Mrs. or Ms. What do we call the widow?
Well, this can certainly be a touchy subject. Like most everything after the loss of a spouse, the decision on which name you would like to be referred to is an important choice for each woman.
Personally, I had been married for 26 years when Mike died. I chose to change my name. My maiden name became my middle name, and I took his last name. That was the summer before I started teaching. As a student teacher in college I had gone by the name of Miss Sanders. My parents, and even a grandmother, was a teacher so hearing adults called by Mrs. —– or Mr. ___ was completely normal for me.
Once I started teaching I was always Mrs. Divers.
In my generation, some women chose to keep their maiden names. Some women decided to use the term Ms.
Some women get divorced. They are not ready to change their names at the Social Security office, but they switch from Mrs. to Ms. It gives them a sense of freedom from their husband and his name I imagine.
According to several websites I researched for this article, a widow is traditionally addressed as Mrs. John Jones. A divorced woman should be addressed as Ms. Jane Johnson on invitations.
A widow was and still is addressed with the same title as when she was married.
There is absolutely no reason, or convention, for the title of a widow to change from whatever title she used prewidowhood. And there never was.
If she was Mrs. before, she is Mrs. now, unless she decides otherwise.
Whatever it is, if it is her choice, it is OK.
Traditionally, a widow retains her husband’s name until she remarries.
And then what… I wonder how many women change their names again? I would feel bad changing my name again, but if you are marrying someone else, isn’t that the right thing to do?
Anyway, I bring this up because this issue blindsided me this school year. For 29 years, I have worked in elementary schools and been referred to as Mrs. Divers. It is sort of who I am. I am a teacher.
When I sent home my welcome letter to the families in August, I told them about my kids and pets, my hobbies and some things to expect in Kindergarten. I signed the letter Mrs. Divers.
A few days later when the children arrived I was thrilled. They are so cute and excited and nervous. We had fun getting to know each other and I planned lots of fun activities including name games.
The next day one child left behind the school issued name tag.
Wasn’t I surprised to read below this precious child’s name, the name Ms. Divers!
I wasn’t ready for this one. I had never changed my name. Why had it changed?
I asked for advice from my virtual friends on Facebook. I have found comfort and friendship from other widows and widowers who have been down this path before me or that I can help along those first few years. I asked if I should bring it up to someone or just let it go.
Well, just like the wearing a wedding ring or not, this issue got heated. Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?
Some people thought I should just let it go. I am no longer married and this is another way to help me move forward. I don’t need to hang onto the title, and it will help understand that I am no longer going to ever be that same person anymore.
But more people thought, that if it bothered me, I should bring it up. I didn’t have to be defensive or nasty about it, just express that I prefer to be called Mrs. since that is how I still refer to myself when I write correspondence with parents or anyone else.
I don’t like confrontation. I really don’t. I needed to do some of that since Mike died with the lawsuit. It was important, but I can not continue to live in the state of anger and agitation indefinitely.
This wasn’t too bad. I mentioned to our school secretaries that I prefer to stay Mrs. and the people I told were super nice and understanding. They thought I wanted the change because it made me sound younger. Does it? I thought that was what hair dye was for.
Anyway, crisis averted. One thing this whole tragedy has taught me is that so many things are really not a big deal. If something bothers you, find a way to fix it. Nothing is as bad as finding out your husband is dead.
I never wanted to have to change my name and so I choose to keep it for now.
Have you changed your name? Do you think you ever will?