dating after being widowed


Engraving showing a recently widowed Hindu wom...

Image via Wikipedia

Everyone’s a critic. Usually  harsh and certainly agenda minded. And mostly in the moment with just the barest idea of the big picture because critics generally seize on one post (that they didn’t read very well because apparently it’s hard to see though the colour red).

On a follow-up post to one I wrote about widowed who play the widow card while dating, I received a scathing take that was part personal venting and part assumption that perhaps I was some non-widowed person spouting off on things about which I knew nothing.

A very grouchy rebuttal that got quite a viewing on Facebook where someone had linked it for the private flaming fun of others no doubt, but given the confusion it provoked and because I am not one to just sit at the keyboard and be spanked by someone who is labouring under more than a few misconceptions, it bears a reposting all its own.

Annie,

I can appreciate your point of view but I compleltely disagree with you. I do like Dan’s comment very much and I think he/she (A little confused by gender as the name is Dan but mentions late husband) hit the nail on the head.

Okay, I had to chuckle. Sorry. I appreciate your pov but you are an idiot? And Dan is a gay man – just to clarify – who wrote a beautiful blog on grieving and moving on. You should check it out.

I read your bio and I see no qualifications for conseling or psychology or any credentials whatsover. So this is just opinion. The sampling, as you mention is not appropriate. Think about this. Who would even read this and comment? Those you view this the same way. The happy couples who made this work wouldn’t even bother to google it. You know why? Because there is no playbook for this. We are all unique.

In the widowosphere, there are only those who have “been there” possibly “done that” and I am fairly certain that I referred to the post you objected to as “advice”. My “sampling” as you call it includes widowed of both genders and those who date and/or are married to widowed and that includes widowed remarried to widowed, which includes me and my husband. I also have bothered to read the latest research by George Bonanno and not just steep myself in anecdote or the rather shoddy pseudo-science of Kubler-Ross on which much of widow/grief culture is based. But, you are correct in that I have no formal trainingg – no more than just about everyone else who claims to be “helping” widowed or those who date them.

One thing more, however, I don’t claim to be helping. I am just writing what I have observed over the last six years. Take it. Leave it. But don’t whine at me about it. I make the assumption (optimistically to be sure) that anyone who reads my blog is brighter than a tree stump and can think for his/herself and filter the little bit of information I share through their own experiences and common sense (the latter of which my husband keeps trying to tell me isn’t all that common).

You need to take responsibility for your posts and the harm it may do. There is already ALOT of misinformation on this subject written by well meaning individuals, even widowers. But they do what everyone does with this issue. They bring their own playbook and act like it is THE playbook. Sorry, but neither you nor Abel Keogh know nothing of me or my journey.

I am pretty sure that no one was harmed in the writing of this blog, but I will say that there are a lot of women, and a few men out there, who have been harmed by the widowed they date because the widowsphere –  in the form of message boards and blogs and invites to retreats/camps/conventions –  spouts off like it has a playbook. Widowed without real-time resources, and who are very vulnerable in the first little while, pick up more than a few erroneous messages and act upon them as though they were gospel, but I am sure you’ve made the rounds and chastised the others too, right? I mean, I am sure you didn’t single me out because I have a different opinion than you do about personal responsibility and the fact that as grown ups we should be setting examples for our children by teaching them that bad things happen but that doesn’t give us leave to treat others with contempt or expect them to  feel as though their feelings are less significant than our own. Or maybe you did.

You assume that widowers are manipulative who have no feelings of their own. Why should we be respectful of the new love’s feelings, when obviously they want us to “bury” ours? How is that a successful partnership? How is that building trust to be who we are?

No, I don’t make that assumption. Sorry, but you are off base. Widowed are not manipulative because they are widowed. People resort to behavior that is manipulative because that’s what they have always done in terms of relationships and being widowed just gives them another tool to use. I have been fairly consistent with my opinion on this point as anyone who reads much of my blog can tell you. Widowhood doesn’t make assholes out of people who weren’t, but if you had a tendency towards using emotional “cards” to gain the upper hand before, widow culture sadly encourages you to continue doing that. Grief is no excuse for using people or ignoring other people’s feelings in favor of your own. You are ready to date when you are ready to let go of the idea that your grief trumps ALL. If you can’t put your new partner’s wants, needs and feelings as paramount – you aren’t ready.

