It’s been over ten months since Mark died. As was predicted, the first year milestones have been hard to bear: our wedding anniversary, Mark’s birthday, the date one year ago that we moved back into our remodeled house. Facebook presents me with my posting from April a year ago, and I see the picture of Mark and me with our son, celebrating Mark’s last birthday at an Oregon beach resort. Mark is frail in that picture, and I remember he had very little strength left, but even so, we weren’t prepared to accept the reality of what was to come, and soon. Now as the anniversary of his death approaches, the memories of those last few months when he struggled and suffered are ever so vivid.
All the information from Hospice and the grief books told me about this, this first year gauntlet.
I don’t think time heals all wounds, but time helps. It’s easier now to look forward, but sometimes I still have difficulty imagining a future without Mark. I am routinely astonished when I realize that I will never see him again. His clothes in our closet still hold traces of his scent. As I gathered the materials to prepare our taxes, the notes in his handwriting were unexpectedly touching. He is still everywhere in my world.
One phenomenon that I didn’t anticipate: I have entered a world of women. Almost all my contacts now are with other women: at my book group, at my volunteer job at a local women’s shelter, with a group that meets for lunch. These women are fabulous, and their constant support has sustained me. Yet, where are the men?
Recently I had sat down with two groups of three other friends for meals. It came to me suddenly that in each group, three of we four women were widows. Have I entered the stage in my life when the men just start to disappear?
But it’s not just that. A few days ago, a new friend invited me for dinner. When extending the invitation, she said, “My husband is traveling this week, so this is a good chance for me to have some women friends over.” I went, and I had a lovely time and was happy to be included, but I wondered: Since I’m no longer half of a couple, am I relegated to women-only events? I’m not trolling for hot dates, but I miss mixed gatherings.
This is nothing to whine about. After all, in many older traditions, widows were disposed of quite handily. I wasn’t required to throw myself on my husband’s funeral pyre and my relatives can’t tidily banish me to a convent to get me out of the way. Even today, in many cultures, the rituals of mourning imposed on women are onerous and last for the remainder of a widow’s lifetime, regardless of her age.
But I’m finding that widowhood is not only a personal change in status. It also moves me into another societal grouping, with new rules. It takes a bit of getting used to.