Pronouns and Checkboxes

Since my husband, Kramer, died last June, I’ve had a complete and total problem with pronouns.  I went to college and for a year or so it, planned to be and English major.  I know what pronouns are.  I understand their use in normal everyday life but since Kramer’s death, they have become an entirely different thing to be reckoned with.

Let me explain….when Kramer was living, we lived in our house.  Now when I got to try to use a pronoun when talking about the house things are all wrong.  I understand he is dead so technically this is not “our” house.  BUT…it still is “our” house and always will be.  Kramer did so much work here to make it our home.  We picked the house together.

We worked with the architect….


We didn’t do it quite like it’s pictured….

The blood and the sweat to get the house where it is, was the work of both of us…so even though he is not here…I still can’t call it “my” house.

houseFrom the moment we bought it, I don’t know that I had ever called it “my” house…even with him gone, “my” house isn’t the right pronoun for me.

When I talk about the kids…how do I refer to them now?  For my entire life to date, I’ve not really ever called them “my” kids.  I’ve always called them “our” kids.  For me, calling them “my” kids negates the role that Kramer had in their lives.  Granted, of their growing up years, I spent WAY more time with kids.  I did do a lot of the day to day parenting, but in no way does that trump the role Kramer played in their lives.

Without his occasional “come to Jesus meetings” he had with the kids, the great support he gave to me, and “reality checks” he gave us all, we wouldn’t be the people we are today.  Calling them “my kids” and not “our kids” feels so wrong to me.

He was such a good support to me.  No, he wasn’t there all the time because he was working but…the kids knew he would be coming home.  The kids knew I would tell him what our day was like.  The kids knew he would back me 100%.

There are so many things Buck learned from him that he went on and used in his work.  He’s the reason the girls became nurses.  He’s one of the reason the boys enjoy hunting.  These are just a very few of the reasons why I don’t feel comfortable calling them “my kids”.

As for the grandkids…someone asked me the other day, “How many grandkids do you have now?”  My answer… “we have 6 and one on the way”.  I feel the same way about the grandkids as I feel about our kids.  The grandkids aren’t mine…they are ours.  They are too little to know it yet, but even though their grandpa isn’t here with them, he’s a big part of their lives.  We will keep him alive for them and more than that, he was such a big influence on the people our kids became, that it’s going to overflow into the grandkids.  I just don’t feel right not calling them “our grandkids”.

This is all fine and dandy in my mind.  I can call it “our house”…I can call them “our kids”…I can call them “our grandkids”…but in public, that’s all weird.

I’ve done that.  I’ve said “our grandkids” and I’ve gotten an unusual look.  It was from someone who knew Kramer had passed away.  As I said at the beginning of the post, using pronouns is completely and totally strange.

So far, the only thing I feel comfortable saying “my” about is Rosie.

I got her after Kramer died…he wasn’t physically here to pick her out or consult me about her so I feel comfortable calling her “my dog”.

A year ago…I would have never thought something as simple as using a pronoun would trip me up.  I’ll be in public talking to someone and think “I better say “my kids””…and about be in tears because I “left Kramer out” by saying that “my kids” vs “our kids”.  I don’t know if this is so hard for me because I was always so adamant before that I said “our kids” that now it’s beyond hard for me to say “my kids”.  I’m guessing I likely overthink this…but it’s my reality.

On another note-something else that will likely trip me up:
To date, I haven’t had to fill anything out that says married or single.  I remember a blog reader wrote to me after Kramer’s death saying that they were troubled because their mother, who had just lost her husband, was still checking married when she had to fill out paperwork.  The daughter was upset by that.  I have to say…I think I’m on the Mom’s team.  I know physically Kramer isn’t here but I’m still very married.  I can’t imagine checking the single box.  It is not because I am “in denial”.  I am fully aware he is not physically present….but more and more, I believe “married” is a state of mind.  I felt married to Kramer long before we actually had a marriage certificate and I’ll feel married to him long after he passed away.

I imagine some of you are reading this thinking…oh my, what’s the big deal with the checkbox married or single?  What’s the big deal with pronouns?  Trust me, when going through a close personal death, things get “real” in a way they hadn’t before.  Holding on to the little things keeps a loved one close… even holding onto little things like pronouns and checkboxes.  Having more time to think, realize and appreciate the role a spouse took in raising children together becomes increasingly significant.  More than ever, I hold on, appreciate, and honor Kramer’s contribution to our lives by struggling with pronouns…my kids?  No- OUR kids.  My house?  No- OUR house.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

33 thoughts on “Pronouns and Checkboxes”

  1. Jo – I agree with you on the “our” house, “our” kids, etc. I lost my husband 37 days ago. I still wear my wedding ring. We celebrated 35 years of marriage in October and 37 years together. You just don’t stop and change immediately after your spouse dies. I still feel like you do. I am married. He is no longer here physically, but I cannot just say I am widowed. I am married – in my heart. While reading your post, I was shaking my head in agreement and felt good that what you said about your being married. We do not have to explain to anyone. It is what is in our hearts. Blessings to you and your family. Kramer and you raised good kids and they are raising good kids. You guys did good and Kramer would be so proud of you.

