WHEN MARY DIED, I LOST MY SOULMATE AND THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. BUT I DISCOVERED SOMEONE NEW – MYSELF.
The mere thought that being a widow or widower can have positive aspects feels taboo – something we don’t talk about.
I’m about to say what might sound like the most terrible thing a widow or widower might say.
“Some positive things come out of being widowed.”
Of all the emotions that course through your system after losing a spouse, guilt might be the most difficult one to set aside. The idea that any aspect of my life might be better today than when I was with Mary feels like a terrible admission.
But I’m admitting it here, to you.
Now, believe me, I loved my wife. For 37 years she was my everything. I miss her every single day, and I would gladly surrender any positive aspects of my “new” life to have her back. But I also know having her back is impossible, so it’s important to accept – even embrace – these new positives for me to be truly happy.
Here are a few ways that I feel, in Mary’s absence, I’ve grown as a person. Sometimes for the better.
1. I DISCOVERED I HAD THREE KIDS
When Mary was alive, we both took very traditional roles within our family. I was the “breadwinner”, focused on growing my financial planning business.
I did what I thought a dad was supposed to do. I made every effort to attend most of our kids’ soccer games, hockey tournaments, recitals, and school events. But Mary was the one who was home when the kids returned, with a front row seat to their thoughts, hopes, and fears. She did her best to keep me updated, but – and I hate to admit this – I wasn’t 100% present.
That’s changed since Mary’s death. I made a commitment to myself (and to Mary) that I would step up as a father. The more I knew them, the better I could support and advise them… and share my own feelings
This past January I hosted my three kinds, two fiancés, and a boyfriend for a week’s holiday in Miami Beach. Mary would have been proud.
2. I FOUND FREEDOMS I NEVER THOUGHT I HAD
Okay, this is going to sound horribly selfish. But in a lot of ways, I feel freer today than I have in decades. I’m not complaining. But Mary and I had a pact – we would discuss issues and if we weren’t entirely in agreement on how to proceed, we wouldn’t do it. In that, we were in total agreement.
But I’ll give you an example of one challenging compromise. For over a decade, I wanted to buy a Miami condo to escape winter in Canada. Mary disagreed. She argued that buying a condo would anchor us in one place and stop us from seeing the world.
After Mary’s death, that decision was mine alone. Close to two years ago, I got up the nerve and finally bought my Miami condo. Not to disrespect Mary, but to make myself happy. And honestly, it makes my kids happy too… which brings me back to being a better Dad.
3. I’M DISCOVERING RICHARD DRI
I know this sounds funny coming from a 60-year-old man. But it’s true.
Mary and I were together 37 years, 33 of them as husband and wife. Over the decades, we leaned on each other for everything.
I imagine it happens in most marriages – you begin to see yourself as half of a couple, and not an individual. You find true happiness but give up a little bit of yourself.
As a widower, I’m rediscovering what I like and learning more about who I am inside. For example, I discovered I’m not very empathetic towards family and friends. I don’t know why; if I had to guess it’s that 30+ years of studying investments made me a far more clinical than emotional thinker. It seems that trait spilled over into my personal life.
I plan to change that.
I think Mary would love the Richard Dri I am today – he’s probably very close to the one she met 37 years ago, but much better.
AM I ALONE IN THIS? I DON’T BELIEVE SO.
Following all the soul-searching I did after Mary’s loss, one of the hardest conclusions I came to was that I had to forge my own life.
I had to overcome guilt, acknowledge, and fix what I didn’t like about myself, strengthen my family bonds and, perhaps selfishly, do the things Richard Dri always wanted to do.