While I was on vacation, the subject of widowers writing about their loss sprung up on the DAW Facebook group and in my inbox. On one side there are GOWs and WOWs think their relationship with their widower is deteriorating because the book, blog, essays, or articles about their experience is dragging them back to the past. On the other side are the widowers who feel their project is important and what they’re working on is helping or will help others and either 1) want their girlfriends or wives to be patient with them while they finish it or 2) don’t think it’s harming their relationship.
I understand where both sides are coming from. When I was writing Room for Two there were days where Marathon Girl had a difficult time with me working on the book. In order to complete the project, I had to write it fast (it took 6-8 months to complete) and make sure Marathon Girl still felt like #1 during the project. If the book didn’t focus on rebuilding my life and my relationship with Marathon Girl, I don’t know if I would have got the necessary support to complete it.
So based on my own experience, here some thoughts for widowers who want to write or are writing about their experience (scroll down for advice for GOWs and WOWs):
- If it makes you sad, stop. If your writing project is pulling you back to the past in a way that makes you depressed or causes you to withdraw from girlfriend, wife, or other activities that you’d normally engage in, then put the project on hold immediately. No book, essay, blog or anything else is worth telling if it’s going to stop you from moving forward and enjoying life.
- Have a reason for your project. Answer the following question honestly: Why are you writing about your experience? If it’s to garner sympathy from others or using it as some kind of personal therapy, then you might want to reconsider the project. If you’re writing it to help others, that’s great reason but there are lots of blogs, books, and other resources on grief. What makes your story different or worth telling? If you writing it as some sort of family history for your kids that’s fine, but be sure to read the next bullet point below.
- Know when to wrap it up. Writing projects can’t go on indefinitely. Whatever you’re writing, you should have a plan on when you’re going to wrap it and move on to something else. Set a reasonable goal and get it done then, if you still have the writing bug, move on to something more uplifting like horror novels or dystopian fiction.
For GOWs/WOWs who are dealing with or (barely) tolerating widowers writing his story, here are a few thoughts:
- Don’t let jealousy cloud your judgment. Just because he’s writing about a chapter of his life that doesn’t involve you, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you or wishes the late wife was still alive. Do a self examination and try to figure out if your feelings are internal insecurities or specific widower behavior.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you think his writing project is hurting your relationship, let him know. Keeping quiet about your feelings will only exacerbate the problem. When you talk to him, be specific about his behavior and/or moods after he spends time writing and how it’s damaging your relationship.
- If you can’t tolerate it, end it. Everyone has deal breakers when it comes to relationships. If you can’t live with your widower publishing a book or otherwise sharing his story with the public, or feel like his writing is taking priority over your relationship then walk away. Life’s too short to live in someone else’s shadow. Go out and enjoy it on your own or with someone else.