As I inched up on the last of the firsts since David, my husband of 25 years, died last September, I found myself constantly trying to understand what being a widow means and what it means to me. I ask myself over and over, “How does enduring loss and losing love and loved ones not make me a loser?”
It does. And it doesn’t.
I’ve experienced my first Thanksgiving, my first Christmas, my first family wedding, my first ground hog day, my first Easter, our first birthdays (both his and mine), since he passed away. In the 12 months since his death I’ve grappled with loss, both generally and afresh, with each and every first – his loss, our past communal losses, more losses since his heaven going and wrestled with the overwhelming question of how does all the loss I’m dealing with not make me a loser?
I know I’m not the only one who has lost much this past year (or ever) – I’m painfully aware of how ‘not alone’ I am in this, the “loss” category. I wish, pray, hope for the many others grieving as I am and hurting over the losses in their lives that they never, by extension, see themselves as the colloquial equivalent of a loser. For those others I understand clearly that losing love does not equal being a loser. For myself, however, there is not that same clarity. I’m in a perpetual personal quandary.
My self image has, for decades, been influenced more by what I lack than what I have.
- For example, I am an only child (even today, at age 56, I’m still an only child. Funnily enough, no one calls you an “only adult” when you reach the age of majority). I lack siblings and this fact has always loomed large for me. With my marriage to David I did gain siblings-in-law who I treasure beyond words. They know how important they are to me since I’m an “only child” who always wanted brothers and sisters. They are my glorious legacy from my husband. I could not ask for better or for more.
- I lack a job. My little one-woman home based business of the last 15 years suffered and died along with my husband and I am fresh out of work. I am at a loss to know what to do with myself going forward. I am unsure (at age 56 no less!) about what I should “be when I grow up.” In the last few months I have learned that there are many layers of loss. The death of a dream is just another layer.
- But the hardest loss of my lifetime, of my husband’s lifetime as well, is that I have no children, that we had no children. To be clear, as difficult as this is for me to write out on virtual paper, is that I have no living children. We dearly wanted children and this heartbreaking lack and loss combined, over fed and still feeds my self sense of being a loser.
While my father and husband were alive I tried hard with their help to change my seriously rotten self image from “loser” to “lacker”, thinking “lacker” was somehow a truthful improvement in my self assessment. It wasn’t. It isn’t. I am someone who has lost much recently, I am by no means the only one who has, is or will suffer grief, but the question remains after all this rumination – am I by definition then also a “loser”? I really don’t know.
From the Dictionary.com app-
1. a person, team, nation, etc., that loses: The visiting team was the loser in the series.
a. a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor or, especially, a felony: a two-time loser.
b. a person who has failed at a particular activity: a loser at marriage.
c. someone or something that is marked by consistently or thoroughly bad quality, performance, etc.: Don’t bother to see that film, it’s a real loser.
3. Slang. a misfit, especially someone who has never or seldom been successful at a job, personal relationship, etc.
Origin: 1300–50; Middle English losere destroyer; see lose, -er1
By that definition I am “technically” not a loser. Does that assuage my self-losering? Again, I do not know.
What I do know is that I don’t want to be a loser.
Heck, I don’t want to be a widow! But I have no control over the widow fact. What I do have control over is not letting my being a widow make me also into a loser or even a lacker. It’s up to me to find peace with who I am as a widow, and as a childless only adult, while keeping sight of all that I still have, all that I have been given and all that I have not lost.
- I have the Lord! (Thank God!)
- I have a very large loving family and many loving friends that are like family! I think I am the most richly “familied” (if that is even a word!) “only child” there ever was.
- I had 25 years with my husband. That doesn’t change just because I don’t get 25 more. I’m grateful for the time we had.
- I have great memories. It is because I know of others in my similar situation, others who do not have great memories, that I am aware of what a gift this is. Of course, it was not all perfect, nothing is perfect. Truth is, at times it was not all that great even, but even in the imperfections I have memories that are sweet and uplifting. And most importantly they are not memories riddled with regret.
By writing this out here for all the interested world to read, I better understand for myself the difference between loss and loser. I see that I have no control over the losses but I have all the control over being a loser. And a loser I am not. What a relief.