A Widow’s Story From South Africa – We Call Her Anna

Thank you for visiting A Widows World.

In this first Widow Share Episode, Tanya Smith has the honor of sharing a Widow’s story from South Africa.

Her story and her message is powerful. Her identity has to remain anonymous for cultural reasons. Please watch and leave your comments of encouragement and support for this woman we call Anna.

If you would like to submit your story, email tanya@awidows.world. A Widows World is growing into a community, which serves to inspire, empower and connect widows worldwide.

We hope you will join this movement, sharing your own experiences through the journey of grief, growth and transformation.

 

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Widow Defined – I Will Hold My Head Up High


A widow defined, is a woman who has been through hell losing a spouse, but holds her head high with a quiet strength that can be felt by all who are in her presense.

I remember the stares and how I could feel the touch of them on my skin. I showed nothing in return and if I did maybe just merely it was a nod or a glance of acknowledgment to close the gap. Then I would discretely move back into my hollow shell, my place of protection. Blank space spanned in between me and everything and everyone around me. I stood still, so still and the world kept moving, spinning, going on. I remember thinking how can this be, is this a dream world? Would the darkness ever end? I would curl up into myself in the night, willing my swollen eyes and the loneliness of my mind to give in to rest. I would wake each day, to the sun peaking through the pale yellow curtains and then be greeted with the shocking stab to the heart as my reminder of what was real set in. Then, I would get to it, start my day surrounded by his things, but not him, only to get through the mundane chit chat that would surely ensue as others tried to cheer and bring up anything, anything but my current hell.

Slowly, very slowly, motion started to return to me. I could feel my hands though frail, I could see my face, though pale, I could see light, though it shown too bright. What was this light shining down on me? Why was it warming my skin, bringing color back into my cheeks?

The light had never left me, and so I believe all things are connected and contrived for us. Today, as I was reading I came upon this verse, “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my Light.” ~ Micah 7:8

How amazing is this message? So much of what is put on my heart encompasses two opposite sources, darkness and light. If we never went through darkness, how could we fully appreciate the light? I remember as a young girl in Sunday school, one of my favorite songs was, “This little light of mine, Im going to let it shine. This little light of mine, Im going to let it shine. Everywhere I go, Im going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Just singing it as I type, brings me warmth. Yes, warmth even knowing what I know and going through what I have gone through and continue to go through. I feel the warmth and light of this life, and you can to. Believe it and come on this journey with me back to the light.

And so today, as I was thinking, I wanted share these feelings to open a glimpse of the world of a widow or someone who has lost profound love in their life. So, go with me ten years back in time, if you will. The word Widow had never even fell upon my lips, or if it had, I didn’t understand the coldness, the solitude and cruelty of it. I think about all of the woman I have met that are a part of this misunderstood tribe. I see so many that carry the look of strength, but when I see them I see them for who they are and not what they have been marked with. I see a quiet grace, an unspoken sadness, a dignity and appreciation for what is true and real. I see the compassion and understanding, that we know the loss that we have experienced changes us and will continue to change us as we grow into our own right, into our light. We know we are beautifully broken and we don’t see ourselves as needing to be fixed, or needing to just get over it. It will never leave us and this is something, we are just fine with.

We will go through a re-birth if you will. We will not have to relearn everything, but we will have to take steps in our own time to relearn the life we will build for ourselves, a new life. When we get to a place of healing and readiness for what’s next, all I have to say is watch out world!! Widowed woman are strong woman, bold woman, brave woman and will see through bullshit a mile a way. We won’t bind ourselves long to people and things if they do not serve us or better us, we will have learned the importance of time and filling it with people that lift us up and support us in our journey, rather than those that cut us down or are the nah sayers. Yes, we don’t have time for the nah sayers.

We will go through all different stages and waves and all at once or one at a time. We will love deeply and expect more out of others and at times that will hurt us, because we can’t expect people to see the world as we do. We will feel things deeply, more deeply than a person could possibly think they could feel and we will not care what others perceptions are of us, because we get who we are, or we understand we are getting to where we hope to get to.

