Let’s talk about the “D” word. No…the other one.
No, I’m not dating but the general topic has been on my mind lately. I’m guessing our thoughts and feelings about this are likely as different as our grief stories – as individual as our grief. There’s no right way, no wrong way, there’s what feels right for you.
Do you want to know how and why my thoughts turned to the D-word? It happened about a month ago when a producer for a major network morning show contacted me. She was working on a segment about widows and asked that I call her ASAP as she was on a tight deadline. After I Googled her name to make sure the email wasn’t SPAM, I freaked out and nearly fainted from excitement and nerves. I finally worked up the confidence and courage to call her back. She explained she was looking for a recent (less than two years) widow who had just begun dating. She wanted to hear about the joys, the struggles, and the complexities involved.
I have to admit, I was tempted to quickly download Tinder, Christian Mingle, Match or whatever people are using these days, just so I wouldn’t miss this amazing opportunity to talk about grief and grace to more people! But, that wouldn’t be honest. DARN IT!!! So instead I explained that I was nowhere near dating. I told her I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready. I explained how I needed to first heal my heart and work through my grief before I’d ever be able to share my heart fully with another person. Because someone worthy of dating should be worthy of my whole heart, not just a broken piece of it, right?
I suggested a new angle, still hoping this might be the big break I’ve been praying for. I wanted the chance to be honest about grief to a larger audience. I really wanted the opportunity to get real about all of it with a national audience because how many more people might feel less alone if we could just talk about grief in a truthful way? I suggested it would be an interesting angle if they booked widows at different stages of their life. One, not even close to ready (ME!), one who had just begun dating, and perhaps one who had recently remarried. She seemed to like that angle and said they’d consider it.
But, I never heard back again. This was a major disappointment but I was also a little relieved because – AGH! The Today Show!
Ever since that day, dating has been on my mind. Not in the sense that I want to date (not even close), but just the concept of it. I think about how and when this transformation happens to the widowed. I wonder if I’ll ever be in that place or if I’ll just get more comfortable with being alone.
Recently I had a very vivid dream about dating. I was on ABC’s “The Bachelor” as my current self – an overweight, 45 year old widow. I was wearing yoga pants and a #momlife t-shirt (except this wasn’t funny in the dream). Despite my age and appearance, I was really connecting with the super hunky 30-something bachelor. Ashley O., a 24-year-old dental hygienist from Chicago who loves dolphins and Pilates kept doing the “can I steal him for a minute” to me and in the end, I didn’t get a rose. Well, that dream was ridiculous. But it was proof the whole dating thing was really swirling through my mind.
Being widowed at age 44 left me in a weird spot. Not young enough to have the bulk of my life ahead of me, but not old enough to just completely settle into living out the rest of my days alone either. I feel stuck in the middle. I still have young(ish) kids to raise and that certainly is my main focus, time and energy. But also, I’m not 100% certain I want to grow old alone. That sounds lonely and scary. I mean what if I get sick? There’s no one to care for me or love me through it anymore. And then there are just the normal parts of life – the simple joys. A beautiful sunset, something hilarious on TV – these are the simple things that make me miss doing life with someone who loves me. I wish I could still share life with my husband. But wishing really doesn’t help.
When I think about maybe sharing my life again, I don’t imagine it as romantic – just a companionship thing. Maybe once the kids are grown I’d be open to a nice friend who would just do regular things with me, like sit with me at church, go to movies, out to dinner, or maybe even vacations. Nothing physically intimate, just friendship – someone to enjoy life with but then he could just go on his merry way to his own home. That’s as far open as my mind and heart are at this time. And that’s ok.
I’m also reminded of the permissions I sometimes receive from people. Friends, family, even strangers like to weigh in sometimes. I’m told that I’m young and that I’ll probably remarry one day. I think it was their way of giving me their consent and support. I suppose that’s a nice gesture? Although it always feels odd and uncomfortable when people say things like this because frankly, it’s none of their business. It also feels a little bit like pressure or an expectation of sorts. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I’m trying to mourn my husband here, so maybe we should wait awhile before bringing up the idea of a second spouse? And by awhile I mean never. If it ever gets mentioned, it should probably be by me, dontchathink?
When I hear of other widows or widowers remarrying, sometimes soon after the death of their spouse, I am genuinely happy for them. I’m not judging their decisions or their timelines. I can appreciate and celebrate their new love and happiness without feeling like I need to follow suit. If you’ve remarried or started dating – good for you! I mean that. It’s just not where I’m at on my timeline.
All of this pondering of dating after loss makes me really miss my husband. I miss him holding my hand, putting an arm around my shoulder, or a quick kiss on the cheek. I miss talking to him about my day. I miss him worrying about me – calling to make sure I’m safe when I’m on the road or making sure my windshield wipers are in good shape and that there’s plenty of air in my tires. And I certainly miss sharing parenting with him. The joys, the frustrations – all of it! But for me, that’s not a good enough reason to pursue a new relationship. My heart is still his. I’m missing him too much to be fully present with someone else.
When I think about the possibility of eventual companionship, the thoughts aren’t sexual at all. What I miss is the loving human touch from the person that loved me. The person who knew what I looked like without makeup, but loved me anyway. I miss the comfort of loving a person that accepted all of my flaws, both the personality ones as well as the physical ones. A warm, secure hug on a really bad day or reassuring words to build me up or calm me down. Hearing someone say, “I love you.” These are the things that are so hard to live without.
But let’s continue this imaginary scenario. Let’s say I did start dating one day -what do I have to offer someone? I’m a middle-aged widow with a broken, barely healing heart, stretch marks, a C-section scar and some new gray hairs. A stressed out, overweight single mom who wears a bite guard at night and pines for her dead husband – sounds like an awesome dating profile! Ha. I’m sure that honest description would attract some real winners.
Even if I did meet someone wonderful, I think I’d be so afraid they’d get sick and die too. I feel like I’d have to witness a full blood panel, PET scan and MRIs to make sure it was safe. And that’s ridiculous, further proving I’m not in the right heart or head place to date.
Maybe someday I’ll feel ready for dating. Or maybe I won’t ever be in that place. Maybe someday The Today Show will call again. Or maybe they won’t. For now I’m just going to keep on working on the most important things in my life. I’ll continue trying to raise healthy, honest, compassionate and happy kids who grow up and are more than okay. I’ll continue writing and working to build this into a business to support my family and help others in the process. And I’ll keep working on me. That includes being in-tune with the work God is doing in me right now. Every time I study His word I can feel that He’s working on me. Preparing me for something, although I don’t know what yet.
I know He’s prepared a future for me. He has a plan for my life – and for yours too. He promises it’s a good plan!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
So I’m going to trust Him on that. I’m going to work on me, by focusing on Him. And if that means I never date, or if I someday date, I’m ok with that. If it means I never have the chance to take Extra Grace Required to a national morning show or am denied publishing a book– that will just have to be ok too.
I know you’re all in different places in your grief. I almost feel guilty even bringing up dating because I know some of you are raw with grief, but I also know there may be some who are exactly where I am. I suspect there are some of you with tons of grief experience too. You’ve already traveled through these emotions and can offer us the important further down the road perspective.
I’d love to hear from all of you. Whether you’ve dated, remarried, or if you’re in the same place I am – what’s it been like? What are your thoughts on the subject? Leave me a comment and let me know where you are with the D-word. I learn so much from each of you and read and love every single comment you leave. Thanks for being here, and for sharing your hearts with me. There’s so much comfort airing all the uncomfortable pieces of grief, don’t you think?
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