    Cindy in northern Illinois

  2. Lynne Nicholson UK

    Jo if our feels right for you use it. If married feels right use that. Here in the UK we have other as an option on some forms.

    I strongly believe there is life after death & those beyond the veil are still very interested in our lives. For me personally though my ex abused me and my eldest children and I was grateful for the safety I felt when he was not around the first few times I ticked divorced it felt like a kick in my stomach. The only reason I still use Mrs and my married surname is my children couldn’t change their surname while children.

  3. As for the pronouns, I’d say to use whatever is comfortable. As for the forms, I think that I would write it in, that I was widowed.
    Call me rude, but if someone would question my choice of pronouns, I would probably just ignore them. Of course, it would depend on my mood at the time.

  4. It is our house, our children and our grandchildren because you created all those together and that will always be so. Go on using that pronoun for ever. 24 years years ago tomorrow we lost our 21 year old son in a car accident. People always ask how many children you have. We always say two but our son died. He is still our son and always will be.

  5. I agree. I lost my husband unexpectedly in September and struggle with it just like you do. Your explained it very well.

  6. Jo, you ARE married. In the eyes of the law you are married. The marriage did not end. There is nothing wrong with using pronouns “we”, “our”……that is your reality. You are not the one who should be uncomfortable making others comfortable. You have the opportunity to teach those who are uncomfortable. You have made this life with a partner and he is still very much a part of your life and always will be.

    Until such time as you choose to be single or “me” “my”, your are married using “we” “our”.

    If you went to a counselor or lawyer, this is what they would share with you. I know, because this is the counsel my sister received when she had the same struggles 13y ago.

    I wish you a good weekend with lots of hugs from kids and grandbabies to lighten the load.

  7. A beautiful tribute to the life you shared with your husband. Thank you for sharing. And use “we” and “our” in remembrance of him.

  8. I have a problem when someone asks me how many kids I have. Our middle son died from a drug overdose at age 24. I don’t want to say I have 3 kids because when they ask about them, I have to say my middle son is dead. But if I say I have 2 kids, I’m denying he existed.

  9. I’d say don’t worry about the pronouns, continue with “we” and “our” with no worries. If anyone takes you to task, especially about the house and kids/grandkids, they’ve got the problem, not you. As far as checking married/single, I’d think that only matters on legal or financial documents, like tax returns, etc.

    Speaking of legal and financial paperwork – if you haven’t already, don’t forget to change any beneficiaries on life insurance, bank and investment accounts, etc.

    Rosie is adorable!

  10. I agree with you. I still say “our” or “we” all the time. I was married 64 1/2 years and one doesn’t just ignore that fact, and I wear my wedding rings proudly because he gave them to me. So I see nothing wrong with says “we”. Also, when people ask about how many children I have, I tell them we had five, but we have lost three. We lost our oldest son and the next oldest son a few years ago, and a baby girl many years ago at four months of age. They are all still in my memories every day and I view them as my children even if they are gone. One has the right to feel and say whatever feels the most comfortable.

  11. I agree with you 1000%!! My concern would be for the person who thinks it’s strange that you would say we instead of I or our instead of my. I bet she refers to everything as me, mine, and I. Sounds selfish and self-centered to me. Not good for her marriage! I don’t understand why people think everyone has to conform to their way of thinking instead of just accepting people the way they are. As with grieving and everything else, you should do things your way. Your kids and friends understand you! Those who don’t probably have issues in their own lives or need to get a life.

  12. I completely understand your struggle with the pronouns. It is hard. Time will help. I like the forms with the third choice – “widow”. I didn’t feel “single” for a long time.

  13. I get you. Our son passed at the end of Jan. and I know it’s going to be a while before I can speak of him in the past tense, especially to his 6 yr. old twins. He’s still Daddy and while he isn’t there physically, he’s still watching over them.

  14. Jo, the only time this is going to become an issue is if you start dating and when you say “our” house you’ll really get some looks! :) Calling your home “ours” is not just a reference to Kramer, but to your whole clan. It is the family home and gathering place. Using “we” about your grandchildren — you didn’t start this family by yourself. Yes, “we” is appropriate. Don’t stress yourself. You can’t change what other people think and you are still honoring your marriage and life with Kramer. Just be you, because you are fabulous!

