Dating a Widow...what’s that like?


What my new man might need to know... Oh, you think I’m beautiful? You want to take me out to dinner? You want to get to know me? You think you might actually love me? Are you sure? Hold up. Let’s talk seriously for a minute. You probably need some warning about a few things. First and foremost, I’m a widow. Do you understand what that means? My husband has died...he’s gone. I’m not divorced, so he is not my ex. Do NOT call him that. This does make me available to date, but I don’t exactly feel single. I am not sure why that is. Work with me on this. If I’m even entertaining the notion of going out with you and/or having a serious relationship with you, that means I’m interested in moving forward in my life. But, don’t get it twisted. I am moving FORWARD, not moving on. I spent too many years with my husband to move on from the love we shared. So don’t ask me to. It may have been a few “minutes” since he died, but I am still deeply affected by his death. He is, after all, my first great love. Also, please don’t be offended by the switching of past and present tenses when I talk about him. It’s a widow thing. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. Certain days or moments may bring on crying spells. Memories I like to call the “grief brick” hit me upside the head at the strangest times. Perhaps a song on the radio. The way you might grab my hand. The way you may say something to me. Driving past the hospital he died in. Watching his favorite show. Crying jags. They happen. I won’t apologize for them. Just hold me and let me get it out. I know you’d hate to see me cry but I might be able to love you forever if you’re there for me when I’m suffering from the strike of a grief brick. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum is crazy anger accompanied by high pitched screaming. Widowhood is a very difficult thing to process and live with. So on some days, my anger at the injustices of it comes right to the surface. Anger can be triggered by many things: thoughts of my husband’s promises to always be here for me; thoughts about my in laws saying the exact same thing; the fact that my boys lost their father when they needed him most; how my finances have gone straight to hell since he died; why he couldn’t be saved. Things like that. I can tell it’s my grief screaming because the tone is frankly a little shrill to my ears. You’ll know it when you hear it. Just maybe sit there and listen, if you can. It’s not your fault - most of the time. I apologize right now for when it isn’t and if I take it out on you. Then, there’s the widow brain. It’s called such because it only seems to happen to widows and is explained by the way the brain is trying to compensate for all of the pain the heart is feeling from the loss. In other words, my brain is altering its chemistry to protect me from feeling the pain all of the time by allowing certain things to be forgotten or blocked out. Grief is an overwhelming thing that affects the body down to the cellular level. For example, I will never be able to find my keys. I will not ever remember phone numbers. I won’t even know how I got places sometimes. I may end up somewhere I wasn’t even going. What was I looking for again? Where are my kids? Where’s that shoe I wanted to wear? Is my debit card still in the machine at the store? Who bought this stuff? No one’s going to eat it! The best part: forgetting I did any of that. Widow brain is truly a thing and it is definitely a problem for me. Your job is to act like its a normal part of life. So please just help me find my stuff and remember where I was going. Next, this one is short and sweet. Love me, love my sons. Remember that. Also know they aren’t going to call you Dad, Daddy or Father unless you invite them to and only if they want to. You can’t make them. I won’t make them. As far we are all concerned, they already have a Dad. Speaking of that, I don’t know if I want to remarry. Many widows do, but for me, considering the possibility of being married again may be appealing, but the possibility of being a widow again is not. So tread so, so lightly on that subject. I may consider it but do NOT push me. You may see his pictures and other mementos around my home. They aren’t going to get put away. They are as much for me as for my boys. His presence still lives here with us. Having his things around soothes us. A man who asks me to forget him and put these things away is not the man for me. Eventually I may move a few things, but that will be my choice. No, I will not compare you to my late husband. Clearly I have a type, because you physically resemble him to a degree. But I realize that you are a completely different person. Just saying this so that you aren’t offended when my sons and some of my friends give you the sideways look when they meet you. I do have some good news for you, so stop looking scared. I am worth every single effort you plan to make. I have known great love and along with it, great loss. So I understand most acutely how every single day is important. Life is to be lived to the highest power - we must grab hold with both hands. I’ve learned that it is also important to: Smile more. Laugh more. Yell less. A bit contradictory to the above, but at least I’m trying. Hug someone everyday, including yourself. Hug and kiss your love (yes, that’s perhaps you) as often as he will let you. Let him hug and kiss you back. That had better be often by the way. Gaze lovingly at someone you love. Drink rum and make love on the beach. Swim naked in the sea. Wake with the sunrise and walk hand in hand in the sunset. Read a good book. Read lots of good books. Put down the phone and talk. Climb a mountain. Ride a camel. Visit the homeland. See every single Marvel movie in the correct order. Discuss them at length. Do what you love and love what you do. Do all of these things and more. Something else for you: since you’ve listened to everything I’ve said and you’re still here, know this too-It is entirely possible for me to love again. I have a heart as big as the ocean and I am capable of having another great love. In fact, I hope that I do. Since you’ve shown yourself ready, willing and able to take on a widow, it might very well be you. Losing my husband when I did has shown me I don’t have the time to wait anymore for anything. So we can be great together. If I decide to love you, you won’t know what hit you. I will love you that fiercely. I will love you forever. I will love you through and in spite of everything. I am worth every second you put into a relationship with me. By Cheryl Barnes


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