Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Young Widows(er)s Onscreen

Monday, September 23, 2013
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I was newly widowed when I first became acquainted with Nancy Botwin, a suburban mother of two who was around my age and whose husband also died suddenly. I watched her grieve with intense interest, perhaps looking for little clues as to what would become of me and my future. Turns out, Nancy Botwin was no role model. Desperate for money after her husband died, Nancy started selling marijuana and then became increasingly entangled in unlawful activities. Ultimately, she “moved forward” with a DEA agent and a drug lord. Both ended up dead. Nancy was definitely no role model. She wasn’t even a real person, but rather the central character in the Showtime series Weeds. And yet, in those early days, she was someone I could relate to, even connect with. Like me, she seemed dazed and confused, at times unable to help herself but by no means a damsel in distress. For a newbie like me back in 2008, she was a perfectly entertaining fictional widow.

Those of you more recently widowed may have seen Matthew Perry’s character Ryan King attempt to Go On after the death of his wife in an ABC series that premiered in 2012. I happened upon an episode some months ago during which a support group was pushing the widower to dispose of his wife’s ashes. Felt a little shame, too, since I haven’t yet disposed of my own husband’s ashes, but that’s another story for a future blog.

My point is that sometimes it seems like young widow(er)s have become ubiquitous onscreen. Shoot, we’ve even been featured on reality TV (e.g., The Bachelorette and The Real Housewives). We’re the subject of movies too, and not just sappy ones on the Hallmark channel. Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar last year for playing a young widowed character in Silver Linings Playbook. There’s also PS I Love You and Sleepless in Seattle, which are two that come immediately to mind.

We’d love it if you’d add to this list by commenting below. Let us know what you’ve seen and what you’d recommend to other young widow(er)s.

By the way, it took four years for me to garner the courage to watch PS I Love You, and it didn’t disappoint. However, my all-time personal favorite widowed character is Loretta in the classic movie Moonstruck. Cher really knocks it out of the park as a young Italian American widow who attributes her loss to bad luck and then learns to love again. Amen to that.


I was widowed way back in 1992. I just wanted my husband back...I wanted my real life with my young kids AND my husband. A year or two later, my sister recommended a British movie called Truly, Madly, Deeply. This widow was the first person who seemed to grieve the way I did. Well...he comes back. Some parts are heart-wrenching and some are quite funny. It really helped me value the good parts of my new life...and I could finally move a rug and paint the walls!!!

Thanks for your post... its definitely odd to see widows portrayed on TV and usually isn't very realistic for me. I accidentally watched some of PS I Love You and had to turn it off especially since my husband passed away from Brain Cancer. I did enjoy watching Carole Radziwill on the Real Housewives and thought that was a great depiction. I was actually contacted about doing a Reality TV show about widows but guess it never panned out... at the time I was willing to do it and show widows what things were like but couldn't have imagined having the past year of my life taped...

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