As the year winds to a close, there will be resolutions to exercise more, take vacations and spend time with family. For many in the widowed community, the game plan for 2017 is getting back into the swing of life and emerging from the black hole of grief. The holidays were a doozy for most of us, with some going backwards in the grieving process. Much of the progress made in the earlier part of 2016 was all but wiped out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. It’s okay though. The new year offers more opportunities for growth and healing.
Part of that healing for some is opening their heart to love again. With that being said, I’d like to share something with the family, friends, in-laws and church members of these widows/widowers who feel compelled to pass judgement about their choice to begin dating:
You don’t get the right to be cuddled up next to your husband/wife of 10, 20 or 50 years and criticize someone who is widowed for exploring his or her dating options. Forgive me if I’m just a bit miffed that you’re gossiping about your next door neighbor while shopping for your New Year’s Eve gown to attend your husband’s company party. Let’s pause as I roll my eyes at your disgust for the widower who posted about his first date night since the loss of his wife.
In fairness to you, let’s talk about your issue with the widow/widower in your life. You think it’s “too soon”; they haven’t grieved the right way; it’s not proper for a woman with children to date; or they are dishonoring their late-spouse.
To that, I say:
Who made you the authority on widowhood, grieving or post-loss dating? Did you come up with these “rules” before or after you kissed your own spouse goodnight?
Though I wish you a long, successful marriage filled with love that lasts a lifetime, please don’t voice your opinions about our lives until you’ve lost a spouse. And even then, no two widowed journeys are alike.
“You say you know love and my dating “so soon” means I didn’t love my spouse. Let me correct you because if you know love like you say you do, then you’d want me to have that again.”
Lose your spouse and then tell me how long before you start missing the love and companionship that comes with a relationship. Try watching cancer take its toll on your wife’s beautiful body. Go without your needs being met emotionally and physically because you’re so consumed with making sure the kids are “okay” as they see their mother become a shell of herself. Tell me about being in an unfulfilling marriage fraught with adultery and abuse; watch as he storms off because you’ve had enough; then awaken to the police saying he’s killed himself. How long would you wait to be loved the way you deserve? Why does my Chapter 2 bother you so?
You say you know love and my dating “so soon” means I didn’t love my spouse. Let me correct you because if you know love like you say you do, then you’d want me to have that again. You’d want my light, now dim from the pain of losing my beloved spouse, to shine again.
While we’ll certainly live our lives on our own terms (we know firsthand the fragility of life), your judgment hurts. In the same manner you’ll celebrate the upcoming engagements and marriages of your single friends and family, we’d like you to celebrate our milestones. It was hell getting to this place of opening my heart to the possibility of love again.
There will also be judgment for our being part of a Young, Widowed & Dating community. I’ve seen it time and time again: members worried about being judged by family, friends, in-laws and fellow church congregants on Facebook because of the group’s name. Members have gotten messages from loved ones saying they can’t believe they are part of such a group. “Dating already?” they’ll inquire. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. However, we do reserve the right to do so if we want to, without judgement from you.
This post originally appeared on the website Young, Widowed & Dating. YW&D is dedicated to helping the young, widowed community restart their heart after the death of their spouse.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.