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.