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Who Are You Calling a Widow?

 

In 2010, my husband, Sergeant Edward Bolen, died in combat in Afghanistan when I was just 25 years old. My story is more than a tale of the emotional imprisonment of grief and the devastating price of lost innocence. It is a testament to rebuilding a broken life, and a message of hope for those who are as lost as I once was.

 

My tale is not an easy one. From the moment the two soldiers arrived at my door, to the struggles of the following months and years, I share frankly about the raw pain of losing not only my husband but myself. I learned the hard way that if given the chance, grief takes and takes until you become little more than the labels cast upon you. I wasn’t Andrea anymore. I was “the Widow,” “The Surviving Spouse,” “The Broken Woman.”

 

Many people know loss, and everyone grieves differently. I rebelled against the spotlight that being a military widow brought. On a daily basis, I was subject to insensitive, prying questions and unwanted attention. In the aftermath of my husband’s death, I also faced crippling bouts of depression, social anxiety, and rage. Sometimes, though, what is broken can be fashioned into something new. With the support of family and friends, I found again what I had lost. I found healing, acceptance, and love, and discovered my own enduring well of strength.