So, because music has been such a part of my journey, this song completely enveloped me when I heard it. It took me to thinking this, this right here explains some of how I felt, still feel when I look back at the quiet strength I showed.

Wherever you are in your walk of widowhood, or grief journey in losing a loved one, please believe in your heart that the light will come back to you, if you open yourself to receiving it. Please be encouraged by this and at least impress upon your heart that you will be open to what is next for you.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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All We Ever Need Is {LOVE}

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We were young and restless
Pockets full of stars
Chasing down the moonlight
Till the night was ours
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

Think you have the answers
Dreams bigger than the two of us
We took a lot of chances
All the things we did
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

Sometimes those memories
Can be hard to take
We all remember the times
Before you ever felt your heart break
You never are the same

All the hurt and missteps that came
I have no regrets
I know what the truth is
I will not forget
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I wake this morning ten years late
The night closes in every eve
A dream that just can’t be my fate
I see your smile a sight to take
I feel the warmth it will be alright

The darkest cloud will split and fade
Two hearts added three one day
You follow me I feel you here
The warmth of the sun upon my face
The whisper of the wind in the still
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I hope your proud of the woman I am
I never believed I would begin again
Thank you for loving and showing the way
How a heart changes when it breaks
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I woke to my daughters cries in the night
Laying beside her, comforting
I feel the warmth it will be alright
The sun is here to stay
I will never stop finding my way

On this day, I celebrate you
All the things we grew to know
All the life we lived and shared
All the light that came from dark
Broken is a beautiful place

All we ever want
All we ever need is love

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The Classification of a Widow{er}

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I want to share my thoughts on the classification of a widow or widower.

By societies standards, that little status box we have to check each year on many applications or tax return filings is what technically classifies each of our marital statuses. You know them, single, married, divorced, separated, widowed. It categorizes us to doctors, banks, schools, government, census, the IRS, etc.  It however has nothing to do with who we are and what we have gone through. It has no direct meaning or correlation to how people identify with us. It tells no real significant story of our life and experiences.

In 2004, I checked single. In 2005, I checked married. In 2007, I checked widow. Then in 2009, I checked married again.

So, based on my re-marriage in 2009, I was no longer a widow by societies standards. This is fine, and its not fine in the same token. What people don’t understand is that the journey of widowhood will follow those of us affected by it, FOREVER! 

Woman and men in the world that are widowed or become widowers and that decide to remarry, will continue to be affected by widowhood through remarriage and for the rest of their lives. I can tell you this from my own experience. A loss as significant and devastating as losing a partner will carry through into all aspects of life. I know that one day, god willing, when I am older, I will look back on my entire life and remember John and our love story. I know I will remember it with the same love, fondness and tears in my eyes as the day I said goodbye to him. I also know I will look at the life I built for myself, I will look at the struggles I went through, I will give thanks that I took the chance and lived.

Last night for example, me, my second husband and my two daughters through our marriage went to a birthday party for our friends son. These friends were my and my late husbands closest friends and really more than friends because they became family. I saw so many people I hadn’t seen in such a long time and it was warming to my heart, but I also left in tears. Happy tears because I saw them and because my second husband has been so embraced and accepted by them. Sad tears because of all of the memories of me and John with them that will always be there, and also for how much time has gone past and how fast time continues to go by where I don’t see them much. We still speak and try our best to stay connected, however its not as often and its not the same as it was. Despite that, I know we will always be close, always be connected and have love for one another. I know I will always be a part of their family as I hope they also know they will always be a part of mine. Through time and re-building and schedules and ultimately letting things slip and get in the way, it is different. I know I don’t want it to be different though and maybe some of that is my fault. I for a time had such a difficult time with everything that reminded me of John and our life. Life started really happening for all of us. Between marriages, having children, living in different states or cities, careers and just growing into our responsibilities as young adults, we were all learning the juggling act of life.  It gets crazy and navigating the crazy is sometimes very hard and draining. I know my heart is constantly feeling pulled, because I want to be everything to everyone. I also know this is not realistic if I am to remain a sane person. The sane part may even be questionable from time to time. I want to have connected relationships and friendships. It is important to me. I continue to have this, but not at the level I wish for. This struggle is real for many of us. We do our best and sometimes, maybe we fall flat, but we do continue to try. I’m very blessed that every single one of my closest friends and my family understands this same struggle, and we can pick right back up where we left off not holding anything against the other, because we get it. Life gets complicated and busy.

