Widows Speak Up

Sue Larrison, "Widows Speak Up"

A Tribute to Blogger Sue Larrison

The year my husband died I started following a blog called “Widows Speak Up” by Sue Larrison. Sue launched the blog four years after her husband, Lane, died suddenly of a heart attack.

Sue’s pithy two- or three-paragraph reflections about what life was like after losing the great love of her life attracted thousands of followers over the next several years. Her posts always ended with a question or prompt that engaged the reader and elicited responses numbering in the hundreds. It was one of the best blogs I’ve ever read.

Though she had worked in marketing communications for 40 years, Sue didn’t seem to care about how successful and potentially lucrative her blog had become. She cared about communicating her experiences as a widow truthfully, and about her sisterhood of widows. As her readership grew from a handful to thousands, Sue remained Sue: welcoming, straightforward, and disarmingly honest. Her lack of pretense and disinterest in monetizing the blog made it that much more beloved in an age of AdWords, Patreon, and Search Engine Optimization.

From Sue’s widow community, I learned that all widows are not created equal. We were a self-selected group who had, like her, enjoyed enviable marriages to our best friends. Equally yoked for decades to peers with whom we shouldered life’s burdens and celebrated life’s joys, we were devastated when our husbands died.

Nobody suffers more than the survivor of a happy marriage.  We had forged companionable, caring, successful partnerships with our spouses and remained romantically, sexually, and intellectually attracted to them. With the salves of insight and patience, we had dressed and healed disabling childhood wounds and, in effect, re-parented one another. We raised children. We stuck together day after day, crisis after crisis, love after love. Then suddenly—in spite of our best-laid plans for golden years when we could finally relax, have more fun, and travel together—suddenly, our companion died.

The two-income family became a single-income household. The family business failed. The house had to be sold, children enrolled in new schools. Women who worked alongside their husbands or who worked at home, were suddenly faced with the necessity of establishing new careers mid-life or in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Some received no life insurance or insufficient insurance for covering financial deficits, and had to accept whatever jobs they could find.

We widows handled all this during the year following the death of the one person we loved most and knew best in the world, the selfsame person who loved and knew us best.

Here’s what Sue had to say about the realities of widowhood:

Monday, April 11, 2011

I don’t know about you …

But I think that:

Time will not heal this wound.
If crying makes you feel better, do it.
Dating is awkward.
Life goes on but will never be as much fun.
Getting old without him stinks.
Finding a new direction in life is very difficult.
Feeling sorry for myself comes with the territory.
Laughing every day about something is mandatory.
Until you lose a husband you can’t begin to understand the pain.
Learning to live for yourself takes practice.
Widows are strong women who keep going even when they don’t want to.

tomato

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19 responses to “Widows Speak Up”

  1. Dominique Avatar
    Dominique

    Dear Anne,
    I would like to share with you that, leaving the love of one’s life after 30 years, because, really, you can’t take abuse any more and the children are grown-up, so why suffer and hope any longer doesnt probably feel much better than actually losing one’s life partner with whom, at least, you have been happy. It doesn’t feel like relief. It feels like the failure of one’s entire life.

    And strangely enough, I recognised all my feelings and all that I have been through for the past 8 years in your beautiful posts, letters and poems from various sources.

    The difference is that my life with my partner was a constant heartbreak, a constant threat and my home, his house, was a place where I could never feel safe and where I never knew what kind of new moral torture he could devise according to circumstances.
    I could count on no-one to comfort me, on the contrary, I could count on him to harass me and make me feel helpless and hopeless if I showed I was low for some reason.
    he hasn’t died, no, he lives a few doors further and avoids so well meeting me that I never see him any more. I get a line of text for my birthday : “happy birthay- M.” (without capitals to happy and to birthday) and “happy new year- M.” And if we are attending the same opera, he will look down to his shoes so as to avoid, meeting my gaze, waving or saying hello and he will stay in his seat until I have gone.
    The man I loved with all my heart for 30 years, had four children with, looked after, fed and entertained with my wages (working and making rreal money was out of the equation for him, he was of a superior race) acts as if we’d never known each other. As If I were dead.

