“I don’t want to be the reason you have a miserable life. I want you to find someone else when I’m gone.”
I responded to those words in anger and pain, heart throbbing at the thought of “betraying” Christopher and at the thought of him being OK with me doing so. Letting me go– as far as I was concerned at the time.
When Christopher was nearing the end of his life, he kept holding on, longer than expected, even though his body was ready for him to go. One evening, a few days before Christopher passed, my priest came to visit us and we chatted at Christopher’s bedside as he slept. I don’t remember how, but we reached the topic of marriage and my intention to live a celibate life, allowing no opportunity to love another person, as I wholeheartedly believed that I had to honor my marriage to C that way. I thought that, as a widow-to-be, it was my duty to drift away on a raft out into a tumultuous sea, adorned in all black, prepared to wait alone until it was my time to die and see C again as his wife. So dramatic, and oh so naive…
“You are right, you will be married to Christopher for eternity. You will share a love with him in eternal life, but you will also share that love with everyone else because we are actually all married to God in love.”
“So, my love shared with Christopher will be different?”
I was beginning to understand that the romantic love I shared with C on earth would live on as a memory, but the love we shared with God would be what truly lives on for eternity and that love is shared with everyone else too. My priest had reassured me that I would not be dishonoring God or Christopher if I were to romantically love another person on earth and I began to reluctantly accept it, still not convinced I would love someone else as I love Christopher.
After my priest left, I went over to Christopher and talked to him for a little bit even though he was no longer able to speak at that point. I explained my revelation with the guidance of my priest, and I told him that I was ready to accept his wish for me to fall in love with another soul on earth after he was gone. It still didn’t make much sense to me, but at least the option was there and I figured that if it was meant to be, it would happen and only then make sense.
“I know you want me to live a full life, so I will allow someone else into my life ONLY if it is being thrown at my face. I will not go searching for anyone, OK? I don’t want to do that. So, if you want me to love again, you and God better help me by making it super freaking obvious.”
I could tell by Christopher’s facial expression that he understood what I said and felt relieved by it. He needed to hear that from me. He kept holding on until I reassured him that I would be OK and would not be alone and miserable forever if I was meant to fall in love with another being on earth. Shortly thereafter, he began to decline further, and a few days later, he passed.
Now, 13 months later, I am wholly in love with another person. T and I met when I had decided to take self-defense classes as a preparation for years of being alone. It was a way for me to work through my grief, punch some stuff, and learn how to defend myself. Three months after I started taking classes, it was brought to our attention that we were falling for each other. I knew I was developing feelings for him, but I buried them deeply in fear that perhaps I was just being too vulnerable and missing the physical connection I once shared with my husband. T was also fighting his feelings knowing I am a widow and trying to protect my emotional state. It wasn’t until other people told us what they observed developing that we began to realize what we were developing was, in fact, honest and real and we should give it a fair chance. It was four months after Christopher’s passing though– I did NOT expect to meet the person I was meant to love next so soon. Therefore, I subsequently spent countless hours researching (as I do) on Google what I should be doing in regards to dating as a widow.
‘Is dating four months after losing a spouse too soon?’
‘Am I a terrible person for falling in love with another person so soon after losing my spouse?’
‘Dating as a widow’
‘Expected time for a widow to wait before loving again’
‘Should I be wearing all black for at least a year after losing a spouse?’
COUNTLESS HOURS were spent with “Dr. Google” searching for some kind of answers regarding my feelings and the expectations of society at large. I ended up finding a widow who started a YouTube channel to share her experiences, much like I began my blog. She began dating four months after losing her spouse to cancer and ended up remarrying a little over a year after. She was brave enough to share her story and I am forever grateful because it helped me realize what was best for me.
Here’s the thing too, like I told Christopher before he passed, and like I prayed to God, I was not going to seek love. It would have to be thrown in my face and boy was it ever. I just didn’t realize it would happen so soon. So soon. Sooooo soon. But whose “so soon” is that? Do I own that? Or was that something that society had engraved on me? What I began to realize is that while I was struggling and searching for answers to whether or not I was some terrible person on the trusty interweb (*cough*), I was seeking outwardly. I was asking society to decide whether or not I was being a “bad widow” and I was, by extension, asking society to let me know how I should feel about myself. I didn’t ask myself what I felt about myself. I didn’t ask myself how I felt about falling for T four months after losing Chris. If I had asked myself that first, I would have saved so much time and anxiety because I knew in my heart that this was meant to be. I knew that everything was falling in to place as was intended and I had to let go of the “so soon” that I actually didn’t own for myself.
When T and I officially made it known to everyone that we began dating, it was certainly not met with full acceptance. My family was as accepting as they could be, I mean, they lost Chris too so I can imagine it must be hard for your family to watch you love again. But they too were engraved by society and I will never blame them for that. While I had come to the realization that I was happy and fulfilled in T’s and my decision to love each other, it didn’t erase the “so soon” from everyone else. The words “rebound”, “emotional”, “unstable”, and “so soon” were certainly used. I’ve even heard “that guy” regarding T from an acquaintance. It was really hard at first and it took some getting used to. Being a widow/widower is hard enough and then you have to essentially stand on a stage and justify your romantic decisions to an audience full of questions when the time comes.
I won’t lie, I had the same thoughts regarding other widows prior to my experience as a widow. It’s a really nice high, white horse to be sitting on until you experience widowhood. I now regret my thoughts and completely understand that the widow/widower owns their own romantic choices after losing their spouse. You don’t own it. That is between them, their deceased spouse, God, and their next love. But with the way people treat the romantic lives of widow/widowers, it feels like it’s between you, your deceased spouse, God, your next love, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your next love’s friends, family, and acquaintances, the clerk at the grocery store you told your story to, and pretty much everyone else.
I do understand that all of it comes from a place of concern, a place of love, and “I care for you”, but in the end, you need to trust the widow/widower and their next love with their own hearts.
So, if you know a widow/widower and they are beginning to date, or they entered into a relationship “so soon”, be supportive and loving and stop throwing terms at them like “rebound” and “unstable”, because, in the end, their heart is theirs and God’s. Your job as their family member, friend, or acquaintance is to be empathetic and accepting. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. It takes only a little trust and observation. Are they joyful? Are they telling you they are fulfilled and feeling well? Why wouldn’t you want that for them? They own their grief and it’s theirs to move through, even if it means they love another while they do it.
I now sit, 13 months later, in my own home shared with T, dogs at my feet, Christopher’s pictures placed lovingly on the piano, writing this blog post with a full heart, bigger than it was before. Our hearts stretch when we fall in love again, not superimposing the love on the first, but making more room just as a mother does as she prepares for the coming of a second child. My family now loves T too. God provided everything that was necessary for life to settle into this wonderful place.
T is truly a blessing from God and the intercessions of my Christopher. I wholeheartedly believe that. He is compassionate, loving, empathetic, and so willing to share my heart with C. I don’t have to hide from my widowhood in my relationship with T. I can live with it and through it and love my C quadrant and my T quadrant of my heart equally. God has been so gracious and forgiving to me. I am so thankful. I am so full of love.
I hope this helps other widow/widowers out there who may be searching frantically on Google, ‘Falling in love so soon after losing a spouse. Am I a terrible person?’, by discovering my blog and realizing that “so soon” doesn’t really exist if we don’t own it for ourselves. Just love.