Widowhood is being stuck between two options: being alone for the rest of my life or being willing to start completely over.
The thought of either option isn’t necessarily appealing. Both are actually quite overwhelming.
There have been times when the loneliness has made me feel like I was about to crawl out of my own skin. Like I was about to burst. I felt crazy. Desperate. Like a bottle of soda, shaken.
Other times I would watch the tension between another couple, watch their disagreements or irritations, and go home to my single, peaceful existence. I could remember how hard marriage was. How hard it was to mesh two personalities, two sets of tastes, two imperfect people into the same house, day after day, year after year and still like each other. At those times I could be quite content in the simplicity of being able to eat what I want, go where I want, cook what I want, watch what I want, go to bed when I want, and not have another person to have to compromise with.
Such contrary thoughts coexisting within one person.
I can imagine the widows who had been married for fifty years scoffing at the idea of attaching themselves to someone new after a lifetime bond with one person.
Then younger widows like myself, have to deal with the incessant comments, like, “At least you’re young. You’ll meet someone new. You can remarry.” Because apparently my life with my husband is easily replaced like a bad light bulb. Oh, the bulb went out? You can get a new one.
There are three main thoughts that hang over my head as I think about opening myself up to dating and/or eventual marriage again. I’m sure others deal with these same thoughts.
One: The thought of remarriage means losing the sacredness of belonging to my husband, being his, him being mine. It means giving that sacredness to someone else. In grief, there is so much within us that desires to honor what our spouse meant to us. And giving that sacredness away to a new person feels contrary to that. As long as I am single, it feels like I can still refer to “us” as him and me, I can still refer to my “husband” as him. I’m scared to let go of that. No matter how different my life is now, the memory of what it was like with my husband still feels as if it exists within the boundaries of the ripples from the stones thrown in our old life. Remarrying feels like it would step outside those long lasting ripples of our life together and make new ripples with new stones. It’s more loss.
Two: I also struggle with the very idea of starting at square one. I shouldn’t have to start at square one at this stage of life. I spent thirteen years building. Building, brick by brick, the foundation of marriage. Building the trust. Building through the demolition that life events brought. It took years to learn each other. It took many tears and much frustration to get into the flow of each other. It took so many conversations and life experiences to create the history, the patterns, and the balance with each other. To start over??? With someone new??? From square one??? To have to go through all that building again? To relearn someone’s idiosyncrasies and tendencies and likes and dislikes and personality and fears and quirks and needs and passions and past and hurts and history and childhood and family and strengths and weaknesses? Just thinking about doing that all over again makes my head hurt. Just writing that list made my head hurt.
I went through many things with my husband. There was a lot of crud we went through to find the diamonds in our marriage and in each other. Do I really have the energy to go through all that again just to avoid being alone?
Three: Then the kicker. Even if I do meet someone…and we hit it off…and we feel compatible…and I am willing to step past these two fears….the solemn realization dawns that that person will never share the history with me that I had with my first husband. I will never get that comradery back.
I remember a few months after Kyle died, I saw a certain person on Dancing with the Stars. And this contestant reminded me so much of one of our old employees. (A person with a very unique personality and very unique features.) All I wanted to do was call him into the room to see the uncanny similarities so we could exclaim over it together. But I couldn’t. And at that moment, I realized there was no one else I could call to share the surreal experience to the same degree, with the same understanding. There are certain things that only he could have understood. It brought a huge wave of loneliness.
I often revert to that experience. Because even if I fell in love again, I still couldn’t have called that new man into the room and expected him to “get it.” We didn’t share that life experience. That history wouldn’t be there. So no matter what, that loneliness doesn’t go away. I will never regain the bond over that shared history.
No matter how much I may love a new man, the fact remains that he will never negate what I lost because he will never share the same memories. The new guy will not share the thirteen years of business and kids and projects and ministry.
Then I contemplate being alone. Surprisingly I’ve come to the place where it isn’t as scary a notion as it once was. But even though it’s not so scary, is it actually appealing? To be without someone who is my person. To live without a partner who knows me inside and out. To come home after an eventful day and have no one to recount it to. To plan my trip and always wonder who can come with me. To not have a companion to naturally share life with. To not have someone who knows my weakness and can counter them when necessary. To not have that person who balances you and knows all your inside jokes.
I am not sure I want that for the rest of my life, either.
So, I am stuck between two unwanted options. And if I sit and think too hard about either one of them, I can sink into a sad state of mind. Sad that I am left with only these options.