February is here! Love is in the air, or so the retail world will have you believe. This is the perfect time to address the taboo subject for widows/widowers. When is “too soon”?
“Psst…Can you believe she is dating so soon after her husband passed? I mean really, it has only been a year?”
Why is it that, what seems like, the entire world gets to weigh in on when the appropriate time is for a widow or widower to re-engage their love life? In my experience, everyone in my life had their own ideas on when the appropriate time to for me date would be. And honestly, they are entitled to their opinion, but not to their judgement, or scrutiny, or to butting in without solicitation. I get it, everyone thinks they have your best interest in mind, but how do they even know what my best interest is?
Short answer: They don’t!
No one has ever walked in my same exact shoes, and therefore, no one but God gets to judge. Everyone has their own timeline, and everyone understands what their own timeline is, and can assess for themselves.
Hear this: You can absolutely grieve your spouse and fall in love with someone new at the same time!
Grief is very complicated and excruciating, however, it is not exclusive. Life is messy! It would be great if you could tie things up with a little bow and be done with it, moving on to the next phase, but life does not work that way! You can move through life in multiple phases at the same time. Is it easy? NO, but life rarely is.
Moving forward with someone new, while still grieving, is a difficult and multifaceted task, but that is how I roll…The more complicated and twisted the path, the more likely it is that I will travel on it. I cannot speak for all widows/widowers, but I can share my experience. I did not go out searching for new love. What I did want was companionship, a plus one to events and gatherings. I was tired of avoiding social gatherings and such because I felt awkward around couples and wanted someone to be able to see a movie with or share an adult conversation with at dinner. Love kind of found me, at the most awkward and inconvenient time (but isn’t that usually the case?).
Looking back on it now, I feel sorry for my current husband, to have had to share me with my grief. To have watched as I navigated down a windy path alone, unable to really understand or offer me much assistance. There must have been, and probably still are, times of jealously. It has to be hard, because although my relationship with my late husband was far from perfect, my marriage did not end in a breakup like most relationships that end do. The animosity that usually accompanies the end of a marriage was different in my case. And I do believe that this has caused tension or strain on our new relationship.
I have had to spend much of our relationship learning and forging the “new me.” I have been strengthened by my experiences, and the chaos that surrounds the process is something that can be challenging during a new relationship. Trust levels within me have changed, because like it or not, when my spouse died, I lost a little of that ability to trust. I became much more independent and at that point, I became a survivor. Because of my husband’s passing, I have hardened myself, in that I can do most everything on my own. I do not need to rely on a spouse to survive, which is a comfort and an asset, but also can be a hindrance to a partnership. And what is a new spouse to do with that?…I am sure it is frustrating.
Finding a love again is messier than it was the first time, but still rewarding. Still exciting when it happens. And by all means…still possible!!!
When is a person ready for love. Who knows? There is no set timeline, and I wish people, especially those that have never had to lose a spouse, would reserve their judgement and simply be supportive. Remove the stigma that attaches itself to widows and let them mourn and love in their own time.
Grief never really goes away, and neither does the ability to love, or the ability to love through grief!