I just ended a relationship with someone I had been seeing for about 4 months. Like me, he is widowed, and I met him on a dating site. I guess you could say we “broke up.” Is that still what the kids call it these days? I have no idea. I didn’t word it that way when I ended things between us. The phrase “breaking up” almost sounds too childish and immature and teenage-like, for everything that we both have been through in our lives at this point. “Breaking up” doesn’t really gel for two middle-aged people who have suffered through individual trauma, grief, loss, illness, death.
No. Instead, I worded it like this: “I think it’s time that we transition this relationship into more of a friendship, and no longer a couple. I don’t see a future for us, and it feels unfair and wrong at this point to continue in this way.” It was all very mature. I was mature, he was mature in the way he handled it, everything was mature. But it still hurt. Inside of my soul and my heart, it did hurt. It hurt him, I am quite sure, even though he downplayed it. And it truly hurt me to be the cause of pain to a fellow widowed person. But if we had stayed together any longer, with me not being able to reciprocate the feelings in that “all in this” way that everyone deserves, the pain would have been multiplied down the road, and so I ended it.
But please don’t spend any time feeling sorry for me or feeling sad for me, or for him. Yes, it was difficult. And yes, I will miss a lot of things about dating this person, and the time we spent together. However, we mutually feel like there are good things waiting on the horizon for the both of us – things that are still yet to be discovered, that haven’t fully formed yet, or that can’t quite be seen at the moment, because they are too far off in the distance – hiding behind the foggy mist of fear and uncertainty. And this person and myself – we will remain friends – always. Which is why I prefer to call this a “transition.” Not in that Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner way, but in that “adult and widowed” way that two people have to collectively decide what is best for them and their hearts.
To be completely honest (and when am I ever NOT in my writing), I am very proud of myself, and it usually takes a lot for me to say that. For over four years after my husband died, I had no interest in dating, and the very idea of “someone else” made me sick to my stomach. Nauseous. And even though all around me, other widowed people were getting into relationships and dating and finding ways to “get out there again”, I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t even think about it. For over four years, thoughts of intimacy or loneliness or being part of a couple again, didn’t even cross my mind really. I was much too busy grieving and in massive amounts of pain from the loss of my husband, my forever love. People judged me constantly. I was asked weekly and sometimes daily by strangers, friends, family, EVERYONE, over and over and over again: “So, are you dating yet? Why not? You should be dating. Be happy. You’re not getting any younger. He would want you to be happy.” Yes. He would. I do know this. But he would also want me to do things when I’m ready, in my own time, when it feels right, and not on some fictitious, made-up timeline, or because people who are well-intentioned but clueless are pressuring me.
So I waited. I lived my life. I tried to get by. I existed and breathed in and out as best as I could. And then in June of 2015, I received a beautiful email from someone who had just found my blog, and who happened to be widowed also, and who also happened to know and worked with my husband , many years ago, as fellow EMS / paramedics. He told me he found my blog, and he thanked me for the words in it. He said lovely things about my husband, and told me how him and his wife who died and my husband who died, all knew one another and worked together all these years ago. And we started talking via email, and then on the phone. And thus began what has turned into a lovely connection, a wonderful friendship with so much potential for more, one day. We met in person, in March of this year, and it was organic and natural and real. It was effortless and familiar and new. It was a blanket of warmth and safe things, and all things good. It was that place that felt like home.
We spent a few days together, hanging out, connecting, getting to know each other more. The connection we had on the phone was even more undeniable in person, and we marinated inside of the moments spent honoring our forever loves, while also finding peace and joy in one another’s company. But because we are “adult and widowed”, emotions are complicated, and hearts are damaged from ill-intentioned people and the wake of self-doubt and darkness they leave in our souls. And so, our connection and our bond and our “what could be” remains in neutral, idling in the driveway – or like a pot of Sunday sauce, that just needs to simmer a lot longer before it’s truly ready.
In the meantime, meeting this incredible person made me realize that I was now in a place where I was missing having intimacy, dating, being part of a couple, having someone to do things with, having someone to hold hands with and share kisses with, and cuddle with, and hang out on a weekend with and watch movies or walk around a lovely neighborhood on a nice summer day with. So I did something I never in a million years ever thought I would do – I joined dating sites. Plural. Three of them. All the free ones. I started chatting with people. I met some people. I had dates. Some were total disasters. Others were total assholes who literally called me “fat”, and others would build a phone relationship with me for weeks, only to completely fall off the face of the earth and stop all contact. I learned, in the dating world today, there is a term for this. It’s called “ghosting.” How ironic, for a widowed person to be ghosted. The site called “Plenty of Fish” should be called “Plenty of Fucking Douchebags”, but that’s another story altogether. There were endless jerks and weirdos on these sites, and a whole slew of people who just want to crawl into bed with anything that moves. Or doesn’t move. I don’t think they much care, as long as it’s female. But while sifting through all of the garbage, I was able to find a bit of my own self-confidence again. I was able to SEE firsthand, actual proof, that there were real men out there in the universe, who actually found me attractive. And lots of them were very nice men, too. We didn’t click or connect or things didn’t work out, but they were good, decent men, who thought I was beautiful. This shocked me. One of my biggest fears after losing Don, was always that not only would I not be able to love again, but that nobody out there would ever love me. I was pretty convinced that nobody would be interested in old, overweight, broken, traumatized and with issues, PTSD and anxiety-ridden, forever in love with my dead husband, weird, me. But the more people I talked to, the more I understood that having someone who was actually attracted to me again, might be possible. Maybe Don isn’t the only person in the universe that doesn’t find me repulsive, but who thinks I am special and worthy and pretty.
And then, after a few dates with others on the site, I met the guy who I just ended the relationship with, and we were the exact right thing in each other’s lives, in the exact right moment. There was a chemistry there from the start, and it felt so incredible to feel wanted again in that way. We gave each other confidence again. We gave each other confirmation that others would find us desirable again. I had my very first relationship post-loss, my first intimacy, my first entering into the world of being a couple again. We also helped each other heal in many ways, and provided each other with some new tools on the road of widowhood. And now, I am very certain that the dating I have done and the experiences I have had these past 5 months or so, were all necessary for me in my process. It was time. I was ready, and now because of these experiences, I know with absolute certainty, where my heart lies. It was not easy. There have been a lot of tears, triggers, grief-attacks, and mistakes made. But I have never really put much stock into “mistakes.” All they are to me, is the universe telling you that you are supposed to be somewhere else. Sometimes you just have to take the scenic route to get there. But you do get there – in time.
So, I’m proud of myself. Anyone that knew me in my first 3 years or so of widowhood, could tell you how cynical I was and how negative and non-believing I was, at the idea of even the possibility of ever loving or being loved again. But what I have learned is that sometimes, you have to go the wrong way for a really long time, in order to find the right way. A different way. And that “wrong way” isn’t even wrong, technically. It’s just not the right path for you. So after all of this traveling down all of these scary paths, I now know for sure, where my heart wants to be. And it’s going to take awhile to get there, because it’s still very far off in the distance, and there are never any guarantees. But I’m willing to take that risk. Because my heart, my intuition, and my husband, are all pointing me in that direction – to that place that felt like home. So I don’t much care how long it takes to get there – I’m going to sit back, and appreciate every tiny step of the trip.
For I keep hearing my dear, dead husband’s voice, whispering in my ear:
It’s going to be okay.