Oh, but what about MY needs? What about them? I have read many a story of women and men who have been patient and kind and understanding only to find out that their widowed boy/girlfriend expected that to be the norm forever. Making love under pictures of the late spouse? Their toothbrushes on the vanity? Living out of totes so the late spouse can have closet space? Come on. Really? And that’s what I am talking about here and I think you know that.

We have alot to offer and it shouldn’t come at the expense of who we are. Yes, we are alot to handle. I will give you that. We come with issues. But so do divorced people. So do abused women? Why are we so different?

Issues. We are a society that loves our issues, which is why many of us have such drama fraught relationships. Widowhood is not a couple’s activity. I don’t expect my husband to be my grief counselor. Our relationship is about us. Right now. Any baggage you drag into the mix from the past is going to clutter and ultimately obscure the new relationship. Again, you are ready to date when you ave dealt with your own past on your own and can come to a new person without needing space and breaks and time and patience.

It’s perfectly okay to tell a new person that you want to simply date. Just hang out. Have fun. You can even throw casual sex into the mix if you are ready for that. But don’t send mixed signals. Don’t lead your new partner on by saying one thing and doing another. If you are ready to explore serious, be damn serious about it and be goddamn sure. Otherwise, keep it light and make sure your words and actions match up; that way any misunderstanding is on his/her part and not yours.

And widowed are not a lot to handle. From where does this fallacy come? There is nothing special about being widowed. It’s a traumatic event to be sure but if it defines you, you are not ready to date. We should come to new relationships ready to be in the now and plan/work towards a new future. Going into the dating arena believing that you are an “issue ridden too much to handle head-case” is like a TLC reality show in the making and that’s nothing to brag about.

My adivce to anyone considering a relationship with a widow/widower is do NOT try to make us forget who we are, who we loved, and how we got here. If you truly love us, you would embrace our lost love as much as we do. Because that person, that loss, that event made us the person you supposedly love. Think about it.

I agree with you. I cringe a bit when I read about women/men who really think that a late spouse is like a photo album or yearbook that can be tucked in the back of a closet. It doesn’t work quite like that. However, a late spouse cannot be part of a new relationship. Even an emotional threesome is not going to work in the long run, and why would anyone want to make a new love feel like a second choice? Second should just be chronological, don’t you think?

My husband’s late wife, Shelley, had a role in the man he is today, but who he is today is my husband. While I can and have acknowledged her, I am not sharing him with her. Our marriage is our marriage. Our life is now. She has her place and I have mine. It’s a duality that is hard for non-widowed to understand and even some widowed don’t truly get it, but it’s a perspective that needs to be mastered if one is to be happily mated again. And the success or failure, rightly or wrongly, falls more on the shoulders of the widowed mate. Sucks to be us? I wouldn’t agree. It’s a great privilege to be allowed to love another person fully and with a whole heart. If I have learned anything about love at all from my late husband, it is this and I don’t intend that my husband now should ever feel that he is second or living in a shadow. If that were to be the case then I learned nothing.

The whole picture thing still baffles me. I have two young kids who need to remember their mom. If a woman cannot accept that, fine. She’s not the woman for me because in essence, she is rejecting me. And I am WAY too confident to be bullied into accepting a rejection of who I am.

Depending on the age of the children and the pictures, those memories are largely yours. I have a three daughters. Two are in their late twenties and have plenty of memories of their mother. Neither their Dad nor I need to keep a lit flame for them. They are old enough to do that themselves. The youngest daughter has no memories of her late dad because she was just three when he died. As far as she is concerned, her dad is my husband and my trying to foster a relationship between her and a dead man serves her no purpose. A memory can’t love her or teach her to ride a bike.  A memory doesn’t carry her in from the truck when she is tired or rub her back when she can’t fall asleep. That’s my feelings on the subject. You are welcome to do whatever you like with your own children, but I am not going to saddle my children with my grief in the guise of pretending to keep memories alive for them.

