Am I a widow or not? 

The aggravating task of filing taxes had me ready to smash my laptop into pieces of the cheap flooring in my rental duplex. Why is this so Damn difficult! 

“Did you file as separated last year m’am” the annoying voice on the other end of the phone asked so quietly I felt I was squinting my ears just to hear what he was saying. 

“Yes. We were separated. So we filed separate and then he died. We weren’t divorced.” I wanted to add that he left because of mental illness and that I still loved him as though we were married, still together and I wanted him to come home again.  I’m sure the guy from the CRA wouldn’t give two shits about my complicated situation. 

“Then you file separated M’am” he said matter of fact. Not so complicated. 

“Ok. Thanks. So I will file separated and I’m good to go then?”

“Yes, separated.”

Awesome. Separated. I suppose I should be thankful I’m not financially tied to his manic debt, and filing separated prevents any creditors from coming after me, but I feel like something was taken from me by having to pick the separated option under marital status. 

It really is only a question on a digital form… Right? It’s only a circle that’s filled in. Seems simple. 

Emotionally, however, it feels much more complicated than clicking on a circle. So what am I? Am I a widow? Am I the mourning wife or the scorn “separated” ex wife? Do I get a choice in this at all? Does filing separated for the CRA permenantly determine my marital status? What do I tell people when they ask? 

Truthfully, this is part of what has made my grief so complicated. Worrying about what other people are thinking, or what their view of the situation is. What matters, is that I FEEL like a widow. I feel like I became widowed over three years ago at the time of his diagnosis. 

With cancer, you watch your loved ones body fail, slowly, or aggressively, thier organs begin to shut down, their bodies begin to tire until eventually they take their last breath. 

With mental illness, I watched Anthony’s mind die slowly over time. His body was here, but his mind, soul, spirit and who I knew to be my husband, had already left this world. There were times he would come back for a while, but not long after I’d think he was back for good, either depression, mania or psychosis would set in and he’d be gone again. His body was here but his mind had been replaced with someone unrecognizable. 

I started grieving him over three years ago. I was widowed over three years ago. Emotionally, I feel like a widow. 

Three years ago, at the time of his first hospitalization, I started to take care of his usual responsibilities on top of mine.  I learned (yes learned) how to pay our bills and started managing our finances. I measured and planned a fence for our backyard. I learned how to run a lawn mower on my own. When his last manic episode set in and he left, I learned how to do taxes on my own, manage parenting and taking care of the home on my own. Going to doctor appointments, parent teacher interviews, concerts, grad meetings, all of it on my own. I’ve been grieving my husband, my marriage and what was my family for three years. 

Now I’m grieving his death by Suicide. The suicide that symbolized his organs finally shutting down and his taking that last breath. I’m grieving the death of hope for treatment and recovery, of restoration and hopes for a future as a family. I’m grieving never being able to feel him with me, my head on his chest. I’m grieving him cheering for our daughter at soccer and having political conversations with our son. I’m grieving the love we had together before the illness. 

I am a widow. I was more in love with my husband than the day we were married, I just didn’t know where he was. His body was there. He wasn’t. In my heart and head, we were separated because of the illness. 

So, The CRA may say I’m separated, but the grieving I’m doing and the torment I feel, the adjusting and self reflection I’ve had to do, say otherwise.

The photos of our life together say otherwise. 

The pain in my heart definitely says otherwise.

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