Dear widow police – I won’t revoke my card

Nearly six years ago I was given exclusive membership to one of the worlds crappiest clubs.

 

October 9th, 2009 – the day I went from being half of M & M, Mrs. Michelle Steinke, and the wife of Mitchel Steinke to becoming a widow.

No thanks.

You can keep your membership card because at 36, with a 1 and nearly 3 year old at home, and nothing but years of life planned before us – I don’t want admittance to your club. I didn’t ask for it, and quite frankly it sucks, so take it back and give me my loving and wonderful husband in return – PLEASE!

It took me awhile to come to grips with the fact that I was a member of this horrible club and no amount of pleading, begging, sobbing, or anger would revoke my card.

I  AM A WIDOW.

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As a new widow I lived through things no human being should have to ever experience. I decided what body parts could be donated to help save others. I went down a list that spanned his corneas to his skin and virtually and methodically dissected a man who was my best friend – all to a stranger from the donation center via a phone call.

I sat down with my nearly 3 year old daughter and read a script I had written so I didn’t mess up the explanation of her fathers plane crash. I knew emotions would take hold so I carefully crafted my words to do her as little harm as possible. She was dealing with enough.

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I put my kids to bed that night after a bath and book and I saw myself hovering over our lives, completely unattached to the reality of our circumstance. The shock so powerful I didn’t even feel any true pain at the time.

I wrote his eulogy and read it at his service to our friends and family.

I visited his crash site and smelled the fresh burn of materials that lie all around.

I spread his ashes in his favorite places.

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I held his mother as she cried for her baby boy.

I was told not to go see his body or say proper goodbye because the smell alone would traumatize me for life. It’s hard not to say goodbye in person to YOUR person.  The one you love more than anything or anyone else.

I read the police reports, the NTSB report, and I stared for hours at the envelope that held his autopsy report. I have never, to this day, read the report for fear of what it would do to my heart.

I laid in bed for nearly six months with the lights on – never truly sleeping feeling an empty ache that no other person on the face of the earth could ever fill.

I continued to raise our kids, be mom and dad, and try to give them enough love to compensate for the immediate and forever lasting impact death has on children.

I was judged harshly by those I loved and no longer fit into social circles we had once enjoyed.

I could go on and on with things I lived through as a widow for pages and pages. Perhaps that is a chapter in my upcoming book. Each experience more painful than the last. Each experience sown deeply into my emotional tapestry for life.

UNEQUIVOCALLY – I AM WIDOW

One thing I also learned is that those who are card carrying members of our crappy club are some of the best people in this entire world. These people have lived through pain and anguish and so many have come out the other side more beautiful than ever before.

Grief teaches us many things.

Grief teaches perspective, patience; love like never before, kindness, tolerance, acceptance, appreciation for the present moment, and so much more. Grief is perhaps the greatest teacher known to man but it comes at a very steep price. I always say that I would not wish my pain on my worst enemy but I’d wish my perspective on the world.

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Grief is that powerful.

Through the years I learned to embrace my membership to the worlds crappiest club.

Widowhood has never defined who I am but it has greatly shaped who I have become.

I’ve made priceless friendships with people who see the world through my lenses. I’ve changed my life according to new philosophies and adjusted my goals.

I’ve wept
I’ve smiled
I’ve learned
I’ve grown
I’ve evolved as a person and as a widow

I’ve also remarried.

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CRICKETS…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Wait!!! What?????

You remarried?

GIVE US YOUR WIDOW CARD BACK.

YOU ARE NOT A WIDOW.

Forget all that stuff you lived through.

Forget your ongoing grief, your children’s ongoing grief, your memories, your lessons, and your history.

You are your relationship status and you can no longer identify yourself with or as a widow.

After all, loving one man completely erases your love for another. People are 100% replaceable, and because you decided to move forward with your remaining days, your choice to share your life with another voids past history, experience, and identification with your loss.

Let’s hold the boat right here folks. Let’s be 100% logically correct.

Nope, I’m not a widow in my current life. I’m married. My husbands name is Keith and I hyphenate my last name to Steinke-Baumgard. I made a choice to find happiness with my remaining days. I made the choice to share my lessons, my life, and my love. My choice is not always an easy one but it’s mine to make.

I am Keith’s wife

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I am Mitchel’s widow

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One does not cancel out the other. I can be both a wife to a man on this earth whom I love, and the widow to a man I fulfilled my vows to – a man I will always love.

I often have people ask me if I ever stop missing him or thinking about him – especially since I’m remarried now.

The answer is simple.

No.

I don’t ever stop missing him or thinking about him.

People are not replaceable. One person does not replace another. One love is not like another love. They are different. Love is unique.

I truly believe that great love enhances your capacity for more great love in your life. Love expands the heart – even if a hole remains.

So I won’t revoke my widow card.

I won’t bow to the angry people who yell at me and tell me I MUST stop calling myself a widow.

I won’t cave to people’s shallow perception of life and love.

I won’t fit in a box.

I won’t be black or white.

I will embrace the gray that is my life.

 

Life is messy.

Love is messy.

Death is really messy.

I’ve not been placed on this earth to fit your mold or conform to what makes you feel more comfortable with my existence.

I am a wife.

I am a widow.

