Childless widow is not helpless

I just finished reading a book called Widow to Widow by the late Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S., who traded her therapy practice to lead Widow to Widow, a Tucson support group for widows. Overall, it’s an easy read, often comforting and informative, but this book was published in 1995,and times have changed.

Ginsburg portrays most of us new widows as helpless housewives. So not true. She also assumes that we have children. She goes on and on about dealing with the kids’ attempts to help “Mom,” effectively communicating your needs, and easing each other through your shared grief.

She does note in one brief passage that not everyone has children. She writes, “Too often women are made to feel that widowhood would be less painful had they had children. One of the first questions widows ask each other on first meeting is, ‘Do you have children?’ Then ‘How many?’ and ‘Where do they live?’—as though their blessings can be counted by those answers.” In the next paragraph she tells how parents often go on to complain about the things their children do or don’t do. And finally, she says, children can be an important link in a widow’s transition to singleness but not the only one. Ultimately she has to find her own way.

If we have stepchildren, as I do, there’s no guarantee they’ll be around. So far, now that the services are over, they’re not. Would adult biological children of my own be calling every day to check on me, or would they be buried in their own grief and the demands of their own lives? I’ll never know.

If Fred and I had kids together, they might still be teenagers living at home. That would change the picture completely because I’d have to behave like a mom at a time when I might not feel like it. So many unknowns. Does it matter? What is, is. I share my house with my dog Annie, and neither one of us is helpless. We’re sad sometimes but perfectly capable of figuring out the rest of our lives without a husband and without children–if we have to.

Side note to young women considering marrying men who don’t want children: Consider what it might be like years from now if he dies and you find yourself back where you started, only older. Is he worth it? Can you live with it? Something to think about.

6 thoughts on “Childless widow is not helpless

  1. Firstly, I am sorry for the loss of your beloved. Secondly, I thank you so much for writing on this topic as I am finding it to be a very difficult road. A road that I'm not sure I can handle. My fiance is 13 yrs older with 3 adult kids (29, 25, 23) from 2 different wives. I am 37 and childless, was promised a child with him, but that has been revoked. I am so absolutely torn and feel the torture of possibly making the wrong decision to stay…every day! I simply love..loved my partner completely and was willing to try to make it work with his kids so that I could try to see if I could be satisfied with that. The “kids,” namely the daughters, have skillfully been manipulating their guilt-ridden father to do their best to break us apart. I initially thought he was worth it, but every argument about his kids or NOT having kids has deteriorated our connection. I'm 4 years in and it is not getting better rather the resentment is building. Your candid posts moved me, as I didn't think that anyone could possibly understand this heart-wrenching dilemma. I do not love his kids and frankly don't think I ever could. I am older but not so much that I couldn't. I always wanted to have kids BECAUSE I had found the man I wanted to create them with. Now the clock is hammering and I'm deathly afraid of what the future may hold if I choose to stay and try to fit into his family. I have the opportunity to share a remarkable life with my fiance, but that also entails having to always be linked to his kids. My obvious apathy is hard to miss, but I am always respectful and wish them well….but FAR away from us.Thank you for sharing, it really makes me reconsider what I have taken on. I pray for your heart to be soothed and soul to be comforted during this difficult time and until you and Fred meet again.


  2. Lynn,
    Thank you for sharing this. Your comments made me a little tearful. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I don't think it's going to get easier with marriage or with more time. You have resolve the situation one way or the other and go on. No matter what happens, someone will be unhappy and that stinks.
    I appreciate your kind sympathy.
    Please keep in touch.


  3. I am in a similar situation and it is comforting to hear words from someone feeling my confusion and pain. I am 24 years old, and my fiance is 29. He has a 7 year old daughter that lives with her mother & I love her. From the moment we decided to take our relationship seriously, I knew that I wanted kids and he didn’t. I guess we both thought the other person would come around. Surprise, I am 5 weeks pregnant and he doesn't want the baby. I know that I can't make him be a father and I don’t want to force him into the situation. I just don't know if I could go the rest of my life kidless. I want a baby but only in a healthy situation. I feel that I should leave. But I can't manage to do so because I love him and his daughter. I just needed to vent. so thank you for creating a place where I can.


  4. These are important questions and I appreciate your viewpoint. Glad I stumbled across your blog.

    I'm sorry for your loss. Thanks for being an intuitive role model.


  5. Am a 31-year-old widow. In my lifeless house, only me and my dog Annie (same as you). 19 months without him.. Every tomorrow is worse than yesterday. If only I had a child, our child. Oh God how much I miss him..


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