I was talking to a widow friend via text the other day, and I was catching her up on my life. She knows about my partner Chris but didn’t know all the details of our relationship, so I was filling her in. “So he’s never been married,” she said, “why is that?”
Quickly, before I could answer, she texted a follow-up, “there is zero judgement from me, obviously.”
Here’s the thing – she didn’t have to type that last line. I already knew it. I knew it because she’s my friend and I know she wants the best for me. But I also knew it because she’s a widow.
My widow friends – they get it. Widows of all ages have to do a lot of difficult things in the first few months and years after losing their partners. But those of us who find ourselves widowed at a young age sometimes have even more opportunities to make big (and sometimes really hard) decisions than people who lose someone when they’re older. We often find ourselves the only widow in a group of couples, we often decide to online date in our 30s or 40s when none of our friends are doing the same, and we often are solo parenting when that was never the plan.
Being a young widow means finding yourself in complicated situations on a somewhat regular basis. It also means feeling judged a lot by yourself and your community because you have to make choices you never thought you’d have to make.
You want to go out with your friends, because you never get adult time, even though it means hiring another babysitter? You love your house but you realize the only way you can face each day is to move? You want to date, but when you actually are touched by someone else, you recoil? Your mom drives you crazy but you realize without her you can’t really care for your kids, so you let her move in?
You never thought you’d make a lot of the decisions you end up making as a young widow. But…that’s just how it goes sometimes. And yes, there’s plenty of judgement that widows can get from the outside world. But you know who doesn’t judge? Widow friends.
I’m not saying all of my widow friends are saints. They aren’t. They can be plenty judgmental about all sorts of things. I mean, try talking to a widow about health care policy that hurts cancer patients or day care centers that want “both parents” to attend everything. We can dole out plenty of venom when it’s needed, because….sometimes it’s needed.
But a lot of times there’s something else that’s needed. Something that widows understand is fundamental for getting through the days. When my widow friends hear about some of the changes in my life (whether in my career or with my family or in my love life) they get it. Even if they haven’t experienced the exact same thing as me, they know what it’s like to feel really judged for choices we never thought we’d have to make.
They’ve been there. And – like me – they believe in this very important thing:
People deserve grace. Especially those who’ve dealt with loss.
Sure, there are limits to this grace. But I’ve found throughout the past few years that when I’m struggling to make a decision, it is my widow friends who help guide me with a type of understanding that is quite unique. They passionately remind me that there are often no perfect answers to difficult situations.
Furthermore, many widows (myself included) also know what it’s like to be given grace. No – not everyone is lovely. But I’ve been given the benefit of the doubt many times from my family and friends. I’ve felt insecure about my terrible set of choices, and I’ve had someone say to me, “you’re really doing great and I support this thing you’re doing.”
And do you know who has said that to me the most?
My widow friends.
I don’t think it’s because we are special people. All we really have in common is some seriously bad luck. But we get that life can throw curveballs sometimes, and you – or anyone – might wake up one day to a life that you never imagined. To choices that you never thought you’d make. To a future that you’d never thought you’d live.
And who are the people you want around when you find yourself in such a spot?
People who believe in the power of grace.