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Jacque Rupp – Honorable Mention

The Red Purse

“The Red Purse” is about loss and transition.

When I became a young widow, I struggled with sadness, conflict and guilt. I was grieving the loss of my own identity along with the loss of my husband. I felt numb, raw and exposed then suddenly felt very sexual and alive. Anything was possible. These in-congruencies were confusing. My wants and needs had been neglected during his long illness. I was ashamed of my new desires.

Shortly after he died, I bought a red purse, which sat on my dresser for years. I knew I needed to have it, but I did not know why. I never used it. I see now it was a reminder of what I needed in my life as a woman; something feminine, frivolous, and out of character. It gave me permission to fantasize about who I could become during this transition.

My mother had become a widow at a similar age. Women of that generation were expected to shut down, to keep their desires hidden. Divorced women could remarry, but widows were expected to stay devoted to their husbands. This was not the kind of life I wanted to live. Through this project, I learned grieving and living can coexist. I still feel guilt at times, but I can talk about it now and accept that it is ok.