After the passing of my husband, one thing I wish I could have been prepared for was the feeling of vulnerability that came with being newly widowed. (I don’t know if widowers typically feel this way, but I have a strong suspicion that it’s more common with widows.)
As a progressive woman, I did not realise that marriage had protected me in a patriarchal society in ways I hadn’t been conscious of. As far as I knew, I had not defined my personhood by marriage and I hardly referred to myself by Mrs. anything. As a matter of fact, I used a hyphenated surname or my maiden name most of the time.
Yet, once my husband passed on, I couldn’t shake off the sense that I had become an easy prey for people to manipulate or exploit. It was a horrible feeling that showed up even in my dreams. I had nightmares and mild anxiety during waking hours.
It took a lot of work to remember who I was and to sit securely in my personal power and agency; I am a grown woman for heaven’s sake, the fear seemed somewhat irrational. There was also the fact that I had and still have therapy. I talk with friends and family, reminding myself of the powerful support system I have. These have helped calm me and erase the feeling of vulnerability.
My fears were not unfounded though. Many people, including and especially men, did act in sexually, financially, and otherwise predatory ways. I also learned that this was indeed an unfortunately common experience for most widows. And in the beginning, I was regularly irritated and disgusted with these predators, referring to them as “vultures.” ?? Lol. I all too often found myself delivering a scathing lecture or twenty.
Thankfully, I feel a lot more secure these days, and I view such encounters with amusement now. My faith in humanity has also been preserved by positive encounters with truly kind people, including men. Lol. On my off days though, I still find that I am more than a little bit irritated. My idealistic self has too many questions.
I wonder what is wrong with humanity that such evil is commonplace. Why should a widow without my privilege have to endure such vulnerability? Why should the loss of a spouse present danger in addition to the already excruciating pain of grief? Why is a woman’s value and safety still determined by proximity to a man? What do we have to do to be recognised as being enough all by ourselves?
Do you have any answers? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.