I have faced many challenges as a re-married widow. Some of them people may not understand or get, but they are what I have been through and so I can share them from my own experience and the experiences I continue to have. I have also come to terms that people don’t have to get me, because I get myself.  Don’t classify a widow{er}. If you are of the mind that a widow or widower just gets on with their life and is no longer classified or part of the widowhood journey, after remarriage, your thinking is incorrect and so I hope this helps others understand and take to heart that widowhood continues on in those of us affected indefinitely.

A widow who re-marries will be presented with new and different challenges.

  • The war within ourselves because we remain in love with our spouse that passed, but we also are in love with our new spouse. I remember when I realized I was starting to fall in love again and what a very strange feeling it was to know, I loved two people. I can’t explain how surreal it was and I can tell you the exact moment this realization came to me.
  • The struggle that we go through feeling like so much time is passing, but we are making new memories. The overwhelming feeling that the new ones are replacing our old ones, that we are replacing our late spouse that passed. Even if we know we will never replace or forget them.
  • Speaking of time passing, for as quick as time passes, it is also hard to know how many years have spanned to where we are today. Knowing the last time we spoke to them or saw them was so long ago, can be hard. Time and distance can present new feelings and emotions and so the saying “time heals all wounds,” it’s not really true.
  • Making our relationships with new people that come into our life open, so they know and support that our journey is on-going. We worry about others placing certain expectations on us, when we may not know what to expect from ourselves at times in the grieving process.
  • We may have a hard time communicating when their are times of frustration and possibly anger, linked to an event or a date. Certain periods of grief can elicit this and it is normal. It may even be a subconscious thing. I know certain times in the year when I am feeling funky or just down, I can stop and say oh It’s around my first husband birthday or our wedding day or the anniversary of his passing.  Its also important to be open with your new partner so they can know that the cause of those feelings and your emotions are not directed at them or caused by them.
  • We can hold things in that hurt us. Its important to try to be open with our feelings and share them so the people closest to us can try to understand us more and what we may be going through.
  • People connected to our first spouse and a part of the life we shared, may have a hard time with our moving forward with our lives. They may not be accepting of a new partner.
  • Making sure the new people in our lives don’t feel threatened by our continuing to share the person we lost and still love because they were and are still and important part of who we were and who we continue to be.
  • Making sure we do our very best to not compare our new partner to the one we didn’t choose to say goodbye to. Sometimes we may not even mean to.
  • Communicating what it is we want for ourselves in our new relationships, so its clear and a new partner understands. They need to know we must share our journey, who we were, who our partner we lost was. It’s important so we can feel whole and safe in moving forward.
  • Clearly sharing with a new partner that there will be hard days, tearful and difficult days. Days of remembrance, milestones and even those just because sad days.
  • Remembering that our new partners likely will not know how to empathize or be there for us in those times of remembrance or important dates. We cannot expect them to, so if we want them to show support, then we need to ask them to or share with them these times.
  • Understanding that a widow will always love her husband that passed. Death and time do not change that.
  • Remembering that no one love is the same and seeing the uniqueness and finding thankfulness for both is very important.
  • The blending of families and children. I did not have children with my first husband, but I do have several woman that are my friends whom are widows and do have children. I can not speak to this personally, though they share with me the struggles.
  • For me, I have already started explaining to my children I have from my new marriage that I loved someone and had committed a life to someone before their father, that I still love them and will continue to because they are important to me and who I have become to be as their mom. I will teach my daughters that this is ok and I will share with them my story and how thankful I am for John and how thankful I am for Dave. I will teach them that love comes in many forms and not just the way society shows it, or the way we expect it to be.
  • Making sure the children you had with your spouse that passed, feel open to talking about him and sharing him without fear for hurting the new partners feelings. Giving them a place of comfort and trust to know that their fathers memory will live on. Again, I can not speak to this, I only know from what my widowed friends have shared.

