After you emerge from the grief of widowhood, there is no particular time frame. You don’t wake up on day 167 and say, “I’m done grieving.” Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but in general and in my own personal experience and research, grieving is something that, for some, is never finished. For others, it is something that softens over time and takes a place in the background as you continue on with your “new” life.
I didn’t ask to be widowed, just as I didn’t ask to be married to an abusive man. It has been said that staying was “a choice”, but those comments came from people outside (and a few inside), who cannot and will not ever be able to comprehend what I lived through. Being widowed is an incredibly personal experience. At first, when I decided to seek out companionship again, there were certain people who acted inappropriately, assuming that they held sway over me. They did not then, nor did they ever. However, there are people in your extrinsic field of vision who will make attempts at commenting and criticizing your choices, based on their perspective. How you deal with it is so very important and for so long, I allowed it to affect me. No longer!
At first, after being widowed and dating again, I made terrible choices. Feeling alone and the difference between wanting to have someone in your life and a belief that you NEED someone are two very different approaches. Satisfying the latter brought me destructive and emotionally draining experiences that did nothing to assist in my healing, moving forward or anything other than complicate my life further. I am grateful that over time I have overcome that approach.
On the literal eve of my 50th birthday, I sit in a contemplative state, reflecting upon the choices I’ve made in this *gulp* first half-century of my life and the roadmap I’ve drawn and traversed so haphazardly until now. Coming to terms with it and allowing it to slowly drift into the past is a painstaking process that has drained me and also taught me hard lessons about who I am, what I’ve endured and how far I’ve yet to go. Alas, I have found love and it’s a stunning revelation to someone who is discovering just what that word means for the very first time.
The word widow carries a lot of weight and power. The very uttering of the word invokes strong emotions in those who hear it. Saying, “Oh…I’m a widow”, especially back when I was younger and people were shocked (some still are) always draws out a look that I’ve come to easily recognize. I used to think it was pity or an uncertainty about how to respond, but now I see it from many as a look of shock and a very quick inner reflection of gratitude that they have not experienced this. A strange thing to notice and not a judgement about those who have shown me that look because I understand it. I watched my mother pass on first and left my father alone and I know how much he missed her, if only from the outside looking in. The mention of mortality and the eventual demise of us all brings out intense emotions from everyone.
So, when the time came to come out to friends and family about beginning a new life and adventure with someone special, it was refreshing in many ways. Waiting until we were both sure and happy in our chosen path with each other made it worth while, as well as watching the word widow disappear from one area of my digital life. Being the only widow out of most of my friends was difficult at times. I was never excluded or treated differently, but sometimes it was hard to watch everyone celebrating long marriages and increasing years of anniversaries. I was never jealous or unhappy, but it was a curious sort of feeling, having never known what it was like to reach a 15th, 20th or longer anniversary. I felt and still feel nothing but happiness and celebrate in their joy. I’d like to think that I will someday have new anniversaries and milestones of some kind and that’s a good feeling.
While most people are very happy about the positive turn my life has taken, there always has to be that one person who cannot be. I recently wrote about that and have processed this the way it deserves and not giving it the priority it should have: None. It took me a long time to finally choose a path that is good for me, for the person in my life and my family. Taking the time to allow spiteful comments to fade into the background is one of my biggest challenges, but I will say that doing so is one of the most liberating things I’m learning to do. Giving yourself permission to be happy and enjoy life without granting criticism a seat at your table is wonderful.
I wrote at length about this topic just yesterday, but I felt that I didn’t give my happiness the attention it deserves. It deserves a banner, a writing in the sky, a place forever carved into my heart. So many years have gone by that I chose poorly and I’ve finally chosen wisely (nod to Indiana Jones for sure). For so long I immediately chose the shiny goblet, the one that sparkled and was polished for my short-term benefit. You wind up not seeing the forest for the trees, and making that bad choice soon tarnishes the cup and you are left with nothing but dust in the wind.
There are no guarantees and being a widow puts that saying, “tomorrow is not guaranteed” front and center. Those who wish to wallow in their misery and distance themselves in stagnant bitterness get what they deserve. I am finally getting what I deserve and for once in my life, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I finally get it now.