The title refers to Caleb's bit of dating advice for me. But I am getting ahead of myself. At the first year anniversary of Rob's death I went to a memorial event. The speaker was an older man who had been widowed. He spoke about how when he started dating again it was met with a range of emotions from those close to him and none of them were joy. He said, "It is really hard for your friends and family to accept you having another partner." At the time this was so far from my mind that I considered it largely irrelevant. It felt like a really weird topic.
Fast forward a few years and I get it. When I started dating a man I think most of my friends and family experienced it as another grief event. My new partner was not Rob. Not Rob at all. In any case I was surprised by the amount of judgement I felt come my way. I know it is because people care about me and are protective but it wasn't easy.
I have been on the other end of this myself. I have a brother in law who lost his wife in his mid 40's. We all felt like he started dating "too early". Now it makes me crazy when people who have not lost a spouse are judged by those who have one sitting by their side. When you lose your spouse you gain a very acute sense of how short life is. There is no timeline other than what is going on in your heart. I really believe how ready you are is in equal measure to how comfortable your new partner is in having this third person in your relationship. There are some things that you can not process until someone starts to inhabit those sore spots in you. I remember early on with E, I was doing dishes at his sink and a wave of grief washed over me, I think because it was a small step towards love which in some way meant away from Rob. I found E under a sink working on a pipe. I stood there with tears in my eyes and said, "I am having a moment." He got up and wrapped me in the safest harbor of his arms and crook of his neck. And he just held me. Later we were on the couch and I could feel myself falling in love with him and once again I was engulfed in grief and tears. I realized if I loved again I would be setting myself up for this whole process all over. It felt like I was standing at the edge of a giant abyss. Once again he just listened and held me. I have a pact with myself to talk about Rob every single time he comes into my head which back then was several times a day. E never batted an eye. When I asked him about this once he replied easily, "You are in love with two men. You always will be. I get that." I don't think it is possible to be in a relationship with someone who requires you to censor yourself. I know I couldn't handle that. He is helping me to process my grief.
A few days ago would have been my 25th wedding anniversary. Its a little less dramatic because Rob and I both always forgot our anniversary. I had spent the evening with E and was driving home. I was crossing the high bridge over the Mississippi and had the windows down and the radio cranked and I just burst into tears. I'm not sure I knew what I was crying about but the visual was of two streams dovetailing in my heart. I think it was loss and gratitude combined as one. Bittersweet. This is the thing about grief, it is always evolving and reacting to the present.
I am a trained end-of-life doula. I provide guidance and support for individuals and families during the end-of-life process.