There are so many more, but these were just some I wanted to share.

I have a girlfriend that I met in my travels who lost her significant other. They were not married and so thankfully his family embraced her and recognized her loss. I feel a different status needs to be recognized for the woman and men who are the girlfriends/boyfriends or life partners, of the passed. There are many woman and men, who were also with their partner for years. Maybe they did not get the chance to officially marry their partner, or they had made the decision that they did not need a certificate to acknowledge their commitment. They have no classification. Many of these woman and men are not recognized for their loss in the way that they would have been if they had officially been married. I recognize them, because they loved and knew the love of their partner that they lost. They experienced the same or similar loss as many of us who were married and widowed or became widowers. In today’s age, more and more people are deciding to not get married, so we need to see that girlfriends/boyfriends and life partners who have experienced loss, matter. That they have the same grieving journey ahead, though they are not recognized as widows. I embrace them as the same as me.

It was put on my heart to write this blog because I have seen articles written that discount, discredit and make woman or men who have remarried or who were not married to their partner feel as if they should just move on, renounce the fact that this devastating loss has happened and because we have moved forward, we no longer care or we are magically healed. This is unfair, untrue and ridiculous.

I was 26 when a bee or hornet changed my whole world, something as small and relevant to nature, the nature that we love and do our best to preserve, reminded me that in life there are no guarantees. It was beyond my control or understanding. Although, John and I were only married a little over a year, we had shared seven life packed years together. I feel like there were people that saw we were only married a year so they started forming their own opinions, like somehow that one year was not long enough and I would be fine. It was seven years, we spent building a relationship and a foundation of love. Whether its months or years, or decades, I hope this provides insight and new thinking if you are the family member or friend of a widow{er} or unwed widow{er}. No person should ever discount others relationships or discredit love.

I am and will always be a widow, because I am John’s widow.  Widowhood is something I know and also don’t care to know, but it has defined me and the person I am today and the person I will continue to grow into. I share my journey as a widow openly because it is who I am. It is a part of me and my life with John and no check box or person will tell me differently. I share it because I have also made sure my new husband understands my journey and he has always been open and continues to support me through it. I will be a widow and know widowhood until I die, EVEN with remarriage. I will be wise beyond my years, because of what I have been through and continue to go through. To this day, I remain John’s wife; I am his widow, he is my late husband.

The way widows are viewed and socially embraced is changing. I am thankful for this, especially in a very uncertain time in our history where we see so publicly the amount of lives that are lost unnecessarily. The amount of woman and men, who are now a part of this journey, it breaks my heart. I pray for all of the new widow{ers} as a result of the recent terrible shootings and killings throughout the United States and Internationally.

When I became a widow, there was not much in the way of support or avenues for widow connection. Social media has now changed that. The widowhood connection is much stronger and growing. It is growing for widowers and girlfriends/boyfriends as well. It’s amazing to me all of the empowered woman and men I have started to meet through social media, that are sharing their journey and have been sharing it. The bravery and courage behind that is amazing to me. The vulnerability and bravery of it!

When we stop hiding, we can truly be who we are.

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Keep Believing Even When Your Prayers Hit The Ceiling

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My Faith Had Lost All Meaning

Keep believing even in the moments you feel you don’t have an ounce of belief in you. I remember when I felt my prayers had hit the ceiling. The night my husband was taken to the hospital, I fell to my knees at his bedside in the emergency room. I prayed with conviction and authority in my heart, that god would heal him. Although, he came back to us, he was not going to get better. My prayers were not answered and that was something that I could not understand. I had become something I never imagined or thought up for myself, I became a widow. During that time, I lived in a fog and complete haze. Loss and the aftermath it presents is something that you can not explain or help people to understand. Unless a person has experienced loss for themselves, it is hard for others to comprehend. I saw the unanswered prayers as god failing me, life failing me. Because of that, I lost confidence in my faith and I stopped praying and believing.

