Being with someone new, as lovely as he is, as much as he makes me so freaking happy again, in ways that I didn't think possible, has absolutely nothing to do with how much I miss my late partner. How much I wish he was still here! How much I wish myself and my current partner (also a wid) had never ever found ourselves in the position where we join a group for young wids and meet each other.
In my blog post Things not to say to a widow, I talk about things people have said about finding another partner: "You are young. You'll find someone new." "They'd want you to be happy." These to me make it seem like replacing a partner is like replacing a worn-out coat, and that having a new relationship makes everything better. In Nora McInerny's wonderful TED Talk, she talks about what she saw in people's reaction to her new relationship:
"This audible sigh of relief among the people who love me, like 'It's over! She did it. She got a happy ending. We can all go home."
About two and a bit years after Tim died I met someone. It wasn't expected – a friend connected us up over a creative project and we found that we talked often and long into the night. Things were made more complex by all this happening in lockdown, and so by our first 'real' date, a day spent walking around the glorious Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we'd actually been dating virtually for a few months. My ladyspouse and I are getting married. It doesn't take away everything that went before. But it's wonderful.
Starting to date as a widow can bring up a whole rush of emotions, and highlight our losses. I had grief attacks and nightmares. I dreamed vividly about Tim. I felt like I was betraying Tim, and I worried about what people would think. I felt very vulnerable and my emotions about my new partner swung around wildly. When we first kissed, it was the first kiss since Tim died, and I felt a spike of guilt. When we first slept together, I had to fight intrusive memories, as the bedroom is where Tim died. That took a lot of grounding.
If you start dating, remember to be kind to yourself. Take things steady. Keep safe. But also enjoy. We've already faced the worst and survived and sometimes we need to seize the moment. After all, we know that life is short.
"Our hearts are amazing things – they can expand to fit new people in it – no one questions if a new mother still loves her husband or other children, it is taken for granted that they have enough for the new addition. In the same way in the widowed world being lucky enough to find love again in no way diminishes what we once had – there is room enough in our hearts for the new alongside the old."
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.