I no longer think of myself as a “widow”. I don’t check the widow box on government forms, I don’t include “single mom” in my bio.

For two years, I did. That was how people saw me, and I’m sure, whispered about me. In small-town America, your most important identity is the one made up for you at the grocery store. You have no control over it; you can only pray it’s kind and nonjudgmental.

If it’s not, well, you pray another scandal emerges before the plastic bags full of bread and cheese and chicken nuggets are loaded into the car.

My kids know they have two dads, one here and one in Heaven. They know our family is made up of two last names. I’m never going to forget, and I’ll never let them forget. But for the honor of my first marriage, and the sake of my last, I won’t dwell on the past or that label I once carried. I can’t do that kind of disservice to either of them.

It was heavy. How could five little letters weigh me down so much? Maybe because along with “widow” came “single mom”, “depressed”, and “lost”. I was lucky that it also came with “support”, “love” and “family” because otherwise, I don’t think I would have been able to pick myself up under the weight of it all.

People are usually shocked when they discover that I was a widow. I was 26 at the time, after all. I’m only 31 now. That’s far too young to lose a husband.

I was extraordinarily blessed to have found love again, and been able to have the four kids that I always wanted.

I’m no longer the “single mom”, or “depressed” or “lost”. I’ll always be a widow, I suppose, but I don’t have to focus on that. I’m a woman, a wife, a mother, a dork, a goofball, a music lover, a reader, a (bad) singer, a writer, an amateur photographer, a hugger, a smoocher, a listener, a friend.

What labels have YOU released from your internal biography?