My wife IS apart of me an always will be. You seem to treat our loss like much of America treats thier marriages… as disposable. Ask yourselves this. Would you want your SO to put away pictures of their late father or mother? Why is this different? If you feel that you are a replacement, well..maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror! More importantly, who is the one who is insecure? If you are offended by a piece of paper with an image on it, perhaps you need to look at your OWN insecurities. It’s just an image of a time in our life. Much like a high school photo.

You don’t know how I treat my loss because I choose not to wear my loss on my sleeve all that often. And I am a huge believer in marriage. Anyone who knows or even just follows me knows that.

Let’s not use the dead mother/father/child straw man argument. Apples and oranges might make a tasty glass of juice but there are different kinds of love and that’s just a fact. But people who date widowed folks are not offended by photos, however over time, they want to be loved more than the widowed person loves the photo or the urn or the bathrobe on the hook in the closet. Can you imagine how it would feel to think that the person you loved, and were intimate with, valued a photo more than they did you? To feel like you could never measure up to the urn on the mantel? To have her wedding photos staring at you every time you sat down to watch television? To be constantly excluded from family gatherings because her mother or the eldest daughter “just couldn’t handle it”? Let’s get a bit of perspective, shall we and really look at the reality of what many people who date widowed folk endure months or even years into a relationship.

Photos can rest in books or on screen savers, but frankly, my husband is more important to me than a photo of my late husband (who was the son of a young widow himself and often told me that he’d be greatly disappointed in me if I let his memory stand in the way of my living and loving again – fyi).

When you cling to a late spouse’s things or photos, you give off vibes of not being ready – usually because you aren’t. Or of perhaps simply using a new person to satisfy physical or superficial emotional needs. It’s hurtful whether you want to acknowledge it or no.

By all means, keep and display and do homage as much as you like, but don’t be surprised when that hurts someone. We are human beings with feelings. Being ready to date means being ready to handle the putting away of late love. I can’t change that reality just because it rankles you and neither can you.

I tell every woman I date this:

“I still love my late wife and I always will. She is apart of me and I will honor her if for no other sake than that of her childrens. That doesn’t mean I cannot love you just as much if not more. But If you cannot handle that, let’s just be friends.”

Okay, this is a man not understanding how women think/work thing. You say that and what a woman hears is this. “I was a great husband and someday I will be just as great a husband to you if you are just patient and understanding.”

Yes, that is exactly what she hears. Women NEVER take men at their word. Huge mistake. I preach against it often. But it is a fact.

They also don’t pay attention to actions. Leaving pictures up. Not changing the house much. Making sure that children don’t forget their mother to the point that no other woman will ever be accepted. Loud actions that clearly say that a man is not now and might not ever be ready to do more than just date for superficial reasons. Women? They see devotion and think that time, love and understanding will one day win over that devotion to themselves.

Beginning to understand why I write what I do?

The fact is that we can love just like anyone else, but with a different viewpoint. An older widower who is happily married used the analogy of loving your second child just as much as the first. You think you can’t, but you do. Your heart grows to hold more love and doesn’t displace the love you have.

For the record, I hate the second child analogy because the love a parent bears for a child is not the same kind of love we share with a spouse/lover. In fact, this analogy creeps me out a bit. I do agree that we are capable of loving again but love is love whether it’s the first or 12th time. If you don’t feel the same thrill and urgent need to be with someone new – do both of you a favor and step back.

I’m sorry, divorce is NOT the same as death. It just isn’t. Any comparison is futile and irresponsible. There was no decision. There wasn’t a choice. They did not leave us of their own free will nor did we leave them. Apples and oranges. Is their grief in divorce? I would assume so.But I am not arrogant enough to project my PLAYBOOK on theirs. Please have the courtesy to do the same.

I have NEVER said that divorce is the same thing as being widowed.

The guy who wrote that sounds like a spurned lover and this had nothing to dow with a widow/widower. Sour grapes. The fact that she was a widow has nothing to do with it. Yes, assholes can become widows/widowers too. But quit drawing a parallel between who they are and their loss. The woman sounds like a piece of work REGARDLESS of her marital status!

