One of the hardest parts of being a widow is the loneliness. Whether you have been married a short time or a long time, being alone is hard. It really is true that two hearts become one and when that heart is suddenly ripped in two, it obviously leaves a void.
Those morning conversations turn into toast alone and pillow talk turns into laying in bed worrying about the same worries as the night before while listening to the white noise of the television until you fall asleep from sheer boredom. The one person you want to hold onto, the one person you want to share your grief with, is gone. Your spouse is your best friend and lover, a tangible dream come true–and now, they are gone. That is hard to grasp.
It takes a long time to come to terms with such a loss. At some point, you will miss that companionship so badly that you will want to date. You will probably wonder if it’s time. This will probably be a struggle for you. After all, you didn’t want to be separated from your spouse, you didn’t have a choice. You were probably still very much in love when they were ripped from your life. Putting that to the side to date is difficult, at best.
There are a few things you should know as you think about venturing into the realm of dating.
1) When will I be ready to date? Being a widow is complicated. A broken heart isn’t like a broken bone: there is no time frame when you are healed and go back to your normal life. And there is no time frame in which everyone will magically feel better. You might have a good day and then several bad days. Being a widow is a journey. There will be moments even 10 years from now when something tugs at your heart and brings you sadness. Does that mean you should never date? No. Does it mean you have to wait 1 year or 10 years? That is up to you. Chances are, when you decide to date again, you will feel like you are betraying your husband or that you are not ready–no matter how long you wait. For me, I waited about 6 months. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but I knew I was desperately lonely.
2) Where do you find men? I tried online dating, but it wasn’t for me. I met two men and wasn’t impressed. I figured when it was right, someone would come along. Whether it was mutual friends or someone random. I started making time to do something by myself while my mom watched the kids. Once a week I went out, usually with friends. Sometimes just shopping or a movie alone. I would go eat alone. Sounds counter-productive, but actually, it was very nice. My friends took a very active role in finding men to introduce to me. Instead of being embarrassed, I just let it go and went with the flow of things.
3) Kids and dating. Depending on the age, of course, you kids will have different reactions. The only one who was critical of me dating again was my 7-year-old. To her, it was the ultimate careless abandonment of my marriage. If you think death is hard for us to grab ahold of, imagine being seven and trying to understand death and dating. To her, I was changing who I was and I didn’t care about them or their dad. She didn’t know my pain because while I let her know I was sad, I never let her know the depth of pain I felt because I sheltered her from it. I didn’t want the weight of my pain to weigh on her. It was a very conscious decision. And, of course I was changing, I couldn’t survive that experience and stay the same–it wasn’t possible. She also felt like I was all she had and now I was giving myself to someone else. She didn’t understand how I could love them and need to be separate from them sometimes. She didn’t understand I was a woman and a mother. So, I listened and we talked, and by that what I mean is, I talked and she screamed at me through tears. There is no doubt it was hard to take her abuse (which of course I understood) while not unloading all my problems on her, but I did it. I think now, as a 19-year-old, she can understand better, but probably still harbors questions as she remembers things as a seven-year old little girl.
Dating will be as much of a challenge as it is interesting. Don’t let the process and definition overwhelm you. Set out to find a good friend. If it develops, fantastic. If it fizzles, its okay–maybe you will at least keep a friend. Perhaps the first step, and only real step you need to take is deciding if you are ready to accept what comes your way. Then, just be willing to see what happens. Just enjoy things as they come. If we have learned anything as widows and widowers, it’s that life doesn’t knock and we have to live every moment for exactly what it is.
My girlfriends would ask me if I was looking for Mr. Right. I would tell them Mr. Right Now would do. Who knew when Mr. Right would come along? Randy and I were so close that I really just missed my best friend. My girlfriends were great, but they weren’t a man. My girlfriends set out to find someone for me. They did just that. We became friends, we didn’t rush it. In fact, he was interested in someone else and I was okay with that. We dated casually and I was okay with that. Eventually, when I knew I was falling, I let him know. I also let him know he had to make a choice between her and me because I was a single mom and didn’t have time to play games–I wanted to know where we stood. I told him that I wanted him to be there, but didn’t need him to be there. I certainly didn’t want him to be there if he didn’t want to be. If he didn’t want to be there, I was okay with that. I had no problems moving on and not hating him–as long as he was honest. We started to become more serious.
I still had some intense issues with loss and I know my counselor worried about me and the situation. I really was enjoying life again (more often than not). Instead of falling asleep worrying, I fell asleep wondering when I’d see him again or if he really liked me or what movie would we watch. A welcomed change of pace. I always kept in mind I had kids, so was never reckless. I was careful about who I spent my time with. Sometimes I stayed gone too much, no doubt. Eventually, I enjoyed being out and made a decision or two that were not the smartest. I learned from them though, and just kept moving forward. The point of it is to explore and learn who you are again. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact, there is a freedom.
I will post ‘Dating Again Pt. 2: Moving From Short-Term to Long-Term
next Monday, April 15.
**Note: As always, this is based on my experience. There is no timeline to follow or an exact path that is right or wrong. You have to do what you need to do in the time frame you feel comfortable doing it in. I can only share what I experienced, what I thought, and how it worked for me. My hope in writing this is to answer some questions you might have about this topic. If I don’t answer them, feel free to ask in the comment section, or email me privately. While I try to be honest, I don’t always tell every single thought or experience I had just because it might take too much time to read. It doesn’t mean I didn’t have the thought or wouldn’t be willing to talk about it with you. I’m always willing to talk.