Se*man*tics (noun) 1. the study of meaning in language – the study of how meaning in language is created by the use and interrelationships of words, phrases, and sentences.
There are words in our language that are so well known we don’t have to define them to anyone when we speak. When I say, husband, wife, significant other, love interest, boyfriend, girlfriend, and even widow, people know what I mean. We know that these words define relationships for us. We know that these words hold a significant place when we call someone one of these things. I had a husband. The problem is, I don’t anymore. He died. Most of the people around me know this and understand what this means. Most grown-ups know what it means when someone tells us their wife, husband, girlfriend and boyfriend, has hurt them or done something wonderful for them. Most adults have an experience of a significant relationship. Please forgive me for speaking in such generalities, I promise there is a point.
So, as a widow, when I speak about my husband, I still call him my husband. I do this for several reasons I guess, he was my husband, we weren’t divorced, he’s my kid’s dad, and I never want them to loose the sense that of that. I think it’s important to them and most days it’s important to me. Heck, my husband is the only reason I’m a widow. Without the husband’s dead deal, the widow deal doesn’t make sense. But here’s the rub – I’m in my seventh year as a “widow”. I know what that means. What I don’t know is how my semantics affect the people around me. In my small world, everyone knows this about me…but what about the world of the unexpected. What if I am caught off guard and there is a new person who might have interest in me? To a new person, I am single, I’m Chris. They may or may not know how I got there. What if I am interested in someone, but my semantics get in the way…
It’s so hard to separate the old me sometimes. After lots of years as Dave’s girlfriend and then Dave’s wife and now Dave’s widow, many parts of me have been defined by who we were together. Lots of my stories, my history, have to do with his story. Does this mean that if an interest presents itself that I’m not interested? No, not really. I could be very interested in a new someone, but will my story, my semantics, put the kibosh on it before it can even get started. When I say, “my husband this”, or “my husband that”, what will that trigger in the man across from me?
For the first time, in a long, long time, I am thinking about this. For many years, my response to the continual question “are you seeing anyone YET?” has been that there have been no interested parties…what, if there were interested parties, but perhaps my words spoke so loudly that even I couldn’t hear that they were interested.
The truth is at this point in my life, widow and all, I would like to have someone to flirt with, someone to hold, someone to kiss, someone who is interested in me and me in him…but, I don’t want to scare this person away with an occasional slip of “my husband did” or “my husband and I” or “when we”.
My hope is that when that mutual interest occurs, he can forgive me for those slips. It won’t and doesn’t mean that I’m less interested in him. I hope he will hear my other words, see my actions, sense my intent and know that I’m still a work in progress. I hope he recognizes that I’m still trying to integrate my story into my reality. So much of grief seems so nebulous and unreal while other parts are so concrete and tangible. Balancing this has always been part of my healing. I know that I don’t want to miss the present moment, but those moments in the past, those moments of my story are so woven into who I am. I hope he will see this and know that there is still room for more in my life and know that what’s around the corner may be just as wonderful as what was.