Specific Situations > Other Circumstances

My mom won't let me call myself a widow

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Hi all, I've been reading these forums for 2 weeks since losing my fiance. Didn't expect to make THIS my first post, but it's been a frustrating day and I need to. I came to the decision pretty quickly that the only "label" that made sense to me was to call myself a widow. Sam and I weren't married yet, but we were excitedly planning for our wedding and were 100% committed to each other. I was already living out the promises that I would make on our wedding day, and now I have lost the love of my life, the man I expected to spend forever with. His family has been absolutely amazing through all of this. They've welcomed me as one of their own and have made it clear that they will always see me as their daughter/ sister. My mom, on the other hand, seems insistent on pointing out repeatedly that I WASN'T married, I'm NOT a real widow, and I have no legal rights. My entire family have been very supportive in other ways, but I just can't seem to make my mom understand that saying these things does nothing but hurt me and make this harder. I'm not trying to discount the sufferings of widows who WERE married and had many more years with their husbands/wives than I did with Sam, but my loss is still significant and life-changing for me, and if it helps me even a little bit to use this label, is there really any harm in it?

You are a widow in every sense of the word and definition except in sense of the law. You feel and experience everything as we do and you, like all of us, have lost someone you loved dearly. Sorry you have to deal with someone who has to be a stick in the mud, stickler and happens to be your own mom. You have every right to mourn in your own way. Hugs for you today.

Of course your loss is just as significant.  I'm sorry your mother seems stuck on the legal sense of the word widow instead of the emotional repercussions of the loss you have suffered.  All of us widows mourn the person we loved and chose to spend our lives with and we mourn the shared future we planned that will never happen.  That defines you exactly. 

My heartfelt sympathies go out to you and I hope you find some comfort in this group.

Please accept my sympathies on the loss of your fiancé.

Of course, your pain is very real and strikes you to your very core. But that is not what this is about. Use, or non use, of the widow label does not define your level of pain or grief.

Having said that though, your mother is correct. Words have specific meanings (in all areas and subjects) and it is confusing, in this case, to society at large when you describe yourself as a widow if you were not married. That is probably your mother's issue with that label. It is, for me, similar to a person telling me they are a veteran. If you refer to yourself as such, I assume you were in the military at some point.  But no one can enforce you to use any words to express yourself. Just don't be surprised if you get 'the look' at some point from someone.   

This board is unique in that the owners make no decision on whether or not anyone signing up and contributing is entitled to be here. Girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancé's or married folks that have lost their spouse are very welcome.

Again, very sorry for your loss.

Best wishes - Mike

Words have meaning, but legal truth and reality truth/life truth/emotional truth are not always the same thing.  For example, religious people can be married by a religious leader, and still not be legally married, and consider themselves husband and wife, and under the law/contracts of their religion, they are married, though legally they may not be. 

I will share my situation/story in the hopes it gives you some comfort.  DH and I were not legally married.  We were legally domestic partners.  Within the first month together, though, he started calling me his wife.  Within a couple months, we'd exchanged "wedding" bands, and I changed my name legally.  Everyone called us husband and wife.  We called each other husband and wife, for years.  We always planned to "make it official," but it made no difference in our lives.  It did make quite a difference in death, though. 

I continue to call him my husband.  Though not technically correct, it's what we called each other in life, and I will NOT demote him in death.  Also, convenience.  I don't want to explain to every random person who somehow comes to know part of my story all that I just outlined above.  It means more to me than to them, and I don't consider it a lie, though it's technically untrue to say "widow."  It's kinda like this to me: I don't eat meat.  I haven't since I was 12.  For no real reason, I just don't.  I do, however, eat fish now, but no shellfish.  When I'm talking to acquaintances who, for example, I happen to be having lunch with, it's expedient to simply say I'm a vegetarian.  Why on earth do I need to explain all the little aspects of my eating habits?  It's technically a lie, but who cares? 

One of my widow friends, in the early days, told me a story about how her sister kept (cruelly) bringing up over and over how she wasn't a widow because they were only engaged and not married.  I had a few choice words which I will not repeat here.  YOU know you aren't *legally* a widow - why must she point it out?  It's easier to say widow than to say I lost my fiance every time you need to explain it. 

And emotionally, inside yourself, which - let's face it - is where we live: it's true.  F everyone who wants to hold you to technicalities (like, really - you just lost your future and your person - who gives a shit about legal status?!).  And yeah, words mean specific things, but we don't have a word for this, and widow is the closest one.  Only @$$holes will call you on it (sorry for name-calling your mom, I'm sure she's wonderful). 

{Edited to add: When a person asks me how long we were married, then I divulge the whole technical truth, and explain why I use the word widow.}


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