Continuing with the February love theme, I will be addressing “love after loss” all month.
When I first became a widow, like many before me, and many after me, I was resolved in my statement, “I will never fall in love again, I will never re-marry.” And guess what? I meant it. I did not want to go through the loss again. I did not want to trust, or love, or have my heart broken. I was going to live out my years alone and make myself fine with it. (Keep in mind, I was only 41 at the time)
That just goes to show you how truly messed up your brain is when in the throws of deep grief. I look back now and think, how absurd it is to think that I would want to be alone for the next 50 years. What was I thinking?
But that line of thought did not last long. It was around the 9-month mark that the loneliness set in. The need for companionship. Not necessarily love, because I was still not interested in love. But dating and friendship, yes. I did not enjoy the solitary life. A life where my social existence was entangled with my daughter’s. Her activities and her friend’s parents. Or me surrounded by other couples as the third wheel, fifth wheel, always the odd one out.
I wasn’t looking for love…but it found me.
Let me just tell you. Life is messy. (I have said it before, I will say it now, and I will surely continue to say it in the future) As time goes by, as more of your life has past, relationships get so much more complex. It is not easy. It will never be easy again. I have lots of baggage…a daughter, an established career, a mortgage, an intricate and diverse life. And now, to top all that off, enter a suitor…A man that also has baggage, past relationships, perhaps children, a career of his own…do you see where I am going with all this. Complexities.
To complicate things further, let’s toss in some emotional baggage. Trust issues, hurt, abandonment, PTSD, anxiety, stress, anger…
And now, the piece de resistance, GRIEF! This is a recipe for disaster…
but as with all complex situations, if you survive, you reap great reward!
There are many mistakes to be made along the way. Proceed with caution and lots of introspection.
- Never say never
- Be sure you are entering a new endeavor honestly and not to avoid your pain
- Don’t have heavy expectations
- Be flexible
- Do the next right thing
- Never say never. Life after loss is full of change. New relationships are no exception. Be open to the change, “embrace the chaos.” Be open not only to new romantic love, but to new friendships.
- Be sure you are entering a new endeavor honestly and not to avoid your pain. You will not be able to avoid the pain of grieving. You may be able to postpone the pain (through self-medication, avoidance, filling the void with outside relationships and activities), but it can and WILL most definitely catch up with you. Dealing with your pain and grief as it happens naturally is much healthier than having it hit you upside the head like a brick later, and what would most certainly be with the worst possible timing.
- Don’t have heavy expectations. Don’t enter new relationships (romantic, companion, friend) with loads of expectations. Don’t go in putting pressure on the situation, just relax and enjoy the other person or people.
- Be flexible. New relationships are just that, they are NEW. They will be different than your past relationships and will require learning and compromise, they will require you to be flexible and willing to perhaps change your mindset. They will be DIFFERENT. Enjoy the change.
- Do the next right thing. This is something I have said before. Take things one step at a time, and with each next step, carefully consider what the next right move will be…and do that. Do not move too quickly for yourself (you know you better than anyone, so don’t let others pressure into their ideas of what you should be doing or when you should be doing it).
Entering any new relationship is scary. And after the death of a spouse, it is much more complicated. I am still trying to traverse this love expedition, I am not an expert and I cannot in all honesty say that my relationship will survive, there are no guarantees. I am speaking from my own experience so you can throw it away with the bath water, or listen to my pitfalls and navigate them successfully for yourself. But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to love, without it life would be empty, or shallow at best.