Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

The Introduction

Monday, September 30, 2013
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I always struggle with how I should introduce myself.  Living in the suburbs, people always assume that I am married.  Or if I am not wearing a wedding ring, they assume that I am divorced.  Do I bother to correct them to say that I am widowed?  Do I let them continue with the wrong idea?  If I correct them, does that mean that I am going out of my way to point out my situation?  Sometimes I think that I am begging for compliments by pointing out my (non) marital status.

The biggest example of this was a conversation I had with a woman at my church.  It was a nighttime kids’ event that we both volunteered for.  We struck up a conversation during some down time.  The conversation went something like this:

Her: “Do you work?”

Me:  “Yes, but I’m lucky because my office is close to my house.”

Her: “Oh, do you work full time?”

Me: “Yes.” (I thought it was obvious since I was still dressed in work clothes)

Her:  “Oh my, you worked all day and then came to help out at this event.  You must be tired.”

Me: “Not really. This is kind of a typical day.” (I thought every day is this busy – just a different kind of busy.)

Just then, my 10 year old twin girls came in and both started talking at once.  After a few minutes, they went on the next event and our discussion continued.

Her: “Wow, you must be really busy.  You work full time AND you have twin girls.” 

Me: “Yes, and I also have an 8 year old son who has special needs.” (I think her jaw hit the floor.)

Her:  “Oh my gosh, you work full time and have twins and a special needs son – wow!“

Then I braced myself for what I thought would be the next question – what does your husband do?  I thought – if I have to tell this woman that I am widow, I think she will faint.  I kept waiting and waiting but the question never came.  It was almost a letdown.  Should I volunteer this information so that she knows my full life story? But I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t tell her the cherry on the top of my life sundae.   I really wanted to tell her everything at this point because her surprise and concern and astonishment were making me feel better.  I was proud in the fact that I am juggling everything.   I realized that I kept sharing so many personal details because I wanted to feel the admiration and pat on the back from someone new.   

I realized that I don’t need the compliments from someone new.  I am secure in the fact that I know how hard it is to balance so many life demands by myself.  I can pat myself on the back – or just reach out to other fellow widows to know how much we achieve each and every day.  It doesn’t take a new acquaintance for me to realize that.


I have been grappling with the same thing as we have just joined a new synagogue. My solution of the moment is that when I refer to Bruce, I call him my "late husband," which is accurate. It feels more ok than the way I had just been blurting it out to people before. People hear it, say they are sorry, and if they don't ask any more, we can just continue the conversation, and I sneak in a reason to talk about Bruce and feel like he is still a little bit here..... I'm curious as to how other people handle it, and how it has changed over time for you. We are almost at two years since my late husband's death from cancer.

You never know with people. You get as many responses as colors in the rainbow. I do share it, in different settings, and I get responses ranging from "Oh!" and silence to "Gosh, I'm so sorry!" like it was their fault! I use "late husband" a lot more, sneak it in the conversation, and that's been more effective for me.

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