When I met my hubby, I was in a long-distance relationship with a college classmate. I was honest and upfront with my hubby but not quite so open with my boyfriend. Eventually I realized that I loved them both and knew I had to make a choice. Obviously, my hubby won.

Now, I continue to love two men. My circumstances have changed since I was a young 23 year old finding my way in the world but my heart is again consumed with love for two different men. This time the circumstances are different through.

On one hand, I have my late spouse. A man I love in a way I never thought possible. They say you’re complete and no other person has the power to make you whole because you already are. But this man…he balanced me. He was everything I wasn’t. Bold. Uninhibited. Confident to the point of arrogance yet he’d give you the shirt of his back. He was my other half.

Then there is my new guy. Never in a million years did I think I could fall for someone who is so completely the opposite of all I thought I needed. But here he was, the first guy I dated post loss. He brought a quiet strength to my life. He was patient, thoughtful, kind and understanding. He’s helped me understand my grieving on days when nothing at all makes sense. He’s been my rock as I navigate this widowed journey – despite being five years into it.

But unlike college, I cannot simply make a choice. How do I close off my heart to someone I had no ill will towards? My husband died. There was no break up, no divorce, no ending of the relationship. He just died. One morning I was married and by 8 a.m. I was widowed.

How do I turn off my love in a situation like that? How can I stop loving him when I feel robbed of the future we’d planned together. We never got to see our story play out. We never even had the chance to say goodbye. Where does a heart full of love go to unpack when a spouse is ripped from your life with no warning…no signs?

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In my twisted, weird widow world, I get to love two men. I’m not forced to renounce my love for one in order to love the other. My heart doesn’t need to be drained of the love for my late spouse in order to be filled with love for my new guy. My heart loves both – without robbing the other of anything. I don’t have to put out the flame burning for a man taken much too quickly for my heart to be ignited again.

It’s not a competition where one must have all my love or none at all. They are both loved wholly and completely, yet separately.

At times, there is guilt for loving two men. It feels like a betrayal to love again, to be this happy again. But still we push through because we know we are deserving of this new love. After the death, the sadness, the hopelessness, the pain, we are entitled to happiness. We reserve the right to love our spouses and our new partners…without whispers, without judgement, without gossip.

Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

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