The man who wrote that was hurt. Very hurt. And though his observations rise from that hurt, I have read them over and over  in other venues to the point where much of it is almost cliché. Women take longer to be ready to date again and the widow culture falsely encourages them to look for men who are okay being second best, but widowhood doesn’t turn a genuinely nice person into a selfish drama queen and I am certain I made that point.

With all of that said I will concede some points I have learned in my journey. NOTE: These are not hard and fast rules people. I’m not as arrogant as some when it comes to this. I can only relate my own personal experience.

Um, you are just as arrogant as anyone who puts words to keys. Sorry. If we didn’t think we had something valuable to share, we wouldn’t bother. If that is arrogance then so be it.

1) Comparisons are bad, I agree. it is time to focus on where you are going with the person you are with, not where you have been. BUT, if those past experiences help your new SO understand why you feel a certain way, it should be just fine to talk about them.

Agree and sort of agree – no one wants to spend a date listening to you talk about the last person you loved regardless.

2) Wedding pics…yes, in a shared home I do not think they are appropriate. I BELIEVE the walls should be plastered with pics of you and your new love. But that doesn’t mean you cannot have pics of who you are and how you got there. Get a grip people! WOW! But I do know widows/widowers that have EVEN made those old wedding photo’s work in their new homes. How do you explain that?

Not being much for decorating my walls with anything, I don’t really get the need some have to plaster anything with photos. I have albums, physical and virtual, and no one argues against a few family shots but the wedding pics? Lovey photos? Really? Why would you do that to someone you love now? I don’t agree that we need the equivalent of a Facebook timeline on our living room wall in order for the world to know who we are – unless of course, we are so unsure of who we are that we need that visual evidence for ourselves.

For those looking to date a widow or widower. I urge you to make your own decisions and not listen to this. Advice is good, but hard and fast rules are not. We are all unique and there is no playbook for this. You will know when it’s right…and you will know when it’s wrong. Trust yourselves.

Anyone who takes advice from a blog as “hard and fast” without applying a bit of common sense is beyond anyone’s help. jmo. Bit condescending of you to think that is the case.

Peace.

Hope you find some as well.


Anillos de Matrimonio, Aros de Matrimonio

Image via Wikipedia

When my late husband went into the nursing home, I cleaned his things out of our closet, the dresser and off the bathroom vanity. I didn’t throw anything away, nor did I give anything away at that point, but he was dying – albeit slowly – and there was no point in pretending he was coming home again. Leaving his things as they were served me no purpose from a practical or emotional point of view.

Over the course of the next 15 months, I gradually chipped away at his physical presence in the house. Pictures, books, cd’s and such were reminders that served only to keep me from the rather tedious and unpleasant task of putting our life together into perspective so I could move on. By the time he died, you might not have known – aside from the wedding ring – that I was married at all, judging from my surroundings and the things I put on display, and the day after his wake, I took off the ring and put that away too.

Widowed people are not usually counseled to clean house physically or figuratively in the early weeks and months. In fact, society can judge those who do rather harshly. After all, it’s not in keeping with the romantic idea of the tragic young widowed. We are supposed to keep that eternal flame lit, and it’s seen as proof of our love or lack of it.

Of course that is all nonsense. Tangible memories are anchors to the past that easily pull us backward to a life that isn’t rather when what we need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and walking forward.

If you are of the mind to date and even remarry, you can’t build a new life with someone else on top of the foundation of your previous marriage to your late spouse. For one thing, it’s a conflict of interest and for another, it’s not fair to your possible new love.  If you love someone, you can’t ask them to be second choice or second best or to run a no win footrace for your heart with a dead person.

So the wedding picture and couple of photos in your living room (or the framed photo of your late spouse that sits on your night stand) tells anyone new that you are not available and though it won’t keep some people from trying to muster endless patience to wait you out, it’s not something a kind, caring person does to someone who seeks their love.

“But, I loved my late spouse,” you will protest. “Nothing can change that and if someone loves me, they will understand that I need his/her toothbrush on the vanity or dozens of pictures of him up and only a selfish, insecure person would question that.”

