Two weeks ago, I texted a few friends to ask where I could get the best fresh crab meat. I told them I was making a special Valentine’s Day dinner for Chris, and I wanted it to be perfect. They were helpful, but also teased me a bit: how cute was it that I actually was fawning all over my husband on Valentine’s Day? Ah, newlywed love!
I smiled at their texts, thinking about how funny it was that I was back in the stage of “new love.” Making a special Valentine’s day dinner, and thinking about it two weeks ahead of time!
I try to not be too obnoxious about how in love I am with my husband around my friends. I remember times when I was jealous of friends who were newly in love when I wasn’t – my sister, for example, when she first met her husband and I had two tiny little kids and was overstretched to the max. It made me wish I was back in that stage with Shawn. New love is a time period that is difficult to forget.
So now that I’m back in it, I am aware that it might be obnoxious to be constantly telling everyone (married, widowed, or otherwise single) that I’m “happier than ever!” I mean, yes, I know I make comments about being happy with Chris, but I try and keep it under control. I don’t want to be that woman.
I think about it with this blog, too.
I get a lot of mail about falling in love after losing a spouse, and I always try and consider how my responses might fall on the person reading them. I try never to say something obnoxious like, “I found love when I least expected it” because that’s annoying and also because that would be a lie. I mean, in my blog post from Valentine’s day two years ago, not long before I started dating Chris, I wrote about the proactive steps I was taking to date and make myself emotionally available for new love. I wanted it.
Love didn’t just “fall in my lap” even though I did marry my best friend’s brother. I was out there and looking for it.
I also think it’s a fallacy to imagine that it’s easy to find love again after loss. It is not. I get a lot of mail about the difficulty of dating as a widow, too. Here are just a few of the public comments I’ve gotten over the years (randomly chosen and edited, but there would be hundreds, if I actually took the time to compile them all):
I’ve found the pool of viable partners is so much smaller than it was when we were younger. The good ones truly are taken; those left are single for a reason. It’s a difficult situation to find yourself in when you don’t want to be alone forever.
Being alone for the rest of my life seems impossible but so does finding someone new to love with all that comes with (especially the meeting, dating and being emotionally available to someone else).
I don’t know if I ever remarry again, but I would like to fall in love again…(yet) I find the prospect of dating or even meeting suitable men very difficult and daunting. Being a mom to a young child makes it even more difficult. I have yet to meet someone of the caliber of my late husband.
And all I can say is I GET IT. Every word. I’ve been in that emotional space and it’s really tough.
I think about these types of comments when I talk about Chris on the blog, when I write about our love, and when I think about what to say on my first Valentine’s Day as a remarried widow.
Am I a good representative of the widowed community anymore? Does anyone actually want to hear about how happy I am on this day, how great my husband is, how I could spend all day with him and never need anyone else?
I know! I don’t think I’d want to read that either, at least not when I was in a place where dating felt daunting.
I remember the feeling I had back then – one where I was always wanting more. More fun, more adventure, and yes, more love. My readers could feel it too.
One of them wrote to me back in early 2020, telling me about her own widowhood and reminding me that it was okay if things weren’t going at a fast pace:
It takes time to grieve, adjust, let go. It’s doesn’t happen all at once. Sometimes when I read your blog (I’ve read every post) I get the sense you are impatient with the process. It takes time.
I wrote her right back:
I’m doing what I’ve always done, which is to be as proactive as I can. I agree that it takes time, but I also think that sometimes it doesn’t – I really do think that some of it comes down to luck. Some of my widowed friends have met a significant other early, and some never have. But yes, I’m impatient for love because, well, it’s an awesome thing to have.
I appreciated the comment, mostly because it was from a fellow widow. But I also appreciate my response from two years ago. Sometimes, you need to allow yourself the time and space that it takes to find someone new. It’s also okay to be impatient. But patient or not, sometimes it’s really just all about luck.
You may meet someone great. You may not. I wish there was a better answer I could give, a way I could tell every widow that “you will fall in love again if you want to, I promise!” but of course I can’t write that.
And yet, I hope that by telling my story, by letting you know a bit about my life with Chris, I’m not painting a picture that is nauseating or unrealistic. Chris is truly wonderful, but he’s human. So am I. I wanted to find love, and I eventually did, but it was not without a lot of times where my grief was re-triggered and the heartbreak was deep. New love was never guaranteed – not for me, and not for anyone. I don’t take it for granted that I had some really good luck.
I’m in a happy place now, but if you’re not there, I see you. Valentine’s Day can be one of those days that feels like an extra gut punch.
So I won’t overshare about the dinner I have planned, because really, who needs that? But I will say this: I’m really in love with my husband.
It’s a sentence I never imagined I’d write again – or at least, not in reference to someone other than Shawn.
Years ago, when writing about the horror of dating, another widow wrote me to encourage me. “Best wishes as you continue to work through this. I am sure we are all hoping for happiness for you again. You are us.”
I’m not sure I represent even a tiny subset of widows. But her comment made me feel good. Even if our stories were wildly different, my pain was once something that could connect me with other widows. Now, my world is different, but I bring a bit of that past with me, even on Valentine’s Day. I am so happy. And I hope I still can reach out to widows in all kinds of circumstances, and they might see just a bit of a something in me that makes them say again, “You are us.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.