  15. Just like you’ll always be “Jeanne” to me ;) Even though you’re young enough to be my daughter, you are blazing this trail for me. Each step of the way, you have addressed an issue that has been rolling around in my mind. Just yesterday I needed to deal with a broken furnace. I paused before saying ‘OUR’ House and then defiantly decided that I’m never going to pause again. It. Is. OUR. Home. Thank you for being my trail blazer in this rough journey. I’d be happy if our relationship was still only around my sister and your brother. God loves you and so do I.

  16. Jo, my husband died 28 years ago I only use my anything if it was something that happened after he passed out girl is still our girl. I still feel married to him. So don’t let anyone make you feel weird about our place our Grands our children. They were they are and always will be.

  17. Wow, again you’ve brought up something related to what we’re experiencing since my father passed away. I say use ‘our’ whenever you want. Or even Kramer and I. If people give you a funny look, just ignore it or comment that he was their father, grandfather, owner. ‘Nuf said. It they don’t like it, too bad. As for the check box, as long as it isn’t a legal document, like the income tax form, do what feels right to you. It’s no one else’s business. I think I might even leave it blank. I admire the way you are moving through your life and your posts have helped me so much. I’ve realized some of what my mom is going through, and you’ve also helped me process some of my thoughts and feelings. Thank you!

  18. A while back I ran into a wife of an old boyfriend–when I asked about the kids–she kept referring to them as–MY KIDS–leaving the husband out–I knew he hadn’t passed away–it was just soo strange to me the way she kept saying–“my”–
    on the other hand I have always referred to ‘MY KIDS’ as my kids–cause their father–my husband left us when they were little and has had nothing to do with them since–I raised them by myself–so I feel they are my kids!!
    I think you have to do what you feel is right and by the way I read this post–they are both of your kids and the house is still both of yours –so keep saying what you are saying and have peace about it–
    luv, di

  19. Elizabeth Bushong

    There’s not a thing wrong with using “we”! And often, when we’re asked marital status, there is also a “widowed” or “divorced” box. Changes are so hard, but I find that most people who matter are willing to extend grace. Bless you.

  20. When I know people are married, yet they talk about “my kids”, I always wonder if they’re indicating they’re remarried. I’m sure your kids will always expect you to say “our kids” … it will just feel right to them. You’re doing a great job of being true to your whole family.

  21. I remarried after my divorce. I had two daughters by my first husband. I always thought of them as my girls. I know my second husband didn’t raise my daughters, but I referred them as ours when I introduced them to someone. I called our grandchildren, ours while he was alive. He called them his grandchildren. I understand the dilemma, but do what makes you comfortable, you know how you feel. You honor Kramer when you say “ours”!

  22. On one occasion I heard Mom say she has 5 children. It really took me by surprise because I am 1 of 6. My oldest brother died of suicide iin 1994 and sometimes she just didn’t want to explain a dead child. It was hard for me to hear. His death is a reality of our family life.

    You speak your heart! There may be a moment when a singular pronoun comes out. So be it.

  23. Those forms and those boxes… I had a complete melt down when I was not supposed to mark “married’ but widowed in a new office. I ranted at the receptionist (obviously unfair of me as this is not her fault) about how this is so emotional and also none of their business….

  24. Makes perfect sense to me! I think you need to do what you are comfortable with. Like you, I can’t imagine getting remarried if something should happen to my husband. I will wear my rings and be married until I die! Well written, thought provoking post!

  25. Joanne in Massachusetts

    You might just refer to the house, the car etc. when an occasion crops up and you don’t feel obligated to give an explanation.

    The first time I had to mark the widow box on a form after my husband died I was quite shocked. I guess before that my mindset was of wife with deceased husband.

  26. Jo, I completely agree with you. I think “our” is the correct pronoun in all those cases. Just because Kramer is no longer physically here, he was part of both the house and the kids. They are part of both of you. “Our” could also be you and the kids, so I think it’s more than appropriate.

    My sister lost both of her children as adults and never knew how to answer the question about how many children she had or whether she had children. Such difficult answers :-(

    You do whatever you feel is best for you, whatever feels right. Only you know what works for you. Hugs!

  27. Definitely our.
    Do you remember the song that went “Our house…is a very very very fine house…” I don’t remember who sang it but your post reminds me of it.
    Yes, our house. Blessings
    Love and prayers

  28. Jo I can relate to this in a different way. I lost my son 14 years ago and he was my only child. I go through periods of wondering if I am still a mother. It does trip one up. Death doesn’t change what one has known for so long. The love doesn’t stop either. Not sure I am making sense but saying it the only way I know how.

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