(This post is the second half of my takeaways from the Modern Widows Club Empowerment Weekend.)
Widow and life coach Jodie Rodenbaugh asked us individually to ponder who we are, what we want and why we are (still) here in this life. Of course I came up with the usual suspects, but the strongest vibration was around writing – and here I am in my first year of blogging! Startling was the absence of a strong desire to date or re-partner. So I want to explore that a bit further for myself, down the road.
A surprising number of widows in attendance had re-partnered with husbands or boyfriends* – yet they still felt a need to be there. Others were many years out from the date of their loss – yet they felt the same need. While widows likely will grieve in some way for the rest of their lives, these women anticipated the weekend’s program would provide information and support.
* Boyfriend is such an awkward label at my age. MWC speaker Dr.Kathleen Rehl has written an amusing post on this very thing at http://sixtyandme.com/are-we-too-old- for-boyfriends-in-our-60s/ . My favorites were bedfellow and undocumented husband!)
A woman who has experienced widowhood is no longer the same person. She has, in most cases, lost a beloved life partner and now has to manage to raise children, earn an acceptable wage, find new activities, etc. She has to transform! In just the first year my changes include a greater variety of physical activities (bicycling, dragon boat racing, yoga and strength training), a radically different hair style, a concerted effort to develop more female friendships and a better appreciation for fine wine!
The reality for women in my age group is that only 8% of us remarry, although there are many more who enter into new relationships for which there are no adequate measures. Widowers marry much more frequently and, as a result, 80% of men die married and 80% of women die single, as reported by Dr. Rehl.
One widow remarried after meeting her new husband on Match.com. Her adult children were upset and did not like him – but after probing and consideration, this woman realized their upset was more about her not being the same old “Mom” they knew before their father died. I’ve noticed this reaction in my own life. I’m not as predictable as I once was, I’ve taken up new activities and I’ve ignored outdated societal expectations for widows. Some applaud the changes; others are taken aback.
We were also told that 25% of widows in new relationships have significant conflict around financial issues. Retirement and healthcare, asset distributions upon death and sharing expenses are all fraught with emotions, leading to disagreements or at the very least, misunderstandings.
Since I don’t want to be in anyone’s box, all of this makes me even more anxious about dating. I don’t want to be a nurse, a purse or someone’s mother. I want a rich life and that may or may never include a man. This weekend I felt a shift inside myself that made that prospect okay.
As one widow said with sass, “You take me as I am or just keep walking!”