First, let me preface this and say I probably have no original thoughts about being a widower. I only have my experiences and what I have learned by reading books, watching videos, and speaking to people on the Widower’s Support Network. I am positive that many of us have felt these very same feelings.
September 27th, 2021, is a day I will never forget. My wife of 34 years was pronounced dead at 5:50 PM that evening, and my life changed forever in so many unexpected and complicated ways.
My wife was hospitalized on August 19th with COVID-19 (the day after our 34th anniversary) later to be intubated on August 30th (the day before our daughter’s birthday). She always seemed to be getting better, but there always seemed to be a setback after every advancement. That all culminated in a collapsed lung on September 22nd, eventually leading to her death.
The day she died, I immediately began living in the past. It was the only place I knew and felt comfortable living in. Our brain struggles to reconcile the fact that our lives have changed so dramatically that we can barely survive in the present (the now), let alone think about any future that doesn’t involve our late wives. I would tell people that when my wife was alive, and we were on our “journey through life,” she carried the map that led to our future. When she died, she took the map with her, and I was now lost and had no idea where to go.
In the first weeks after her death, I felt helpless and did not know what to do. I created a memorial web page. I returned to Facebook and created and memorialized a page for her there. I even joined a COVID-19 widowed group on Facebook. But it wasn’t enough. It was then that I discovered Grief Share and Surviving the Holidays, and I can honestly say for me, at least, it probably saved me from going off the deep end. I attended my first Grief Share two weeks to the day after my LW died, and many people were surprised that I was there so soon, but I needed to talk about losing my wife. I was probably more surprised that people waited so long to discuss their loss.
I learned to journal my thoughts through Grief Share (which I ended up attending three times). I learned about burning a candle to represent my wife spiritually through Surviving the Holidays. These programs helped me get through some very tough and dark days, but I needed more. And that is when I began to search for something to help widowers specifically. And that led me to the book “The Widower’s Journey” and eventually to the Widower’s Support Network.
After 7-8 months into this trip from hell, I realized I wasn’t going crazy, and I didn’t have to do this alone if I chose not to. And this allowed me to begin to move into the present. At least the day-to-day present where I could return to work and contribute to my teammates again. I could be a functioning member of life again. But the future still seemed to be quite a ways off.
Around 12 months after my LW died, I realized I was lonely and missed the companionship of a woman. I missed touching, holding hands, talking, and going to dinner. Up to that point, I had sworn I would never want to meet another woman and truly believed it. How could I learn to love someone again after being with the love of my life for almost 35 years? This was me continuing to live in my past and was an untenable position to hold – even within myself.
So, I asked a friend of mine and his wife if they knew anyone they could introduce me to, and as luck would have it, they did. Her name is Young, and we met at my church on Christmas day. We immediately hit it off and had a good time even though I was constantly talking about “my wife” and was it was like to be a widower. I was still wearing my wedding ring at this point.
One of the many writers recommended by the Widower’s Support Network is Abel Keough and his book “Dating a Widower: Starting a Relationship with a Man Who’s Starting Over.” I read this book to see if I was ready to date and if I had some of the “red flags” of the widowers mentioned in the book. Boy, did I! Still wearing a wedding ring. Still addressing my LW as “my wife.” Talking about things as if I was still married (as widowers, we are not married anymore though we sure hate thinking that). If there were mistakes to be made, I made them.
But reading the book and seeing what other women had done to make relationships work helped me address what I was unconsciously doing to wreck this new relationship. And one of the biggest was if I was to have any kind of relationship and future with Young – or any other woman – I would need to stop living in the past and make that person #1 in my life and my heart. I couldn’t cheat and make the new relationship #1a while leaving my LW as #1 – she has to be #1.
So, I have chosen not to live in the past, where there are only the ghosts of the memories of my LW. Not that I could ever forget my wife. That would be impossible. She and I grew up together and built a life of almost 35 years. We raised a daughter together and have four wonderful granddaughters. She will always be in my heart. But I want to live in the present and possibly build a future with someone else. That isn’t forgetting my late wife. That is trusting that my LW would be okay with me finding someone to share my love with again. I want to think she’d say that she had trained me so well to be a good husband that someone else could think the same thing, and this makes me smile.
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