Note: This has been my experience and what I have heard as the most general experiences of others if a widow makes the decision to date or get involved with a man again after her husband has died. I am sure there are many other situations that I don't go into and plenty of widows may disagree with some of what I say....
What? Dating as a widow? Are widows even allowed to date? And if so how long does one have to wait after her husband's death to re-enter the dating pool? Well, everyone seems to have opinions and I had my own as well. I will tell you there are 3 paths that I have heard to be the most common for widows to take. Let's start with the one that gets judged most harshly
A. Sleeping around (especially soon after the death). Obviously this gets viewed harshly and while For The Record I did NOT choose this path I have to say that I have come to understand why someone would choose to do this. It's looking for the comfort and filling some sort of void. Of course this gets looked down on in general in life, but slap on the label of "widow" to this situation and wow, look out scarlet letter!
B. Getting into a relationship soon after the death. (I'll get into this one in a bit as this is the path I went down).
C. Waiting a "significant" period of time to get involved with anyone (if at all). Now this is the way that most people think widows should go. Most people (especially those outside the widow world) say we should wait at least a year before we start dating again. That gives the widow time to grieve and mourn her loss. While I have heard many people say the 2nd year is harder than the first, in general the first year is thought to be the most difficult. It takes time to process and learn how to live without the person you just lost.
Waiting a year also shows respect to the deceased and that you actually loved that person. Well, I will be the first to say that just because a widow starts some sort of interaction with another man does NOT mean that her love for her husband wasn't real or "enough." I fell in love with Tom when I was 18 and I can tell you that every other guy I dated was never good enough because they weren't him. We were in and out of each other's lives for years and we always came back to each other because no one else compared. We had that crazy passionate intense love/hate kind of love. That didn't go away when he died or when I met "C" my love for Tom will always be there and other widows will tell you the same thing about the love for their husbands.
I assume we're all grown ups here and can handle candid (or semi-candid) talk, so I will be honest (not that I am anything but honest, but maybe open is a better word)...
Two months to the day after Tom died I met one of my neighbor's friends. (We'll call him "C"). The day I met "C" was the first day in the two months since Tom died that I didn't cry. It was the first day I went to bed with an actual smile on my face. We started hanging out and never intended for a relationship to develop. It was nice to have someone there to talk to and give me that male attention. We text messaged all day long and hung out every evening for a week before he even tried to kiss me. He was the first (and only thing for a long time) to genuinely make me smile after Tom's death. I remember the exact moment that I fell in love with him As a Person and knew I always wanted him in my life as a friend (it was day 3 and recently when I told him about it he said he remember that time, too). He was amazing and I could talk to him the way I had wanted Tom and I to be able to talk. I really thought all it was going to be was a friendship, but I was lonely. I hadn't had a good night's sleep in months and just wanted someone there next to me so I could sleep well. He knows this now and why I allowed it to go the way it did, but I needed him in my life at that point.
What I found with "C" was everything that had been missing in my marriage for so long. I truly never thought I'd fall In Love with him. I Never saw forever with "C" while we were together, but then again I couldn't see a 'forever' at all in my life. From the beginning I was terrified of losing him as a friend more than anything. I thought it would be for the summer, ya know that summer romance that when he left would just end-- he was only here for 6 or so weeks for Ssgt school. (Oh yeah, did I mention he's a Marine, too? So is the one after him. ;-) )
It was unspoken, but we were both well aware of we were doing and yes, we were mutually using each other. But like I said, he was everything I had been longing for and I knew I wanted more with him. We decided to date when he left since it was only 5 hours away and I could go visit anytime. I eventually moved closer to him, and by eventually I mean 4 months after I met him and 2 months after we actually labeled us in a relationship. Now let me be clear when I say that I already intended to move closer to where he was living, just not as close as I did. He influenced that decision. I wanted to move before the holidays because I knew they would be too hard to take in that house and my parents both told me they thought it would be best for the kids to move. So, moving was the plan, moving 30 minutes from "C" happened because we discussed it would be an easier drive. I knew I loved him before I moved and tried to hold back on the "falling" part, but that didn't work so well once I moved.
I fell in love really quickly after that and right after New Year's we broke up. He loved me, but wasn't in love (so he said at the time). Things had moved very quickly and I know he got scared. He's more like a female when it comes to the emotional crap and had been burned bad by his exes. One he was still in love with. Apparently "C" wanted her back for a while then told me that he was actually in love with me and not her, but uses her as his scapegoat out of relationships because he doesn't want to get close to anyone and that is what he did with me. Now, I semi believe this only because he told me so last summer, too. And because of some things he told my neighbor (one of his good friends). He said it was the idea of her and what they had and that he was too afraid to totally open up his heart to me after everything in his past. Umm... Ok!?
When "C" and I broke up I was devastated. I had stopped dealing with Tom's death right after we met and hung onto "C" and our relationship so tightly for fear of having to think about Tom and what that really meant in my life. I couldn't handle thinking about Tom and my loss and did everything I could to run away from it, including rushing into another relationship. When we broke up I was now faced with two broken hearts and could barely breathe. This was when everyone saw me Really go down hill in life. I was drunk every single day for weeks. I didn't know how survive without a drink, but I hit rock bottom and somehow forced myself to deal with it all. I finally dealt with Tom's death. Oh God that was hard! I had to learn to accept my being a widow and losing the love of my life once and for all. I sat at home SOBER for several days watching every god-awful heart wrenching movie that I could trying to get all my tears out that I had stifled for months.
Then it was time to let go of "C" but he never let me. Every single time I tried to cut it off and let go he would try to pull me back in. This has gone on since we broke up 5 months ago. He stopped for a little while when I started dating someone else, but it was short lived. All that is for Part 2 of this blog to come later.
I want to go back for a minute and talk about dating in general. We all walk a different path in life. It is so easy to judge. I know I have done it and still do, but when I catch myself doing it I then try to remind myself that I don't know what that person is thinking or what their life has been like. How can I sit here and say that what they are doing is wrong? There have been many days in this past year that just keeping myself alive is the hardest thing I can do. I know what it's like to have such emense pain that nothing matters. How we choose to live and survive shouldn't be judged, it should be accepted even if you think it's wrong. We can all sit here and say "Oh, I'd never do that." But that is total BS! Tom's aunt was a widow around my age and had been with her husband longer than Tom and I were together. When she told me she started dating 5 months out I judged her because I couldn't understand until I met "C." Then I realized that my love for Tom would never change, but that didn't mean I could never be happy or love someone else, too.
And now I am going to the beach so the rest of my blog will come in a day or two...