When I became a widowed man, I wondered what to call myself. “Widow” is usually applied only to women, but why can’t a man be a widow? Why accept the implied accusation when you are called a “widower?” Long before I lost my wife, I rankled quietly at the term “widower,” and it still sounds like an accusation to me. If a painter is one who paints and a builder is one who builds, what is a widower? Is it someone who “widows?” Does that not sound like an accusation or a judgment? You didn’t cause your wife’s death. “Widowed” is a better term, but of course, she didn’t do this to you; it wasn’t her choice.
I know widower is the standard term for widowed men, but I’m enough of a Grammar Nazi to be bothered by it. I like to call myself merely a widow or widowed, or maybe better, a “widow-man.” Being a widow-man implies that my situation is different from that of a female widow, as I will explain in future messages here. “Widow-man” reminds me of “macho-man,” a hearty, masculine title. I hope it doesn’t resemble “girlie man” to you!
Now that I have had this little rant with you to introduce myself, I’ll calm down and accept the standard terminology. I may sneak in the “widow-man” term sometimes, and I’m asking your forgiveness in advance.
Men, we have entered a new kind of life. We are alone after a short time or perhaps after a lifetime with the woman to whom we were supernaturally bonded in marriage. Even those of us who lost our wives later in life were not prepared for this new life. Death itself is always sudden, even after a protracted illness, because it is such a complete, irreversible change. And being alone as widowed men in a world of married couples and widows is a new thing for all of us.
In future essays, I’ll explore some aspects of this new world of male widowhood. I’ve been here for nearly ten years. Perhaps I can share some things of value with you.
Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday beginning today. You can write Dr. Kardatzke c/o firstname.lastname@example.org