Today marks the 8th year anniversary of Carlleena’s passing. Eight years ago, I would have NEVER imagined my life as it is today. I am forever grateful for this journey.
To love again…when you are growing through the loss of a spouse and someone asks “when are you going to start dating again,” literally sounded like a foreign language to me. I remember being asked that and thinking…huh, excuse me…no way. I’m never going to love someone as much as I loved Carlleena. No one is going to love me as much as she did. That was all logical talk in my mind at that time, but the reality of it was that I would at some point date again. I was 32 when she passed. I was at the age of being young enough to still have kids but not quite qualified to be an old widowed lady for the rest of my life. I just didn’t want to embark on that road because I was holding onto a promise to love Carlleena for the rest of my life. What my mind and heart couldn’t separate at that time was that I could still love her for the rest of my life and fall into love with someone else in a new relationship. To allow my heart to reopen to receive the love of another and for my heart to give love to someone other than the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with…That is the bravest thing I have ever done. Some might say that me going through cancer treatment and living in grace through it all is the bravest thing I have accomplished thus far. Maybe in some ways it is, but in my heart, the bravest thing I’ve ever done is allow myself to enter that vulnerable space and love again.
I felt guilty for loving someone new. I know the wishes Carlleena and I shared should one of us pass and we both agreed that was to love full force just as we had done with each other but I NEVER thought I would have to honor those wishes. No matter the occurance of your heartbreak, wether it be death, divorce, or your own choice for releasing a toxic relationship, it still hurts. Some people have an extremely difficult time allowing them selves to love again for the mere fact that they don’t want to go through the pain again. That’s an understandable thought process but it’s not fair. It’s not fair to yourself or to the person on the receiving end of your love. It’s scary to try and explain to someone why you have fears associated around the death of a spouse. It’s not something that you obviously want to go through ever again, but finding a partner that is willing to listen and understand your fears birthed from your spouses death can be a scary chapter. I personally have fears surrounding car/accidents, and when someone is not feeling well and has symptoms like Carlleena did. It freaks me out a bit. Getting someone else to understand the legitimacy of your concerns is important.
Before you get into a new relationship, go ahead and release all expectations of the hopes that this new relationship could love you just like your previous relationship. Stop it right now. No one is ever going to love you the exact same way that your deceased spouse did. That’s impossible. Love isn’t always built from the same deck of cards, but what your soul requires should follow suit. (You should have a list of soul requirements. If you don’t have a list, make one.) That does not mean that their love won’t be as powerful or as meaningful. They will love you differently and that will open your eyes to more. You may find that you are more open to sharing your love because you know the value and impact of it’s loss.
If you are navigating the journey of new love after the loss of a spouse, my advice to you is to make sure you are healthy mentally and healing in a positive manner before venturing out for new love! Make space for new love to arrive and invite the feeling that they are creating a shared space with you and not taking the place of your deceased spouse! Stay true to what you feel is a reasonable form of honoring your departed spouse if you so choose. New found single life is awkward and uncomfortable and down right scary. Some people may try to compare widowhood to a divorce and tell you that it might be weird if you talked about your ex-spouse and shared stories about them occasionally. One might get the impression that you aren’t “over” your ex. Widowhood is on a completely different spectrum than a situation of divorce. An ex spouse and a deceased spouse are not comparable. Divorce didn’t end your relationship, death did. Your current love should be comfortable with you talking about memories, stories and aspects of your life with that person. Move forward with honesty with yourself and with that new love. Explain that there may be days that you are emotional and it could relate to your departed spouse or a memory may trigger some emotion. It’s important to remember that grief is a lifelong process but that doesn’t mean you have to wait a lifetime to move forward. There is an understanding person out there waiting to love the parts of you that you thought were shattered.
What’s amazing in this universal design of my life is that my husband, Philip, knew Carlleena. We all grew up together, so he isn’t at all intimidated or threatened by me sharing stories of my life and time with Carlleena. He understands. My wish for all the widowers out there on the dating scene is that you walk in your truth and find a partner that will allow you space to honor the past without hesitation. Make that a soul requirement that your partner holds.