You Kept Me Believing

I’m thankful that God and my family kept me believing.  I came back to my faith and as I did, he started revealing to me the plans he had ahead. I’m blessed that I can stop and look back at my life, even the struggles, and see the joy that has been restored. Through my journey of loss, I have become to know myself. I am confident in who I am, although I am still growing into the person I hope to be. I am blessed to have leaned into life and to have designed the life I want for myself. My design continues to change, but I think that is completely normal for people who open themselves up to growing.  I sometimes fear for what pain may be ahead, but I think that will always be present, because loss changes perception of life. Challenge yourselves to look to today and have a grateful heart for moments and breaths.

There is a song that goes with this. Music has been such a big part of my journey.

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You Mean So Much

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Tonight my mom called and she was headed to the hospital, again! This reoccurrence, although I am thankful has not been as frequent in the last year, brings instant worry and concern. Worry, that she does not want to cause. In fact, she has hidden some of these trips, these doctors appointments in the past, because she does not want her family to worry. It of course has made me mad, ticked off at times, that she does that. If she walks with me, why can’t I walk with her?

Then, I take a moment and think, have I always let her walk with me, and I have to laugh because I admit to myself, No.  I didn’t let her walk with me, because I was being strong. I was putting on a shield of armor that nothing could penetrate. I was tough as stone, until I wasn’t able to carry that burden alone any longer. We are prideful, we are fine! Yes, fine! How many times in our lives, do we say with a tone that clearly does not communicate we are fine, “I am fine?” Many, so many we would probably lose count if we were keeping track.

She is AMAZING! My mom, is AMAZING! In fact she’s so AMAZING, she doesn’t even realize it. From the very earliest years of my life, my mom as all of us moms do for our children, shaped me. She molded me, and she was the early director and designer of who I was to become. She taught me to be humble and kind, she gave me her gift of grace, but also spunk. Her ability to stand up to others when it’s necessary, and stand up right! Maybe not always so gracefully, but a point was clearly made. My will and my never giving up, comes from watching her. It is a learned trait. My parents divorced when I was 13, the very start of my teenage years. I had two younger sisters, and I very much looked up to my mom and so I stepped up and grew up quickly, because I wanted to be there for her. She worked two, sometimes three jobs, to keep our home and our horses. I remember saying, mom its ok, we don’t need the horses, but she was prideful and she was going to do what she could to keep some normalcy, what we were used to, in our lives. I remember hearing her cry at night and how it upset me, I would eaves drop. I was nosey as sin and needed to be the knower of all, because I am a fixer. I like to fix things. I like pretty packages with ribbons and bows and things the way they should be, or at least the way we daydream and hope for them to be. One of the most important things my mom instilled in me is my faith! Which let me tell you, at times, me and faith, we had a hide and seek go find me relationship. Thankfully, it always found me again, or I found it. I would like to think, I found it, but I don’t think it ever left me. I did feel it failed me many times, and that is just the honest truth. She has taught me forgiveness, but also that you can forgive others for yourself. Forgiving for yourself, so that you can move forward. You can release the negative. Even though you forgive, it doesn’t mean you have to forget, or go back to a place that was not good for you. It is ok, to move forward and beyond people and things in your life, if it does not serve you. She has taught me that through the failings and trials in my life, that I am still worthy. Worthy of love, living, life, forgiveness. Standing strong and listening to your heart, not impulsively, but taking the time to listen and explore your true heart and self, is always worth the time and the time it takes to get to where your feet should stand. Getting back up is half the battle, and then you have to take the first step. In the moments she’s forgotten that, I remind her of her own teachings, so I would say, she has taught me well. She doesn’t think she is strong, but I would never go against her and can tell you if I did, I would likely cower. I know my sisters are laughing in agreement as they read that. She is tough as an ox. She is the strongest person I know, but also the gentlest.

