Happiness Is For Other People

Image of woman like DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley sitting on table

“I need space,” he said.

“I need to see you,” you replied.

“I need time,” he said.

“I need to see you,” you replied again.

He pulled. You pushed. It became clear that it was ending and yet you held on to the hope that it was not.

“Please don’t let this fall apart,” you thought. Maybe you even said it out loud.

But it was over. That brief affair, the one that had helped you through the darkest days of winter, was fading as the spring approached.

And you were heartbroken.

Your friends tried to console you. “You will find love again,” they said.

But they didn’t know. They didn’t know what it felt like to try again after tragic loss. They didn’t know the bravery it took to look into someone else’s eyes and say, “I will let you in, at least a little.” They didn’t know what it feels like to be so terribly alone and then to get a tiny reprieve from that horror….only to have it taken away.

“This man will not hurt me,” you had thought. He had kind eyes and a great laugh and steady hands. He would not play games with you.

And he didn’t. He was honest and he was good. But that was part of the problem.

You thought, maybe, that he was falling for you and that, maybe, you were falling for him. It didn’t feel like love – not yet – but you could imagine that possibility someday. The hope existed, anyway.

But it only existed for you.

And because of that, he hurt you.

The heartbreak was not like losing the love of your life. You’d done that before and you knew it was not at all the same. But it had been a risk – a big one – to open up your heart again. The crush that you felt after it was over was much, much worse than you had expected.

How could you let yourself be vulnerable again? How could you let your heart – the one that’s still so wounded – be available like that? What were you thinking?

You were thinking that you could be happy again.

You weren’t thinking about getting remarried or having a whole other life. You weren’t getting caught up in fairy-tale dreams. But you were thinking that happiness might be in your life again, in some other form than it once had been, in some other way than you had imagined years ago.

But you don’t get happiness, at least not right now.

Because happiness is for other people.

24 Replies to “Happiness Is For Other People”

  1. Hmmmm….Sigh…..
    ‘…happiness is for other people’
    I know.

    1. I know. It’s not exactly uplifting. But, if it’s any consolation, I feel better today. More whole.

  2. Thanks, as always, for your honest writing.
    Sending love, hugs, and chocolate….
    Your fellow widow of the Northwest Indiana kind.

    1. Thank you for reading! Especially this post. It was a tough one to write.

  3. I certainly can relate to this. I’m not sure which is worse the fear of being alone or of letting someone else close to you again. I think love is possible again, but I do think it will be different than the one you shared with the father of your children and that in itself seems a little bit lonely.

    1. Oh, yes, that is so true. It’s one of the reasons I can’t really imagine getting re-married. But maybe, maybe, I can do this dating thing.

  4. You are very brave. At this stage on my grieving journey I can’t imagine being with another man because every one I meet is always compared with the husband I lost. I think that means I’m not ready. And if that time comes….well….I’d be terrified of going through what you have described so well. Not ready for that pain.

    1. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think it will always be like this. But I think I had to go through this kind of heartbreak for my first relationship after Shawn – it was just likely to turn out this way. I was sad it ended like it did, but I think (now, in retrospect) it made me stronger.

  5. Jeff Tayloe MS Ed. NBCT, NC LPC (retired) says: Reply

    I had a patient tell me one time that she knew she was not ready for an intimate relationship if she woke up the next day thinking about her deceased husband. I think she wanted me to give her direction in a passive aggressive sort of way. I said, “ tell me more about when you wake up,”

    She talked about how her children ( teens) reminded her of her late husband. How she could still smell her husband in her home ( in a good way!), how she accepted his death but had not accepted life without him. In time, she found love again, we met monthly for check ups for a few years to move towards accepting life without him.

    One experience but not necessarily your reality. Keep moving forward.

    1. This is beautiful. Kelly (my friend who’s a therapist) often uses the phrase “tell me more” and it’s been so helpful to get this type of re-frame on an issue.

      1. I just happened upon your site today and just also “broke up” with the first relationship I had after my husband’s passing..he’s been gone almost three years. The waves of grief last week were terrible..as if I was channeling all the grief from my husband’s passing into this break up too…to make myself so vulnerable and end up with someone who was so needy who needed me to prop him up! I’ve retreated and decided that there are lessons here and time by myself yet again and just with my kids will help me gain clarity

        1. Yes – as I said many times to my dear friends Kelly and Paige after this breakup: I know I’m not actually this sad about the breakup. I’m sad about losing Shawn and the breakup REMINDS me of all that I lost. It’s like the breakup re-triggered all of those emotions from the previous year. Hang in there. It’s such a hard time.

  6. It’s a terrifying tug of war to meet someone new. Who are you loyal to? Is it too soon? Do you deserve to be happy when he can never have that again because he’s dead? Then there are the comparisons, the expectations that you never realized you had of a partner, the emotional highs and devastating lows. But the reality is, you are still alive and YOU aren’t dead. You deserve to be happy, hopeful, satisfied… really, you do. So this one wasn’t the forever kind of guy. Thank you, next! You are alive and you DO deserve to live that life as more than a grieving widow and mother. Don’t be scared, just keep going out there….

    1. That’s the plan! I think, at least, I’m blessed to have been loved so completely by Shawn that I know what real love can look like and feel like. And I know Shawn would want that for me again.

  7. As I look back on my unsuccessful first attempt at dating from the widowsphere, I’m actually sort of glad (now) that it threw me some curves along the way. I may still not be able to hit them as they hurtle toward me, but at least I can recognize them when I see them. I’m not scared of trying again, and I’m smarter. You sure don’t seem scared, so you’re undoubtedly smarter. Live, learn, repeat. What else is there?

    1. Love this – “live, learn, repeat. What else is there?”

      That’s the best we all can do. I’m not ready to stop trying.

  8. It takes courage even to contemplate how to move forward, much less to take the risk of actually trying to do so. You are indeed very brave.

    1. Thanks my friend!

  9. Who’s interested in an a 60 something widower? I am not ready for happiness. I feel like there is a lot more grief to go. She passed last Nov after eight difficult years fighting the cancer. After being married for 35 years I am a complete stranger to the idea of someone else. After the cancer, happiness is episodic, certainly something ephemeral, very elusive…life seems to have a dusky hue, not bright like it used to be…perhaps, at best the thin golden light of late fall…beautiful but waning. Godspeed.

    1. I get that. I think everyone needs to get through a certain amount of the grief before even entertaining the idea of dating. It’s daunting! And somedays I don’t feel ready….so I don’t engage with men. Other days, I’m ready. I am trying to think of it not as a linear path, but more as something I can try at the moments when it feels right.

  10. I finally had to realize that this was not like the last time I was single and in my twenties. This is a whole new phase. In my case, I have gone through thirty years of marriage, I have a disabled daughter, and I am in my almost seventy years.
    It can’t ever be exactly the same as that first falling in love. I’m different There is as ABP put it: a lot more grief to go”. And it can actually be at moments better or even amazing. No choice here: I gotta embrace it or stagger through it! And find out what’s here for me now.

    1. Oh, for REAL. I met Shawn when I was 22. At 40, everyone I might date has some sort of story, usually one tinged with regret or pain (or both.) But that is the reality of the world, I guess. Good luck to you.

  11. working through her closets…new clothes for her and our daughter…outdoor things…scads of brand new healthcare stuff…and enough pills for an apothecary…all to hold on to life…she’s here, her scent …I so love her…what we were…where did it go? Why did it go? Why did she have to suffer so greatly?

    1. There is never an answer for this. It is only the answer that my dad gives: life is unfair. But sometimes it seems so desperately unfair.

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