A few months ago, a well-known and much respected actor mentioned in an interview that he still thinks about his late wife. People were shocked at this "stunning revelation", as the same actor has been happily remarried for a number of years.
This sort of "shocked" reaction begs an obvious question. Since when did remarriage become an equation formula that reads:
Remarried = Forgetting
This latest in a long line of widowed-myths implies that once remarried, the life previously lived somehow fades into oblivion because the widowed has now found new life with new love in it. Because of this new life, the remarried widowed is apparently never again sad or wistful because their late beloved is no longer here.
Conversely and equally perplexing is the companion myth that once a spouse has passed away, the widowed should assume an attitude that they have "caught their limit"; that once their beloved has passed away, a widowed's destiny is to remain alone and longing for a life that is no longer here to live. A widowed should thereafter resign themselves to functioning in life with grief and mourning as their core and living a destiny that they did not choose.
The reality of spousal loss that is so important for both the widowed and those who surround them to understand is that:
You can honor your past
You can treasure your past
You can and should love your past
You do not have to live in your past
When it comes to love, our hearts are truly without capacity or limits -- if this were not the case, we would each have only one child because how could our hearts possibly expand to love more than one? We all have an infinite capacity to love and should that be a widowed's choice, finding love in a new life can and should absolutely be part of their dynamic.
Love is also not mutually exclusive one of the other. Loving again does not mean that the love for a late beloved somehow goes away. It doesn't. Furthermore, loving again does not dishonor or disrespect the person who is no longer here, nor does it disrespect the memory of that person. This is a concept that can create a fair amount of discord (especially within families) when a widowed finds companionship or love once again.
People who surround the remarried or re-partnered widowed can also interpret newfound happiness as not grieving "right", not having experienced grief at all, completely "forgetting" the past (as if that is even possible) or believing that we have collectively dusted off our hands and are glancing around as if to say, "OK, that's done and over with.... who's next?" The fact is that even in a wonderful new life, things like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, "angelversaries" (the date of a late spouse's death) and children realizing various life milestones can all serve as painful reminders that someone who a widowed loves without measure is no longer here to celebrate, witness and in general, be a part of a life that was built with love
Almost thirteen years after losing my late husband, I can tell you without reservation that I still love him and I still treasure the life that we had together. However, I have also moved forward into a beautiful new life. Eleven years old when her daddy passed away, our daughter Kendall is now a young adult who enjoys a thriving career. After seven years of widowhood, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man in 2007 (who actually fell in love with me too), we married in 2009 and together, with my fantastic English daughter Michelle, we have built a beautiful blended family. To top it all off, I have the privilege of being on a mission of service and support to others in need.
Now, by living this incredible new life, does that mean that I have forgotten about or betrayed my past life? Absolutely not. Does it mean that after Mike died, I should have stayed inside the house in my pajamas and kept the blinds closed forever? What would that have accomplished? I chose instead to grieve in my way, in my time, help my daughter with and through her own grief recovery and slowly, yet steadily, move into a life of my own design - a design that happily included new love and new adventures to go along with that love.
The love that you have for your late beloved will never go away. Not ever. Not with the passage of time. Not with the introduction of a new person into your life and into your heart. Not with the 8 jillion people around you saying things like, "Well you should be over it by now". I am honoring Mike's legacies of love and service by continuing to move forward; by modeling the best example that I can for my daughters, by serving a community that I love and by building a family and living a life with my Dave, whom I love deeply. By doing all of these things, I am indeed honoring the legacies of love and service that Mike left to us to carry forward.
You can do the same, if and when you choose to do so.
Remarriage does not equal forgetting -- let no one tell you otherwise. Loving again does not imply lack of or the end of love for the past. You are not destined to remain in mourning forever... that isn't why you are here. Embrace and carry forward the legacies that were entrusted to you by your late beloved. If you choose it, living your new life can include companionship... and love. Choose carefully, choose wisely -- and love again abundantly.
Because you can.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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