My mom has always rushed to my side. I remember her catching me when I fell and curled up like a baby in the hospital, in the waiting area, hearing the words I dreaded the most. I remember her crawling into my bed some nights, the bed I shared with my husband, in the middle of the night to hold me and console me through my tears. Through my fears of the long nights without my partner next to me and this new unknown. I remember when I moved back out on my own and started again, how scared I was at night to live alone. The countless nights I would call her and she would talk to me and pray for me, helping me to sleep. I remember her telling me how worried she was for me in the moments I said I didn’t care, the moments I vocalized I wanted to go with him. I remember asking and almost pleading with her to answer me, why, I couldn’t go with him, why was I still here. How hard that must have been for my mother. Its hard for me to look back on it. I now know the pain that would bring me to hear and I hope I never hear those words come from daughters. I hope they don’t know the pain of some of scars I wear. I think about how many times, she down on her knees praying for me. Countless times. So many, too many to even count and she still continues to be faithful.

The theme lately for me is more time. I truly see how fast it is moving and I just for a moment want to stand still, to stop the clock and just sit. Her and I no distractions, just us with no where to go and no cluttered thoughts in the back of our minds of our to do lists. Its funny how we run to get to where we are and then we look back and wish we had stayed a little longer where we were. That makes me laugh too. This year, is a year of carving those important moments out, finding them more and reveling in them.

My mom is in the hospital tonight and I pray for great outcomes and healing. I hope for answers, because most of the time we don’t get them. She was there last week to and released with no more information than when she went in. She always looks healthy, beautiful. She still carries her sweet smile through it, but she feels tired. She gets ill often and she feels not her self. I don’t question why really because of the laundry list of illnesses she lives with. She has lupus, she has fibromyalgia, she has had thyroid cancer having her thyroid removed, she has hip troubles and so many other things. I always say geez mom, take it easy on yourself, would you? She goes to more doctors appointments than anyone I know and it hurts my heart. Her biggest worry, is to not worry me and my sisters. So silly, yet so sweet. She sees a naturalist on top of some good doctors and over the past year she has been better, but recently she’s not felt good. It was so nice for that time that she felt good, so I am hoping that will be restored.  Please keep her in your prayers.

See, my mom I could go on and on for days about, thats just how special she is to me and its something I hope she always knows. She’s my angel here on earth and I already have one in heaven. She is the one person who’s been by my side through every dark day and every celebrated day of my life. I want her healed and beside me holding my hand through what’s next.

Our family is very close and so its no surprise when we tell each other we love one another. Tonight she said, “I want you to know how much you mean to me, and how much I love the girls”, her granddaughters. Important words that make you so thankful to hear, even though you already know it. Thankful for this kind of love, but words that ring different at times when they are said. Tears started streaming down my face, as we hung up the phone, because I understand her fears. They are my fears to. We will remain optimists, though. Some may say, oh she will be ok, and hopefully she will. We take for granted moments and people in our life because time keeps moving and we keep being pulled into a myriad of directions and obligations. For me knowing, how life can change in a second, in a millisecond, makes me see things so very differently. My grandmother passed very young, so my mom worries, and with her health history, we all worry.

I said oh mom, I know, I love you too so very much. She says, “I prayed that god would not take me for a long time, so our family will not be broken up the way mine was when my mother died so young.” I couldn’t really even think, after that.  Then, I changed the subject saying mom, you are going to be old and I will promise to wipe your butt someday and take care of you, because she knows the real meaning of that statement. See, when I was younger, I told her I would never do that and so we both laughed hard. I told her I would put her in a retirement facility where they could take care of that part for her. She remembered and so, with a older and more grown outlook on life, I would gladly take care of my mom, until the end of time. We all have our day, but I will wish for that, because I just selfishly want her here with me, always. I would even pluck her granny chin hairs and paint her toenails and we can laugh and cry together over the joys and the trials we have gotten through by being each others support.

So that brings me to these lyrics that I just love, “My fears are safe here, held in your hands. When I am broken, you put me back together again.”

I’m glad for the love, friendship and closeness we have. I’m thankful for you mom and I appreciate you fully. Sleep tight. xoxoxoxo

Tell the ones you love, what they mean to you, over and over and over again.

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