There are a lot of awkward questions that go along with being a widow(er).
It is awkward to be around all of your married friends when you are alone. It is awkward to be the fifth wheel at a dinner table. It is awkward to check into a hotel as “one adult and two children”. It is even awkward to be the only single adult at a holiday dinner with your own family. Yes, even after all this time, it still is. But this is my life so I deal with it.
What I still can’t get used to are the awkward questions when I meet someone for the first time – “Are you married?”, “Are you divorced?”, “Where is your husband?” or anything similar to that. These are normal questions – people making conversation – but I dread them.
The other night I was at a friend’s birthday dinner – all women, and all married except for me. A bunch of us were sitting at a table. I got up for a minute and when I was walking back towards the table I saw a man standing there talking to my girlfriends.
When I sat back down, he asked me if I was married or divorced. Ugh I knew the awkwardness was coming. My response was “neither”.
He looked a little confused. I guess he thought maybe I was just going through a divorce or something like that because he then said “Yea I know divorce sucks – I’ve been there”. So I just said “I’m not divorced”. He either thought I was a little strange or just a bitch because he then said it was nice to meet us and walked away.
My friends all looked at me and asked if things like that make me uncomfortable. My answer was yes.
Then we talked about it for a little while. With using this situation as an example – the way I responded was definitely vague, and a I’m sure I seemed a little standoffish. But let’s say I responded “I’m a widow” or “My husband passed away” – I think in this situation it would have been even more uncomfortable. First of all, it would have brought down the fun, happy vibe of the evening – nobody wants to hear, and I don’t want to talk about, this terrible tragedy in my life all the time. Second of all, I would have shocked this poor guy and made him more uncomfortable than he already was. Believe me – no one knows quite what to say to that.
In other situations I feel like there is no other choice but to just come out and say it. I really hate doing it because that is when I make other people uncomfortable. I was once using a new hairdresser for the first time and while we were just making small talk she asked me about my husband. In that case there was nothing to say but the truth. She actually got tears in her eyes when I said that he passed away. I made her upset and that made me feel terrible. Over the years, I have gotten horrified reactions, sad reactions, and those who apologize over and over for having even asked. I get it – the old Stacy probably wouldn’t have known how to react to that either.
Nobody is doing anything wrong, awkward questions are just uncomfortable for both sides of the conversation.
So I still do not know “how do I answer that question?” I just take each case as it comes and say what I think will work best, cringing the whole time. So if anyone who may have been through this has any advice on the subject – feel free to comment. I’m always open to suggestions 🙂
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Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.