Did you just hear what you said? Who is really the selfish person in this scenario? You cause your new companion to doubt and feel less than and then you punish them for it by making demands that nobody can hold up under for long.

There were few pictures up when Dee and I moved in with Rob. Mick and Edie’s graduation photos and maybe one of Shelley on some holiday or other they took. But Rob’s laptop screen saver rotated an endless display of photos and though they included me too, we hadn’t been together long enough to make up for the sheer volume of those pictures that included Shelley.

Perhaps it was being widowed myself or maybe it was, at 43, being just too old that kept me from feeling second best or in some kind of competition. Whatever it was, I am not the norm to look to. Most people who date the widowed feel the weight of comparison and the more memorabilia lying around – coupled with a fierce resistance to put it away – the more slighted and second choice they feel.

I wasn’t completely immune to comparing myself to Shelley. She epitomized physically the beauty standard that I grew up with and never met and the stories I heard from Rob, Edie and Mick sometimes made me feel as though I was a much less likable person. It was nonsense but it’s proof of the power of a late spouse’s legacy to do harm to anyone who ventures into a widowed person’s emotional sphere.

I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating. If you bring a new person into your life with the intention of one day having a serious relationship and even marrying, you must be prepared to put away the physical aspects of your late spouse and your life together. It’s selfish of you to expect a new love to be anything less than “the love”. You cannot actively love the late spouse and do justice to a new partner and it’s unfair to ask of anyone that he/she sign up to be “just the second husband/wife”.

  • Put away phrases like “true love” or “soul mate” when talking about your late spouse. They are fairy tale words in any case and will hurt your new partner even if he/she is too kind to tell you so.
  • Don’t allow children, extended family or friends to use words, objects or memories to make your new partner feel like a runner-up. Your love is not a beauty contest.
  • Strive to love someone new as deeply and without reservation as you did your late spouse.

“But,” you doth protest too much again, “my new partner assures me that they don’t mind the pictures, my bratty adult children and insensitive friends and the closet so full of late spouse’s clothing that they are living out of a suitcase and boxes.”

He/she is lying because he/she loves you that much and buys into the idiotic notion that being patient, understanding and loving you far more than you deserve at this point will one day open your eyes to how wonderful he/she is and you will let him/her fully into your affections …. and make space in the closet.

“But,” make your last stand,  Gen. Custer, “my children need these things in order to remember.”

Bullshit.

You need these things to avoid moving on. Moving on sucks because change we don’t initiate ourselves is unwelcome and we are no better than children about it with our kicking and screaming.

Your kids don’t need a wall collage or an urn on the mantle piece. They would probably be grateful if you moved the fuck on, so they could too. I am stunned by the number of widowed who use their kids as a way to cling to their grief even while they abdicate active parenting and justify their behavior by hiding behind grief.

If you are not ready to move on, you aren’t. If you are not ready to date, don’t. If you only want to date, be honest about that with those who approach you.

But, if you are seriously involved, live in the present. Honor and love that person the same way you did the one who came before him/her. That’s what a person of integrity does. That’s what a person who is ready to move on does.


Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

Image via Wikipedia

Blogging, Tweeting and FaceBooking  buddy, Abel Keogh, who is the author of Room for Two and The Third, has published a book on widowers and dating. Pretty much everything one would care to know from the perspective of a widower and women who’ve dated and married widowed men.

I haven’t read the entire book yet, but when I do, I will review it here. Until then, the introduction and first chapter are up on Abel’s blog and I encourage those of you looking for information on the subject to check it out.


ancient roman marriage

Image via Wikipedia

Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.

All I can really say is, “Huh?”

When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.

But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.

McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?

If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway.  DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.

Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.

FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*

Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.

The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.

Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.

But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.

The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.

One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.

I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.

Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.

Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.

We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.

*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.


Prometheus, by Gustave Moreau, tortured on Mou...

Image via Wikipedia

“Let’s trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let’s lay down our righteousness and just be together.”
Ram Dass

Does being opinionated count as “judging”?

Yeah, I kinda thought so too. Damn you, Ram Dass, for your timely appearance in my reader. And for being so “yoga” to boot.