    So I feel sad that you have lost the love of your life, I really do, and I imagine how terribly unimaginably horrible it must be.
    But tonight, please, have a thought for those who have never felt love, those who have loved with all their heart without getting anything else in returm than abuse and heartbreak and emotional unsafety.
    Thanks,

    Dominique

  2. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    Are any of the women on this blog from widows speak up ,? Love to know how everyone is doing
    Mar from Illinois

    1.  Avatar
      Anonymous

      Hi Mar from Illinois,
      I am trying to get in touch with some of the widows on Sue Larrison’s blog. They helped me so much. Was shocked to learn she had passed away.
      I too would like to know how everyone is doing.
      Pam in UK

  3. Mary Avatar
    Mary

    I was heartbroken to hear that she passed away .best blog ever !

  4. mary Avatar
    mary

    So heart broken over Sue’s death .her blog during the first three years of my husband’s death was a life saver to say the least .I also miss communicating with all of the other widows on her blog .wish I could of meet all of them .
    Mar from Illinois.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Hello, Mary, I share your sadness over Sue’s death and the demise of her blog. She built such an amazing community of truth-tellers. It’s so rare to read the truth about widowhood and what the future has held for us. It would be amazing if we could find a way to rebuild that community. Maybe a Facebook Group?

      1. Mary kampwirth Avatar
        Mary kampwirth

        Facebook group would be great .how do we get a hold of everyone that use to be on Sue’s blog ? Miss hearing from all the ladies
        Mary from Illinois

        1. Anne Avatar

          Mary, I’ve wondered the same thing many times. Let me look into this and see if Sue’s daughters would be willing to help us out. I’d be glad to help organize. We need each other.

          1. MaryJaneHurleyBrant Avatar

            Anne, this is a wonderful idea. I think a great many of your original group will find you quickly. A FB group can really work. It can be time consuming, though, be assured. Once you open a FB group right up front ask at least two questions to be eligible. i.e. Are you a widow? Maybe how long? Make it closed only to your specifications. Unless the requesting person answers your questions they probably aren’t appropriate for your group. (Your blog was very specific – no mean remarks (I loved that! 🙂 ). Also, for our bereaved mother’s group even when a woman says she would like to join I google her and see if anything is up on her FB page even if I am not a friend or she wasn’t suggested by a member who knows the rules. Your original friend’s – if they are on FB – will find you one-lovely-person-at-a-time. (I’ll bet many have stayed connected.) xox

  5. Deb Avatar

    I wrote a long comment and it got lost. Argh!!!!!!!!!

    Basically it said that I’ve missed you and think of you often.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Deb! I’m so glad to see you! I hoped you would happen by. Let me know how you are. Are you still blogging occasionally?

      1. Deb Avatar

        Still blogging. Still fighting depression. Still winning the fight so far:)

  6. The Librarian in Purgatory Avatar

    I am sorry to post twice here but, by coincidence, I re-stumbled across the wisdom of the fox, which seem apropos here, at least in sentiment, if not practice, though I don’t claim to understand the situation at all:

    “…the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”

    …So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

    “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

    “It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

    “Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

    “But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

    “Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

    “Then it has done you no good at all!”

    “It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

    “Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

    … And he went back to meet the fox.

    “Goodbye,” he said.

    “Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

    “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

    “It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

    “Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

    “I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.”

    -The Little Prince

    1. Anne Avatar

      Thank you for this. It is one of my favorite books, speaking straight from (and to) the heart. I’m glad to see you.

  7. The Librarian in Purgatory Avatar

    Glad to see you back, in spite of everything. I have missed you and thought of you often.

  8. davidrochester Avatar

    I think one of the most sobering and frightening truths of life is that to love deeply is to face the risk of incalculable, intolerable loss that is alienating and isolating from self and society. I know people who have lost the love of their life, who have lost children…and I can’t fathom how they manage to go on. You cross my mind frequently, Eve, and although there is nothing anyone can really do to assuage your suffering, you may at the very least know that it is recognized and witnessed.

    1. Anne Avatar

      Hello, David, good to see you again. I appreciate knowing that people are just there as witnesses, as it were. It is more valuable than I ever realized, to have that witness.

  9. MaryJaneHurleyBrant Avatar

    Well, Anne, Sue Larson sounded amazing. It’s high praise from someone with your astute perceptions about love and loss – who also draws from the clinical, personal and relational arenas – to acknowledge Sue’s healing powers to those thousands of women who have lost their beloved mates.

    May Sue’s earthly loneliness be abated. May she rest for all eternity with the husband she missed so dearly here.

    Thank you for sharing a little about her on your blog with your faithful followers.

    Kindly,
    MJ

    1. Anne Avatar

      Amen, M.J., amen.

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