Widow things

{repost from 10/2021}

Let’s talk widow things.

As a Catholic, there is much black and white.

But as a widow, it’s pretty much all gray.

Other than moralities (that apply to all states of life), very little has a right and wrong when it comes to widowhood. And I want to break the taboos of some topics that may not be understood outside the world of lost spouses.

Wedding rings, burials, dating, getting rid of things, making choices, and more…all of these topics so delicate, so personal, so filled with individualities and circumstance.

I won’t get into each topic for time’s sake. But I’ll touch on the general theme: a widow(er) is justified in making whatever decision about the above topics he or she wants (again, moralities taken into consideration). Yes, grieving must be faced head on, but we must trust the widow is discerning despite the torrents of grief.

I do believe that there is an interior widowhood that many saints talk about cultivating, a greater perfection of this state in life, but I’d like to leave that topic for a different day.

I don’t remember the day I took off my wedding rings. It was April-ish. I felt like they were screaming at me, they were so “him.” I went to a party with some of his friends a few months after and I thought about putting them back on, worried what others would think. But I left them off. My decisions are mine. And this was a decision I made with nuances too long to list here.

And then buying the burial plot next to him. I did that, too.

And getting rid of his clothes. The kids and I kept our favorite things. I boxed the rest up and they sat in the garage. The last bit is now waiting to be donated. Some people keep things for years. Both decisions are the best decision.

Dating…some widows remain betrothed to their former spouse. Some consecrate themselves to God. Some start dating within months or others, years.

I’d love to keep this conversation going over time but this is a good start.

A widow learns to trust his or her instincts, to weigh the balances of life carefully. And the encouragement we need is to be validated in our courage, nudged gently if off track, and trusted that we know what’s best for our own situations.

However, in discussing this topic, there’s not much room here to develop the nuances of earthly widowhood. Of the muck and mire in the midst of trying times. Of doing the best we can with what we have.

But taking widowhood even deeper, the saints (namely St. Francis de Sales, St. Augustine, St. Jerome) speak of “true widowhood.” I have read countless letters from these saints to widows of all states and ranks. And they are beautiful and challenging. Beautiful because we sense the high calling that is to be a widow, the unique trials that subsequently bestow God’s abundant blessings. And also challenging to go even deeper into the spiritual life when suffering and grieving has all but stripped us of everything left to give.

Many of these saints talk about an external widowhood (simply the loss of a spouse) and internal widowhood (the renunciation of pleasure, the acceptance of pious modesty, and the serving of others in need amongst many other qualities). The external part is already chosen for us. The internal, perhaps “true” widowhood is something we choose.

I have read from beautiful letters from saints to widows. How they have applied and will apply to me I take to prayer each day. My only desire to do the will of God. How that eventually unfolds is up to Providence and I but rest like a child on His bosom, wanting of nothing.

Grieving a spouse and dealing with human emotion is hard enough. And now I am tasked with the added layer of being chosen by God for this state in life. I admit I have failed in areas of renunciation, modesty, embracing the reserved life of a widow. If even those are the right words, I don’t know. Not that I dwell too much on my failings for I repent often, but I am now challenging my own self to keep refining, to keep growing, to keep surrendering.

It’s so hard and sad to be a widow, I’m not going to lie. Tears are my bread. But what this means as time goes on I don’t know. My gift to the world is simply the gift of my will to God, my own roses to Him and to you bundled with prayers for salvation of souls.

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