Sometimes being yoga is very inconvenient

Apparently, though I have not bothered to ascertain the facts by actually trudging across the webosphere to take a peek, the Women Who Love Widowers site took issue with my perspective on … probably everything, knowing how that sort of thing goes – as you, dear long time readers, know that I do.

A commenter on another blog ever so kindly gave me the heads up on the “brutal blasting”  directed at those of us who, um, take a different stance on dating, remarriage and the bereaved. Never mind that once having been bereaved gives us a bit more of a leg up on the whole subject, or that by flaming out in a predictably postal way, it sort of proves my point that the GOW’s are no less mired in grief myth than their counterparts on the widow sites.

But whatever, it comes as no great surprise someone takes issue. With me. About widowhood – the blog, the movie, the book, the EXPERIENCE.  Grieving myths exist for a reason. That being that the myth is so much easier to accommodate than the reality, which requires honesty, introspection and work. Myth is sexy. And who can fight that?

Back in the day on ye olde widda board, I entered into the arena with some truly hardened battle-axes as I naively sought to point out that attitude counts, resiliency matters and that grieving is really just another life experience. It isn’t personal. It’s doesn’t make you stronger, and it doesn’t come with entitlements attached. You aren’t allowed to wallow or wail at others’ expense. It’s simply not okay. Grief should never be used as an excuse for anything. Call it whatever floats your semantic boat, but please don’t make it a life long affliction – because the research doesn’t back that up. It just doesn’t. Irritating, I know. Who couldn’t use a tragedy with lifetime pity powers? Sadly, the seemingly arbitrary year cut off that society clings to has actual basis in fact.

It’s not meant to be a career. Shit happens. You deal and move on. Most people do not come out on the other side of a life-altering experience with enough distance to be able to counsel others with any degree of objectivity or integrity. It doesn’t make them self-serving for wanting to try but when your scope is too narrow to admit other perspectives, or the possibility of being wrong, then the probability of misleading others instead of helping them is high.

And it’s not like I knew any of this going in. I learned it as I went along, so I can assure you that mistakes were made. That’s just part of the adjustment, but so long as attitudes adjust – and allow for others to adjust as well – it’s all good.

So people are angry with me because they feel judged, but I’m just saying is all. If believing that grief is a factor in a man’s not making you and your relationship a priority works for you then it works. I wonder though why one lonely opinion in the blogosphere can call up vitriol in someone who feels secure in what they know.

Over the last four plus years, I have been somewhat regularly ridiculed for my belief that grief is doable and eventually over, and my disinclination to buy into the somewhat female view that dating and remarriage is a difficult path fraught with woe. That’s not true from my perspective or my actual experience, and over time I have simply stuck to the reality of what I know and who I am. I am even friends – virtually – with many widowed who believe in Kubler-Ross and secretly think that one day I will dissolve into a puddle of latent or delayed grief due to my serious denial issues – which is nonsense. There is no evidence to support any of those ideas. But we agree to disagree and we share our perspectives and experiences in the various online venues – where I am thought to be, if not completely atheist then certainly a heretic – and we remain friendly.

Not all widowed are hysterical turf warriors or unhinged loonies.

That was a joke.

Seriously, lighten up.

Mea culpa, I believe but don’t know for sure because I ducked Latin in high school because the nun who taught it was very scary, means “my fault”. It’s “yoga” of me to take the hit for this. Very good for my karma. So I will.

But I stand behind what I wrote. I won’t be harangued (pretty anonymously really as no one seems to want to discuss it with me here, which doesn’t surprise me at bit really) out of what I believe or who I am.

I am happy. I have never been so happy as anyone who knows me for real can attest. I know who I am, as Rose would say, and I am not bothered*.

*That’s a joke too. Really. Sense of humourous perspective is a good thing to cultivate.


We suffer from the need to skip the work and let someone else tell us how. But that never works. It’s a patch at best. Books, gurus, groups, ideologies, philosophies. They are starting places. It eventually all comes back around and down to you. Are you willing to push through?


My own work. Created using "Inkscape"...

Image via Wikipedia

The limit is 500 but I received a dispensation for another 50. So how many words have I written?

