When someone questions a widow for dating or assumes she’s “over” her spouse, it really feels like a stab to the chest.
How does one “get over” having their heart shattered or their world flipped inside out. How does one “get over” seeing children hurt for their father or develop behavioral problems as a response to his death?
While it’s true that we’re now dating, we are in no way “over” our loss. Let me explain how our husbands (and the love we continue to have for our late spouses) may continue to be at the forefront of our minds even while dating:
You’d think we’d get a pass in life, having gone through such a horrific set of circumstances. But the reality is, widowhood hardly gets us any “perks”. Hell, it barely gets us sympathy.
When it comes to dating, announcing “Widowed” as a relationship status can bring out the dregs of the dating pool – from scammers who think we have a nest egg that we naively want to give away to help get his $30 million “inheritance” to the pervy adulterer who thinks we’ll settle for his “charm” because we’re “horny” or “desperate”.
If we opt to wait until we build rapport with someone before “dropping the widow bomb” (thanks, Michelle Miller), it can send them running for the hills. And, God-forbid we lost a spouse to suicide…we’re questioned about what we did to cause the death or it’s assumed we’ll will “drive” a new partner to the same fate.
We can only be rejected so many times before we start longing for the familiarity of our spouse. Despite a happy or bad marriage, he was familiar. We knew what we were getting with our spouse.
Dating reminds us of what we don’t have…what we long for…what we miss.
We meet a guy who has passed the sniff test. He seems great and he understands all the “crazy” that comes with widowhood. Now, the comparisons start.
It’s not intentional but we often expect him to automatically “get us” the way our spouses did (something we forget that it took years, if not decades to develop with our late spouses).
If there’s an argument or disagreement, we miss our husbands that much more because if they were here, we wouldn’t be dealing with the growing pains of a new relationship.
We would know how to solve the problem and get the relationship back on track. We’d know our spouse would fix it. We’d know we can get through it the way we’ve gotten through hard times before.
This relationship is new.
We miss familiarity.
We now have history with the new guy. We’ve learned each other’s corners and curves. We’re on a great path. Then it happens…the conversation about our “future”.
We love him and under normal circumstances, marriage or moving in together would be the next logical step. But we hold back, we’re afraid. And, before you say it’s because the guy isn’t the “right” person for us, that’s far from the truth. It’s not him, it’s us.
Every new phase of our lives seems to draw us farther and farther away from life as we once knew it: When we talked about our future with our spouse. When we imagined growing old together and having a house full of grandchildren. When we talked about renewing our vows and taking the honeymoon we put off for so long.
Sometimes, a future with our new partner is a trigger and a reminder of all the things we’ll never experience with our late spouse.
It’s like smiling with joy while blinking away sad tears…tears for what could have been.
We miss our spouses but we also know there is nothing we can humanly do to bring them back. At some point, we do emerge from the black hole of grief and want to feel “normal” again. Please know that if we opt to date, it in no way means we are “over” the loss.
Our grief is ever-present…even in dating and new relationships.
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.