It had been so long since you felt butterflies. After what felt like a lifetime of scrolling and swiping, you finally were able to connect with someone who was “normal”.
Perhaps, you reconnected with a former classmate a few years after the death of your spouse. It was great reminiscing about your youth and the different paths your lives have taken.
Regardless of the circumstances that led you to him, it felt good to be wanted and appreciated. The random text messages to say he was thinking about you made you smile; something you hadn’t done much of over the past few years.
The conversations that went on forever…the kiss that made your heart flutter. You never imagined you’d find your own “Chapter 2”, a term used by many widows to describe their new love.
There was such internal turmoil as your feelings for him grew stronger. It felt at times that you were betraying your marriage vows. Yes, they said ‘til death do us part’ but that doesn’t erase a lifetime of love. You still long for and miss your spouse at times. Yet you’re falling for your new guy and even imagining a future together.
You struggled with telling your friends and family that you were officially dating, that you’d found a guy worthy of inviting into you and your children’s lives. And when you did, the judgment was swift.
“You hadn’t grieved long enough,” they said. “It’s too soon,” they argued. “…but what about my brother…Didn’t you love him?” his sister will ask.
You knew in your heart, they were wrong. You’d taken as much time as you needed to sit with your grief. You weren’t 100 percent ‘ready’ but which widow ever is? You felt more ready than not and decided to open your heart to love again.
The courtship was a whirlwind romance and everything fell into place. Both his children and yours got along, your families liked each other, and he respected your grief. There were no angry outbursts about your emotional state on the anniversary of your late-spouse’s death or his birthday. No, on those days, he just loved you a little harder until you found your way through the darkness.
Whether you chose to live together, have a commitment ceremony (damn you Social Security for telling widows we shouldn’t get married until 60!), or an actual wedding, you felt you were finally getting a second chance to live out your happily ever after.
Everything was perfect…until it wasn’t.
Somewhere along the line, there was a change. You may not be able to pinpoint exactly where the first crack in the foundation started but something caused your relationship to sour to the point where it was best for you both to go your separate ways.
The pain of the relationship ending took you right back to the day you lost your spouse…when your world crumbled around you. Then the embarrassment set in…was everyone right about your decision to move forward with your life? You questioned yourself over and over again, beating yourself up for involving your children in what feels like yet another death. You rolled the dice and you lost.
I want you to know that you did not “lose”. You took a chance on love when so many widows feel trapped in their grief, unable to make their way out. You stared grief in the face and chose to live despite the crappy hand you were given. You didn’t allow fear to stop you from living or prevent you from loving again.
I know it feels like you’re broken, that you have nothing left to give. Please know that love never dies. The heart has ability to love even when it’s shattered. You’ve heard the expression, “Broken crayons still color”, right? The same is true of the heart.
Don’t allow this ending to make you bitter or jaded. You should absolutely grow from the experience and learn from mistakes, but don’t ever close your heart to love. If friends, family and your in-laws want to talk, let them. They couldn’t walk the first 10 steps in your shoes and handle it with such grace and dignity.
Though you can’t control others’ behaviors, thoughts or actions, you have power over your own destiny. Will the break-up or divorce cause you to return to the dark hole you crawled out after the death of your spouse or will you continue to walk boldly in your truth and purpose?
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.