Dear Non-Widowed Community:
In almost every aspect of our life, we get to love more than one of something. We get to love multiple children…numerous friends…more than one pet…many different books, foods, places, etc. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we can love more than one partner? Why is it that when intimacy is involved, our heart has to be limited and has to play by some arbitrary “rule”?
My husband died. It was sudden and unexpected. I woke up one morning and went about my day as a married woman. Less than three hours later I was widowed.
How dare anyone tell me that I don’t have the right to continue to love the man I planned to spend the rest of my life with because I should be “over it” by now. My love isn’t a switch that I simply turn off because he’s no longer here. I get to mourn our relationship, our love and our future without society dictating when it’s time to stop. I should get to move forward, make dark widow jokes or cry like it’s Year 1, even though it’s Year 4, without being judged. I should get to live, laugh and be happy and not have the love for my spouse questioned.
I also get to date while missing my husband. I get to be swept off my feet and fall madly in love with another man while still missing my husband. I get to post silly pictures of my new love on Facebook on Tuesday and pour my heart out about my late-spouse four days later on what would have been our 10th wedding anniversary. You don’t get to tell me what’s acceptable or not. You have no right to grief shame me because you don’t “get it”.
I wish you’d understand, though I wouldn’t want you to experience my pain or that of anyone who has lost a spouse. Death is like an onion. There are multiple layers that are all intertwined. It’s losing health insurance coverage. It’s having to move to a new town, city or state. It’s losing friends. It’s being judged. It’s grieving children. It’s alcoholism. It’s suicide attempts. It’s kids who blame you. It’s grief sex. It’s isolation. It’s bad choices. It’s hell.
While I appreciate that you put on your black dress/suit and gave your condolences at the funeral, you got to go home – probably to your spouse – and return to normalcy. For me, the funeral was the easy part. It’s everything that came after and continues to come…
The widowed community is always being told to “get over it”. How can we? The life we knew is no more. We can’t go back. Hell, many of us can’t even recall our lives prior to our spouses. We were teens, young adults just making our way in the world. Our entire adult lives were our spouses. “Over” implies there is something to step into on the other side. What’s there beyond the unknown? Yes, one day we’ll get to a place of happiness and maybe even joy (and even then, we’ll miss our spouses), but we certainly don’t need you or society trying to push us off the ledge. We can tip-toe into the unknown or run wildly into the darkness, hoping the journey isn’t too long. And, we can also reserve the right to return to that grief ledge. As much as it sucks being there, it is familiar.
Spare me your shaming. Spare me your “it’s not fair to your new partner” diatribes. Spare me the social media comments on how it’s “weird” that I’m enjoying life one minute and crying the next. Spare me your non-widowed views on widowhood. Spare me your judgment.
I, and I alone, determine what my grief looks like and how it manifests itself in my life.
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.