Because overnight, your identity is taken. Whether you lost a spouse suddenly, or over a period of time, the result is the same. You are no longer who you knew yourself to be. You live with the daily reminders of what your life was, and how it has been stolen. And society does its part not to let you forget.

I have held many identities in my lifetime, including: daughter, sister, student, friend, employee, and mother. Some were for a short time, many changed over time, and some remained static. When I married, I gladly became a wife. I planned on being one until we were old, wrinkled, and full of a lifetime of memories. Looking forward, living life without my spouse, as a solo parent, and raising my children alone? It became my new identity. It felt fraudulent. Stolen. Fake.

My widow identity is an evolving one. What it meant at 4 weeks, 4 months, or now at 4 ½  years later is very different. I don’t wince when I hear the word, as I once did, and think it couldn’t possibly apply to me. It doesn’t cause me to feel nauseous, to break down into tears, to have the breath knocked out of me, when I tell someone “I am a widow,” like it did in the earlier part of this journey. Gone are the days where I felt like I was walking around with a giant W on my head, a transparent broken soul, and eyes that betrayed me and gave away my fears and sorrows when I looked someone in the eyes.

Being a young widow felt foreign. I honestly didn’t know who I was, but I realized I had to make it work. Over time, I assumed, and even learned to embrace, other new identities born from widowhood: solo parent, educator, advocate, mentor, and even veteran widow. Taking back ownership of who I am, and accepting that I am a widow, and no longer a wife, made me feel like less of a fraud. Although it was difficult, messy, and awful work, it became liberating and empowering over time.

As I have come to terms with my ever changing identity, I realized that feeling comfortable being something other than what society deems to be acceptable and valid is completely up to me. Forces beyond my control may continue to change the roles I hold and participate in, and I am powerless to stop or change the unpredictability of life. But as long as I decide who to be, in spite of the randomness and uncertainty in life, no one can steal my identity. I hold the key to that decision. No one can steal that from me.


I have been a widow for 8 months and even writing it seems weird. When people ask me if I am married I get so flustered and confused about how to answer. I still say we, us and ours so I think it confuses people when I tell them my husband passed away. Then I have to deal with the awkward sympathetic comments or looks, which I hate more than anything. I sometimes pretend he is still alive when I meet strangers because it makes things easier, for me.

Fantastic! The only thing constant is change. Thank you for sharing.

I completely understand those feelings. It was a long while before I got out of the habit of saying (or thinking) us and we. It didn't feel right not to speak about myself as being outside a couple. And when I awkwardly said I was a widow, of course the response from the person hearing it was usually equally awkeard. I can't remember at what point it finally didn't feel horrific to think of myself as "widow" or talk about myself as being individial instead of we or us, but it did happen. I am sorry you are going through this, but please know there are people here who understand how difficult and painful it is. We are here for you....we are listening

I, too, have held many identities. Wife and mother were two of my favorites. I am still a mother, but the role of wife is now the role of widow. People assume when a woman speaks of her children, she is married. Clearly, when someone makes that assumption and then is corrected, there is this awkward moment. Raised eyebrows, loss of words, ...It is easier to just play along and pretend you are still married. But then that is not being real, its not facing the truth. Its just easier. My accountant painfully pointed out that the IRS knows only 2 scenarios: single or married. It's that simple. Don't like the title, widow? Just say you are single. In your heart you will always be married.

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