Today is the day between Father’s Day and the calendar day on which Rick passed away.
I’ve tried to discern my feelings today – prickly skin, stomachache, head throbbing, a sense of dread, and an inability to think clearly. It isn’t all because of the second anniversary of losing my husband, as other factors contribute to my unrest.
The first is really a positive, but still brings emotions to the surface. I and the man I’m dating met with seven Michigan couples in just three days to cross-fertilize our friendships. I met three of his and he met four of mine. I hadn’t seen my friends for four years. Of course there were emotional hugs and reminiscing about Rick – yet, too, there was the pleasure of introducing my beau and seeing their pleasure in my finding such a good man.
The second reason is death and illness around me. A friend lost her husband just a few weeks ago – expected, but yet painful. Other acquaintances are quite ill – worrisome to those around them. Now when I contemplate a death my heart reaches out to the living – I know their journeys will be difficult. I wish I had the recipe for handling grief so that I could show them the way, but there is no one recipe – everyone uses different ingredients to get through – faith, family, friends, time, growth. There’s no test kitchen for grief.
In an earlier blog I wrote that I am happy. I truly am; however, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have periods of intense sorrow and a deep desire to look into Rick’s blue eyes and see him smile back at me. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to run to others entering widowhood and try to make their passages easier. My empathy for others is born out of my pain, out of my travails, out of my emergence into a new life with joy and gratitude.
Tomorrow I will celebrate my blue-eyed man’s life. I will spend time with the women in my neighborhood who lifted me up in those first weeks and months. Later on, my brown-eyed man will dry my tears, hold me close, and listen to my recollections.
My last post to this blog was about four months ago. At the time, I felt the possibility of transitioning from widow to girlfriend was something I needed to explore privately – especially as I do not want to exploit others in my writing. A few weeks ago I was in New York City with my late husband Rick’s family. During a conversation with one of my stepdaughters, she encouraged me to continue my blog to illustrate how my new life is evolving – thus, here I am!
I am happy. I have reached this emotional state with a lot of hard work on my part, support from friends and family, and a good old-fashioned romance. With a surfeit of smiles and laughter these days, other widows have been referred to me as a role-model – and of course I am not. Everyone’s journey through loss of spouse/partner is different – the relationship, circumstances of death, work and myriad other issues impact the widow’s path. I can look back at almost two years, however, and tick off steps which helped me:
- Being vulnerable and open enough to ask my friends and family for their time;
- Seeking counseling to deal with my grief;
- Loving my late husband, yet making my home a sanctuary and not a time capsule;
- Returning to those activities which support physical health (e.g., bicycling, strength-training);
- Increasing my circle of women friends – regardless of their marital status;
- Jettisoning friends who could not support me in my quest for a new life;
- Developing and acting on a list of activities offering novelty and challenge (e.g., dragon boat racing, independent travel, writing);
- Defining for myself what I could offer a romantic partner, and he me; and
- Allowing myself to accept that I could love another man in a different way and in a different time.
When someone who hasn’t seen much of me lately spots me now, she or he often remarks about my seeming happiness. Just several months ago I’d have thought I just look alive rather than as broken as before – but now I smile and acknowledge my state. It feels good to know that I will always love Rick and miss him and that I have the prospect of a good life ahead.
So what can I say about the man with whom I’m romantically involved, without revealing too much? He is kind, smart, funny, energetic, and makes me laugh so hard I can barely catch my breath. He loves classic rock, musicals and sports. He enjoys cooking. He has his own interests, and supports me with his presence at my events. We both lost beloved spouses, so he holds me close through my periodical meltdowns. Above all, he lives a faith-based life and regularly expresses gratitude for God’s gifts.
Am I blessed or what?