I wore my wedding rings for a year after I lost Mitch. In my heart I was still married and the transition to single or widowed was not one that happened overnight. Loss of a spouse changes the future of the remaining spouse, and the dreams you had for a life with your loved one die when they do…. Suddenly I was thrown into this unfamiliar world without a road map or a guide. Opinions surrounded me and voices expressed continual approval or disapproval, but all I could hear was the sound of my own heart leading me in the path I felt was correct. So I wore the rings on my left finger and feeling in my heart that my marriage was very much alive despite the fact that my husband was no longer. One of the things I learned early on in my widowhood was to do what was right for me.
We all grieve in our own way and move forward in our time, so I tried to quiet the crowd and remember that our hearts will always tell us the way if we take the time to listen. Shortly after New Year’s 2011 I woke up and realized that I know longer felt *married* and I knew it was time to move the rings. While my love for my husband had not changed I realized my identity had, and it may be time (for me personally) to finally start to move forward. I moved the rings to my neck, close to my heart, and turned a new corner in my grief process. My timing is personal to me, some widow friends wear their rings for months, and some for years…this is a their choice and I hold no judgement because each of us walks this journey in our own way.
I spent the first year plus of my widowhood figuring out how to honor my late husband’s life and then I realized that the best way to honor him would be to take my life and honor myself. To continue to live, to breath deep, and to find happiness again both within myself and potentially with another. I decided it was time to open myself up to dating….
I will be honest, the concept of dating scared me to death. I had been with Mitch since my early 20’s and the idea of making memories with someone new after 15 years with Mitch was HORRIFYING!! Yet, I decided I would at least be open to the idea because I missed having someone to laugh with, hike with, and just have grown up conversation with. Putting yourself out into the dating world as a *widow* is pretty overwhelming. People hear that word and often run….I use to joke that I was the white elephant in every room I entered. Everyone would stare and look, but nobody knew what to say or do. I just wanted to feel normal again, no drama, no fuss….just me laughing without feeling guilty for being happy and smiling because life was happy at that moment.
Being a widow is complicated! Despite wanting to do what is right for yourself, you worry about perception. Will they think it’s too soon? Will this hurt my close friends, my family, his family? Perception should not be an issue, but in all reality it is something that every person who lives with loss deals with…. in a very real way. Our world has ideas of the correct timing and methods for every change and every milestone. Lucky for me, I stopped listening to that world shortly after my husband’s death.
Above all else, the number one thing I have done well as a widow is follow my heart. Those signals, those feelings, those gut instincts are there for a reason….to guide us in life and to keep us on the path we are intended to follow. Nobody has walked my path but me. Nobody can decide my future but me. Nobody can take away my ultimate happiness but me. Widowhood has blessed me with an understanding of life, like never before, and a clarity of spirit I hold tight and value. My best advice to those who are experiencing loss….follow your heart, it knows the way!
More on my transitions next week….