I don’t get much feedback from widowed people on the grief-related articles and posts I write. There are times when my blog stats show an unusually high level of activity for the oldest posts or those that are specifically tagged young widow or death of a spouse. I get a lot of searches on dating and remarriage in general or specifically relating to widowhood. But no one comments and I never know who these readers are or what brought them to my blog.
Sometimes I get emails though and usually they detail the person’s loss and what they are currently experiencing. I always write back. I remember what it was like when I was the only young widowed person I knew. It’s very lonely and isolating. It’s a near constant out of body experience in some ways. At least it was for me.
Which is the point of this post. I only know widowhood and remarriage from my own point of view. I can only tell you how I felt, what I did and what the outcomes of my actions and beliefs were. There is a list of the most common touch-points where losing a spouse is concerned, but that’s all it is. A list. Not even carved in stone or handed to people by an ordained prophet.
Rob likes to half joke that most rules and laws are merely guidelines and that the thoughtful person is wise to remember that when applying or ignoring them. My years in the classroom back this idea up for the most part. Rules/laws are designed for people who don’t – for whatever reason – think before acting or speaking and for those who are heedless of the fact that the world is made up of a lot of other people whose existences should be credited and considered.
I received an email the other day from a widowed person who’d read my piece on DoubleX about remarriage. This person was recently widowed this past summer and found him/herself in a relationship now with an old friend. Not something anticipated or sought, it just happened.
Back on Ye Ole Widda Board there is a particularly annoying woman who rails against the notion that a relationship can simply happen without conscious effort on the part of two people – but since she is mostly full of her own self-importance, I will almost respectfully disagree. I know when I was a truly single girl, I hated being told that relationships come – not to those who wait, but to those who aren’t really paying any attention at all. I still don’t like to admit that for most people, this is true. All that’s required for a relationship to “just happen” is an openness to the idea and being in the right place at the right time. This widowed person was at a social gathering, struck up an old acquaintance and soon found there was more to be had. And that indeed does happen though I think that love is a place where two people land after the initial excitement and overall wonderlicious giddiness rather than someplace they fall.
This person wanted to know if there were others who’ve experienced the arrival of a new love on the heels of the loss of a spouse. And I assured him/her that it has happened. Some worked out. Some didn’t. The odds are the same for the widowed as the never widowed really. Being widowed young isn’t a special handicap, it’s just a different life experience than most people are handed these days.
I was telling Rob about the email and I admitted that I am not comfortable giving advice on the subject of falling in love again or remarrying. A shocking admission, especially to those who think they know me from the widda board days. Back then I was quick to defend those who dated and seriously recoupled, but not for the reasons people ascribed to me. And it really had nothing to do with my own situation or a belief that remarriage was the gold standard for healing. Grief isn’t healed. It’s incorporated into who you are. And if you believe that being partnered is important for you to be the best you can be then that is your truth. Why it would matter to anyone else is beyond me.
In my reply I mentioned that I felt that grieving and falling in love again were separate issues. One really has nothing to do with the other although like most things in life, they will affect each other on occasion.
I always think that making a new relationship a priority through communication – especially of expectations and needs – is crucial, but that is true regardless of circumstances. As is the fact that a person’s intimate relationships are not a matter of public debate nor should outside input be allowed unless specifically requested and then with the understanding that it might be completely disregarded.
And I was honest with this person about how hard it is to fall in love again. It is not for the flowers and paper hearts crowd because there is real work involved. Of course, anyone who thinks love’s basis is romance and chemistry should steer clear of it, in my opinion.
I am not wise. I have lived through a lot of things. Some experiences have made me a better person and some are simply events that have added to the body of who I am.
I pointed the reader in the direction of some blogs and the widda boards (with a cautionary note there because at Ye Ole Widda Board, early daters are routinely fileted – flayed? – by the Widda’s Who Protest Too Much) and wished him/her luck. Not because I think luck is needed. Relationships succeed or fail based on two people’s ability to parlay mutual attraction and interests past the biology that blinkers us all. No, I wished him/her luck because that’s what you do. Share your experiences and allow people to learn from their own.