On the outside

December 10, 2010

As a young widow, sometimes you feel like an outsider, like a social leper.  No one expects me to be widowed, half the time people don’t think I am old enough to be married, much less widowed.  It makes social situations so much more awkward than they already are.  Simple questions and activities become an emotional issue and conversation killer.  For example, I was taking a tour and the guide asked me how long I had been married (I still wear my rings, can’t bear to leave them in a box somewhere).  Normally I would have happily said, X amount of time.  Now I have to take some deep breaths while I decide how to respond (i.e. my husband died, I am a widow, I am widowed, lie and say over a year, etc) and try not to burst into a sobbing fit.  So I drop the bomb, because I can’t lie. I can’t pretend he is alive.  I say I am widowed.  Silence.  After a beat, “I am sorry”, although it is more in the I am sorry I asked way, and then silence until someone changed the subject. 

Now I am not saying it is anyone’s fault or that anyone is a bad person, in fact in this instance someone came up to me later and said he lost a woman he loved too.  That is why I don’t lie, so that maybe other people will speak up about their loss or at least not feel as awkward.  But it just shows how hard it is to bear this burden on every level of life. To be the exception to the rule. The example of tragedy and great loss.  To see people physically shrink away from you and avoid you. To have to live it in every day-to-day situation.  That is my life now. 

For those of you who like statistics, as of 2003, only 400,000 women aged 25-29 were widowed out of a representative population of over 9 million.  (source: US Census data http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/pop.pdf)

I feel so apart, so unconnected to everyone else who hasn’t lost a spouse.  I am not a happy normal person.  I am an outsider.  I feel like Harry and Luna, the only people who can see the thestrals at Hogwarts. There is something about the way this scene plays out in the book, the isolation, the separation, I relate to it.

Harry Potter: “What are they?
Luna Lovegood: “They’re called Thestrals. They’re quite gentle, really… But people avoid them because they’re a bit…
Harry Potter: “Different. But why can’t the others see them?
Luna Lovegood: “They can only be seen by people who’ve seen death.
Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood discussing Thestrals.[src]



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