I am my own messy person who has loved and lost, grieved and grown, survived and thrived.

I’ve paid the ultimate price to know who I am….

So tell me, who are you?

Much love,

Michelle

 

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Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a author, speaker, fitness coach, mother and a widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009 she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at: 1fw Training

 

23 thoughts on “Dear widow police – I won’t revoke my card

  1. I’m so happy that you have remarried and how dare anyone tell you that you are not still Mitch’s widow. Of course you are… One does not cancel out the other … Your new guy is now your husband and that’s wonderful … I’m sure Mitch would want happiness for you. I know Mick would want me to be happy ….. I personally hate/ detest the word ‘widow’ but it’s reality … It does not mean you want sympathy… It is simply a fact of life. It means you are the wife of your husband who has died and nothing will ever change that. Also regardless of any new love you will always love Mitch ( in your case) you will not and will never want to replace him….. ???? But this does not mean you should never love again …

  2. The reality is that those who are living must move forward with their life, those they lost have gone to a different place not on this earth. Kudos to this strong woman!!

  3. Thank you.
    Yesterday, as yet another anniversary was rolling around, I was having a really hard time with this.
    I find I have very few people to talk to about this.

  4. Thank you as always for your posts, Michelle. Our stories of loss by sudden death are so similar. (And I have also lost 80#!) Another widow friend of mine describes the feeling you refer to when you left the lights on, as “homesickness”. I don’t think I have ever heard it put so perfectly. It is so true! And I still feel it today – but maybe not as often and not for as long at a time. I began Year 5 of my journey in August, and am so blessed and grateful to have had the amazing life I had with my husband, as well having a wonderful man in my life for about the past year. I get so frustrated sometimes with the judgments people make of things they do not understand, but I try to keep smiling! Thank you so much for everything you do for all of us. You are an inspiration! Moving forward but not moving on, Susan

  5. Thank you for this heart-felt post. I lost my husband to cancer 8 years ago and got remarried last year. I didn’t suddenly stop being a widow then, nor will I ever. I wish people would stop judging and realize they can’t possibly relate to your experience as it is uniquely YOURS.

  6. So powerful to read and every word is absolutely true!! I too carry a card to the crappiest club in the world! I have chosen to live life fully and raise two amazing young adults on my own. I look forward to being blessed at finding love again. Thank you for awesome inspiration.

  7. I am not a widow, but this has moved me like nothing has in a long time. I pray you continue in your happiness and the dedication you have show to others who have lost spouses. May God bless your life.
    Thank you.

  8. I have been lucky enough to not deal with harsh judgements, but I definitively feel the loneliness of being a single person with couples. All the help and attention I got at first are no longer there, people have to get back to their lives. It has made me stronger but in a different way because I have to figure things out which has been empowering.

  9. I love this post. I posted a blog post today along the same lines. People need to understand that we dont have to choose between a lost love and a new one. We cant anyway… I prayed SO MANY NIGHTS after Nick died to have a dream of him… And I never did. It’s been almost two years since he passed and last night was my first dream of him. I know he’s encouraging me to move forward… Take a read. Let me know what you think. http://www.faithoverfear.co/second-firsts/you-dont-have-to-choose/

  10. I couldn’t have said it better. I was widowed at 42 with a 6 year old and a 12 year old. I too have remarried and received the condemnation of many for it. I lost longtime friends and became a perceived threat to women whose marriages were rocky. I was barely treading water let alone trying to steal anyone. I will always be the wife of two men and in the 17 years since his loss, not a day goes by I don’t remember and miss him.

  11. Funny how you title this “widow police”. As the widow of in line of duty officer, I was hoping for some good news for myself and other police widows. My husband was shot in the line of duty and succumbed to his injuries at the age of 35.
    I hate this widows club too and never wanted to be a part of it. Ok so I am a widow, it is who I am but I would like to move on with my life, not forget my past. I have three children who ten years ago were 10,6 &2.
    I have been dating one man for almost 7 years now and guess what? We cannot remarry or I will lose my husbands police pension and benefits.
    Grateful for what I have, and I try not to make waves because I consider myself fortunate just to have these benefits for myself and my children.
    Since marriage is just a piece of paper,I suck it up and unfortunately cannot
    Completely move on with my life.
    So here I am stuck as a widow.

    • Stacey, I would urge you to look into a covenant marriage. One between yourselves and God, leaving the Government out of it.

  12. Wow, this gives me great hope! I lost my love 5 years ago. He left on a business trip and died of a massive heart attack. I never saw him again. 30 years of marriage and three beautiful girls changed forever. I remain grateful for our beautiful years together but feel very confused and alone in this new world. Thank you for giving me hope that one day I will say, I am a widow, I am a wife!

    Your new favorite follower! Sue🌻

  13. Wow! I love your writings! You hit the nail on the head! So well said! I have been a member in this crappy club for over 5 years now. I too am remarried. But I miss my late husband every single day! Keep writing Michelle! You are an inspiration!
    Thank you!

  14. Very touching…I admire your strength. I read an article about you and wanted to read more. I’m actually grieving the loss of my only child of 32 years young. I just want to say I wish you many more years of happiness.

  15. As a widower myself, a widowed friend of mine has spoken highly of your site. Your words ring so true, and they apply equally to widowers as well. Thank you!

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