As a child, if you get a burn, you quickly learn not to touch fire. Cut yourself with a knife, and you learn to steer clear of the blade when cutting. We don’t forget the pain we experience and we make a point to avoid it in the future.
So, it’s no wonder that when a heart gets broken, one might choose to stay away from love.
The ache from a broken heart is shockingly real. I experienced this when my late husband, Garry, passed away from stomach cancer. I know I have written about this before, but it truly is a physical pain, as well as emotional. A stabbing pang that doesn’t go away and sends shockwaves over your mind and body.
I never thought I would recover from it. In my car or alone at night, I would sob and yell; it wasn’t fair. Garry was supposed to be the love of my life. We had two adorable boys. We were all supposed to be together forever, and then that was ripped away from me. How would I ever learn to trust love again; how could I move on? Did moving on mean I would have to forget him?
A couple of summers ago I was riding on a ferry. I was by myself, returning home after visiting friends. I sat down next to a young mother who was holding an infant and pushing a toddler back and forth in a stroller.
We struck up a conversation. She was a doctor. They were visiting from the Midwest. At the time, I was still wearing my engagement ring, but I had taken off my wedding band. She asked me a perfectly normal question- when was I getting married? I sadly informed her that my husband had passed away and that I wasn’t ready to take off the ring.
We continued to talk and eventually, she asked if I had thought about dating.
Before I could really even answer, she quickly replied to me that if her husband died she would never marry again. Then, in a quiet voice, she let out a rant while nodding in the direction of her husband, who was talking with nearby friends. He never helped with the kids. Their vacation had been miserable. She was a research doctor. She worked too. It would be just as easy to be alone.
No, it’s not.
And there was my answer about dating. My grandmother once told me marriage would be the hardest job I would ever have. So, I shared that bit of advice with the woman and shared my experiences about having a newborn and a toddler. It’s a very hard time during a marriage. Hey, they call it mothering, not fathering. I think she may have replied they call it parenting. 😉
There will always be challenges in a marriage. But, if you can get through those times, you’ll have someone to look back with and reminisce about a lifetime of memories.
I realized I still wanted that partnership. I wanted to make and share memories. Love should always get a second chance, even at the risk of a broken heart.
And so, when I returned home, I took off my ring. I had it made into a beautiful necklace. And, I started dating.
Oh boy, what a disaster modern dating is! Nevermind being a widow, the social media component alone is enough to make anyone want to be single. I still feel bad for those brave souls who went out with me. Seeing me drink too much wine and cry at a restaurant must have been such a pathetic sight. I so badly wanted Garry to be on the other side of the table and I had to come to terms with the fact that he could never be. I’m so sorry that anyone had to be part of that acceptance process.
In fact, I was such a disaster I started to think maybe it was easier to be alone. Who needs to compromise? I could do things like put the glasses rim up or rim down in the cupboard. There was enough stress as a single working mom, why cause more with dating?
But then it happened. I met someone. And, the feelings were pretty intense right from the start. Just like with Garry.
At first, I had to overcome the guilt. Garry and I didn’t get divorced. We didn’t fall out of love. How could I give my heart to someone when it still belonged to Garry? Part of healing and moving on is realizing the same fact from many different angles. Garry was gone. I had to stop looking backward. I needed to accept this.
I’m not a religious person. But, as a kid, I was taught the lessons of the bible. So many of them fascinated me. One, in particular, was the story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt after angels commanded her and her family not to look back at the burning city of Sodom. But, she couldn’t resist and when she looked back at the city, she turned into a pillar of salt.
As a child, I interpreted this story to mean if you didn’t listen to god, he would punish you. As an adult, I have a different interpretation. If we are always looking at the past, we will become paralyzed- stagnant. We need to live for today and plan for the future.
While I cherish my memories with Garry, I am no longer stuck in them. I had to make a decision to move forward so that I could be a better mom and enjoy my life. Garry will always be part of my life, he contributed to who I am today. He’s the father of my children. But, he’s not coming back and it is time for me to move on and not look back.
And I did, with the help of love.
But first, I had to learn to give my trust to someone, which is really hard after suffering a loss.
I also had to introduce my two boys to this new love if it was going to be a long-term relationship. This is where I became fully committed. To see someone laugh, care, and appreciate those two little amazing bundles of energy opened my heart and filled it with joy. We were already making memories, and so I started to think there was a chance I could be happy again.
When you lose someone, a part of you will always be sad, and moving on does not mean you forget that person. But, moving on is a necessary step in healing. We all deserve to be happy. We all deserve love.
Today, September 21st would have been my 15 year wedding anniversary with Garry. That is the major reason why I have written this. I’ll never forget the day I married Garry. It’s always at the turn of fall. It’s hard to forget. AJ, my fiance understands this, and that is one of the many reasons I love him.
His care for my boys, love, and understanding are why I accepted his marriage proposal. I sold the house where I had lived for 14 years and bought a new one with him. As the seasons change today and we say goodbye to summer, I am planning for our future. I have opened my heart once again and am taking a risk because love ALWAYS deserves a second chance.
Thanks for reading.
In the featured photo, I am pictured on the right after planting a Japanese Maple tree at my and Garry’s home in 2004. The picture on the left was taken this summer (2017) right before I and my two boys moved out of the home. The same Japanese Maple is pictured behind us.
Time moves on. Things keep growing. So do we.
We hope this Widow’s Column provides hope, support and a sounding board for anyone who has lost a spouse. We know we’re not alone. We want to hear from you. Share your experiences and comments and maybe we can learn, grow, and heal together.
*Please excuse any dangling prepositions. They were a conscious addition to the tone of the article. 🙂