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Hanging Out In The Widdahood–Becoming a Widow at Age 31

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I hate to go all “Shirley MacLaine” on you…but I’ve had two lives.

My first life was pretty typical: House in the ‘burbs, nice husband who was pretty easy on the eyes, 3 kids I was sometimes tempted to put out on the driveway with a sign that said “free to a good home” but who were overall pretty good.

My second life started in July of 2007 when I suddenly became the “it could be worse” person of my social circle. You know…that girl who, when you’re having a bad day, you think, “At least I’m not her!”

Not really who I wanted to be in my early 30s.

I became that person because my husband was in an accident on his way to work and died 3 days later, leaving me with 3 small children to raise on my own.

That’s right. At the ripe old age of 31, I became a widow and the most “single” single mother I know.

I’ll be the first to admit…this whole thing really wasn’t on my calendar. I was perfectly happy, living my suburban-mom life when I had this interruption of epic proportions.

The year that followed was a complete blur of what I now like to call “manic confusion.” I seemed determined to prove all of the experts wrong when they said “time would heal.” I didn’t have time for time to heal. I wanted to get my life back on track, find a new career, go back to school, sell a house, buy a new one, get my body in decathlon shape, and get my 3 kids under 5 into Harvard. And it all needed to happen yesterday.

I’m not wild about the word “denial” but that’s the closest thing I can think of to describing it.

When I finally came up for air and slowed down enough to digest that this was really my life, I started looking for someone like me…who might understand my brand of crazy. And you know what I found?

A big, fat NOTHING.

As many of us in the young widow community will say…sure there are a lot of widow support groups out there. But unless you’ve got gray hair, wear polyester, and can name 3 brands of denture cream off the top of your head…you’re probably not going to fit in. Sitting in a room with a bunch of people who are talking about their adorable great-grandchildren is not the same as sitting at Happy Hour telling a friend that your 2-year old called you a “butt crack sandwich” and being annoyed that your husband isn’t here to blame it on (but you have to admit…it was creative).

In my quest to find people my own age who might understand what it’s like to date when you’re an emotional wreck and why it’s perfectly normal to let loose on unsuspecting strangers at Wal-Mart…I became that person for everyone else. I started writing under the name Widow Chick on subjects like “are you’re still ‘in-lawed’ with your in-laws” and “pulling on your big girl panties and learning how to start your snow blower since there’s no one else around to do it.”

The next thing I knew, Widow Chick had almost 1000 people following her on Facebook. And after awhile I realized: They’re not following her because of her Cindy Crawford looks (I know…it was a surprise to me too). They’re following her because they’re looking for each other.

So, in December of 2010, I launched the first free peer support network dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other called www.theWiddahood.com. The best way I can describe it is that it’s kind of like a Facebook for widows. They can instant message, blog, form discussion groups and all kinds of stuff. But the best part about it is that they can do a location search, look at someone’s profile to see what they have in common…and finally find each other.

Four years ago, I would have said there was no way I could be the kind of person who could pick up a life that had been so completely broken and glue it back together again. But you know what? We’re all a lot stronger than we think we are. If you get nothing else from this story, just remember this: You never know where life is going to take you and it can change any second. How you deal with it is completely within your control.

And you should always have enough wine on hand to do a little soul-searching when you need it.

Guest blogger Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow, and mother of 3 who began a blog and widow support page on Facebook under the name Widow Chick after the death of her husband in 2007. She is also a public speaker for the Donor Alliance and has been published in several books on grief and renewal. Catherine is the Founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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Comments
  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz March 2, 2011

    Catherine, I love this post — you sound so witty and resilient and strong. I am not surprised that people are drawn to you and to this community you’ve created.

    I, too, was in a club that no one wanted to be a member of (infertility). Connecting with others who “get it” can be so affirming and, even, life-saving.

    “How you deal with it is completely within your control.” So empowering.

  • comment avatar Catherine March 2, 2011

    Thank you so much, Lori. As with most difficult things in life…we can really find strength in each other. I hope you found the support you needed when you were faced with infertility. I’m sure that can be a very lonely place as well.

  • comment avatar JoAnn March 2, 2011

    Catherine, what a heart-breaking and empowering story. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  • comment avatar Connie Weiss March 2, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your story! This is probably the number one worry that I have in life.

    It’s comforting to know that you’ve created a resource for woman that need the support.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson March 2, 2011

    Catherine–I thought we were going to lose my husband last week due to chest pains and then heart surgery. You’d better believe I thought of you and everything you’ve been through.

    As horrifying as the thought of losing my husband would be, the community you’ve built to help others cope is nothing short of inspirational and it’s a comfort to know it’s there.

  • comment avatar Susan March 2, 2011

    Catherine – What an inspirational story of strength and resilience. You are a survivor who found a way to connect others who also need support. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s a fear I think all married mothers carry with them. It’s reassuring to know that even if the worst happens, you will come out the other side.

  • comment avatar Gretchen White March 2, 2011

    My heart goes out to you. I am sorry for your loss. You’ve taken a tragic situation and turned it into something that is helping others on a deep, meaningful level. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • comment avatar Beth Blair March 2, 2011

    Wow what a story and inspirational indeed. It’s touching to see how you were able to turn your situation into something so beautiful. Hugs to you and your family.

  • comment avatar Holly March 3, 2011

    It is my everyday fear that I might lose my husband. I am sooo impressed with your strength, you have no idea. OH and that you are funny, impressed with your strength and humor! Ugh, I’m sooo sorry for you loss, you are an inspiration!

  • comment avatar Chris Bird March 3, 2011

    What amazing resilience you have. I love what you’ve done to use your tragedy and the lessons you’ve learned in the midst of it, to help others. As someone who has faced the prospect of losing her husband to cancer, it is good to know there is a network out there for support. Thank you.

  • comment avatar Catherine March 3, 2011

    Thank you all so much for your kind words and support! Even though I miss my husband every day, I had no idea what I was made of until this happened. The most important thing I hope that people understand from my story and creating theWiddahood.com is that there IS life after death and it is possible to go forward while still looking back. I see my husband every day in my life, work, and children and will always be grateful for everything he gave us all.

    Everyone experiences a loss of some kind in their life…whether it’s death, divorce, or adjusting to a life they never thought they would have. It’s just a part of living. And when it happens, it’s important to remember to keep LIVING.

    Thank you all! What a wonderful group you are.

  • comment avatar Lisa Bergren March 3, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad to know of your Facebook group so I can recommend it. Nothing can speak to a woman like another woman who has actually walked such a difficult road before her. I’m sure that the people on your page actually begin to become more like sisters than Internet buddies. Blessings as you forge onward…

  • comment avatar Jaime March 3, 2011

    You are such an inspiration in so many ways. I find it absolutely beautiful the way in which you can share your true, genuine self for the benefit of others. I think everyone feels alone or different in one way or another and can relate to those emotions…not all of us can be so real with how we are feeling. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  • comment avatar Sara June 29, 2011

    Catherine,
    Thank you for putting this article out there. I too am 32 and widowed just 5 weeks ago from the love of my my life and can really relate to what you describe. I am running to your website right now and can’t wait to connect with others like me!

    • comment avatar Catherine T July 12, 2011

      Dear Sara,

      I am so sorry for your loss. I know you must be in such a fog right now. Please know that I’m thinking of you and your family and if I can help you, feel free to contact me at catherine@thewiddahood.com.

  • comment avatar Jill Bender July 17, 2012

    You are an inspiration and you are so right, we are all much stronger than we believe ourselves to be. I’m not a widow, but I am a single mom and just want to say thank you for giving voice to women that think they have lost theirs. Good luck to you!