843.

A first draft should just flow freely. Even when you know there are word count constraints, the first rule is just get it down and done. Worry about length in the edit.

If I’d had a thousand, the mandate would have been relatively easy.

Explain how you and Rob made your relationship work.

Which begs the question of why our both having been widowed set the odds against us in a way that other relationships aren’t as challenged, but the book is advice based and geared towards women who find themselves dating and/or in serious relationships with widowers.

A widower once showed up in the forum who took issue with the idea that dating him would be more difficult than dating someone with a different set of variables. He argued that divorced or never married men presented women with similar issues. He ranted and raved quite a bit – which left the question of why he would need special handling not all that much in doubt – but he made a good point. One I don’t disagree with really. Dating is dating. Baggage is baggage to be unpacked and then put away in a drawer, donated to a charity or tossed in the trash.

And everyone comes to dating with a unique to him/her set of details for someone else to parse.

So what did we do?

In 550 words or less?

We wanted it enough to do all of the things that the experts tell you are critical in establishing and maintaining a good relationship but that most people are too lazy, caught up in life or simply resist because it wrecks the whole sexy romance aura of it to bother doing.

  • Did you know your partner’s complete medical history before you signed on the dotted line? Or debt obligations? Credit problems? Portfolio? Retirement plans? I did. And Rob had my info too.
  • And did you talk about your fears? Plans for the future? How to raise the kids – discipline and Santa Clause issues alike?
  • When things came up – as they do – did you speak up or stuff it until it exploded in a Technicolor montage of every little thing that drives you crazy, being sure to include all miscues and imagined slights?

There was not a lot of doubt where Rob and I were headed. Even in the very beginning, our emails read like two people mining for a potential relationship. We weren’t youngsters and we don’t come from the school of drifting until something is so obviously a relationship we are forced to make it an action item.* Though Rob thought we could perhaps live together for a bit, the immigration issues, compounded by insurance and employment and child concerns and my rather immovable point of view on the stupidity/just asking for trouble problem with the whole free-form co-habitation thing, made that a less desirable alternative. Rob gallantly refrained from pointing out that we were engaged and planning to be married in September anyway, which was really a sweet thing for him to do.

Both of us did the cohabitating thing with the late spouses. Rob and Shelley at the behest of her grandmother, who believed couples needed at least two years to practice before tying a knot**. I went along with cohabitating with Will but I laid my cards on the table first and put a time limit on it, and he was invited to agree or move along.  He found my conditions completely reasonable and actually proposed well before his time was up – as he had planned to all along I later learned. Living together is a rather pointless exercise for those who’ve decided that marriage is what they want anyway. But it mollified others and provides the illusion of having put time and thought into your decision.

When I share the odd story here and there about our courtship and the early part of our marriage, I leave out the work part. Partly because it’s not romantic and partly because I – incorrectly no doubt – assume that everyone knows that good relationships don’t bubble up from the sea-foam like Aphrodite.

Things came up.

We had three children in varying stages of not being terribly pleased with us. There were in-laws who felt trampled upon and friends who weren’t sure how to react. Our mothers were supportive but not all that secretly worried. My dad was about the only one who wasn’t too concerned.

Logistics. Moving and merging households. Immigration. And the emotional residue from care-taking and grief still wanting central stage from time to time, having been in the spotlight for so long how could it be otherwise?

550 words. I almost need a book.

*For the record – again – I am personally opposed to living together in a mindless manner. Nothing good is the usual result. As an off-shoot, I don’t think it’s wise to know what you want but keep it from the other person because they either a) don’t want the same thing really or b) you think they might meander into line with your way of thinking if you just stay casual about it. To varying degrees, they are all recipes for personal misery times two (or more if you are foolish enough to impose this on children either by dragging them along for the ride or creating one from scratch).

**At least that is what Rob told me she told them. My theory? No one was crazy about the idea of Rob and Shelley marrying. I suspect that Shelley’s grandmother used her considerable influence to simply slow the two of the them down a bit, and they went along because they were incredibly young and marriage  – at least in the days of our teenage yore – seemed pretty permanent. But that’s just my theory.