Friday, August 21, 2009

The GOW Filter

Some people believe that any woman who would date or fall in love with a Widower (W) must have low self esteem. It's not that GOWs (Girlfriends Of Widowwers) who choose to continue relationships with a still-grieving Ws don't possess self-preservation skills, or that they are somehow "lacking" important character traits. On the contrary, these GOWs are to be applauded for their extraordinary tenacity, perseverence, patience, compassion, and strength!

Alas, society doesn't take kindly to the GOW - it already views her as "less than": she is simply a pale substitute for the LW...a interloper...someone riding on the coattails of the dearly departed...who doesn't have a lick of self-esteem or she wouldn't be persuing and enduring what society views as a hopeless cause. ignorant! And therein lies the amazing difference between a GOW and those less educated about grief: The GOW makes it her mission to really understand grief, as she knows early on in the relationship that grief will be a part of it to some extent. In doing her grief homework, she learns coping/communication/compromise/survival skills. She brings into the relationship with a W her own previously-defined set of personal boundaries, and coupled with her wisdom gained from life experience and past relationships, plus her growing knowledge of grief, she utilizes all this information to become the woman of excellence in the W's life.

Naturally, all women have what they define for themselves as "dealbreakers". But most of those are based on actions or behaviours she can or cannot tolerate in a MAN, not a widower. For example, I would never tolerate cheating. That is MY dealbreaker. But the behaviour of infidelity is more closely based on a human character flaw and not a W disposition. What I am trying to say is that when it comes to "dealbreakers", GOWs need to be sure that the character flaw or behaviour in question is more related to W being human and not based on a natural byproduct of his grief. To do this, she needs to call upon her grief knowledge to discern the difference between a behaviour that is either grief-motivated or man-defined....or a combination of both...W cheats on GOW? Dealbreaker! W abuses GOW? Dealbreaker! W hides GOW from his friends becasue he is afraid of what they might think of him dating so soon after LW's death? Hmm....that's a combination or man-defined (human character flaw) and grief-motivated, and may or may not be a dealbreaker, depending on other circumstances and information. One isolated incident of boyfriend idiocy should not, in my opinion, be grounds for dismissal. It'd be easy for society to scream "Dump the W!" for one incident because, as previously mentioned, society is ignorant about grief..and when a GOW does NOT react the way a grief-ignorant society expects, she is unfairly labeled a doormat and judged as an idiot herself!

Those of us on the "inside" of grief, whether via personal experience, research, or intimate relationship, are less apt to react in kneejerk fashion when a W exhibits confusing behaviour. After filtering his behaviours through the grief filter a GOW has carefully developed, then and only then can she determine if said behaviour is a dealbreaker or, instead, a time for patience and communication. This filter helps steer a GOW towards better decisions regarding both her relationship with a W AND her sense of self-preservation.


  1. My wife died 4 years ago and I'm only 53. I'm note in that intense grief/pain stage anymore but I will probably grieve for Laurie in some way for the rest of my life. How can I not? We grew up 3 blocks from each other and grew up together. However, I do hope that some lady will fall in love with me again. My dad will turn 91 soon and I could be a widower for a very long time. That's kinda depressing.

  2. I found your post quite poignant and I just wanted to give a brief response. I'm dating a widower who is, like you, also 53 but more recently widowed. I'm in my 30s and he was married almost as long as I have been alive. He loved his late wife immensely and I'm sure he will never "get over" the loss of her. However, I do not feel that his enduring love for her is incompatible with his present love for me.
    Never let anyone tell you that it is wrong to always have a part of your heart reserved just for Laurie. Being open to a new love does not mean forgetting or ceasing to miss and love her.

    At 53 you are a man in the prime of his life with hopefully many years ahead if your father is anything to go by! I wish you all the best and hope you meet someone who appreciates your capacity for love. I hope your genetic disposition to longevity can become a source of happiness to you rather than being depressing. Kia kaha