I’ll put this right out there from the start: not everyone was happy when I started dating my husband. Most of you know our story. High school sweethearts who dated for 3 years back in the day. DeAngelo graduated a year ahead of me, went off to college and we went in different directions for a long while. Cue the summer of 2016, and after years of no contact, I’m getting an Inbox message from the my first love. No, I wasn’t looking for love again. Yet I’ve spent every day since that moment, in sheer gratefulness it found its way back to me.
What happened next isn’t the easiest thing to talk about-but it’s our truth. And as you readers know, I never shy away from the truth of our journey, even the hard parts to vocalize.
I’ll set the scene-I was 3 years into Widowhood and had no interest in dating again. None. Zilch. At 35 years old I planned to be alone for the rest of my life. Raise two children on my own. Take the safest route possible, which for me meant avoiding, at all costs, anything that could possibly break my heart again. We’d been through too much. I was weary.
Yet around year 3 something started to shift. I became open, not necessarily to love, but to the possibility life might not be “over” for me (what I had long believed). That there might still be some-gasp-semblance of joy I could experience again.
I got to the strongest mental place I’d been since my late-husband Joel’s death and I found myself, ever so slightly, starting to dream again.
And then...love came. It knocked me off my feet. I never, in a million years, saw it coming. And I never, a bajillion years, saw it coming with DeAngelo. Which is funny, because now there’s never been anything that’s made more sense in my life.
At first, many of my friends and family were skeptical. And I’ll be honest, some were angry. But slowly, as they started to meet and interact with DeAngelo, they began to trust him. Our deep love was quite evident. He selflessly loved my children. It didn’t take long or take much for most of them to come around.
Telling my late-husbands family was another story. I was terrified. Yet they blew me away with their graciousness and kindness towards me. They were genuinely happy for myself and the kids. Even to this day, when I post pictures, they are some of the first to comment and celebrate the joy in our lives. They didn’t have to be that way, but I’m forever humbled they were.
Yet as much acceptance as there’s been, there’s been pockets of disapproval. People that were once a part of our world, voicing their displeasure I had dared to moved forward. I even recently found out about a wedding many of our old friends would be attending. I was told I was not welcome because they didn’t want my new husband there. Talk about a kick to the gut.
The hard reality is an age of much tolerance and acceptance being thrown around-there’s one dirty word we widow’s face no matter what we do-and that’s judgement.
People don’t want us to move forward. And if we do they don’t like how we do it. They don’t like who we choose to do it with. They don’t agree with the timing of how we do it. As a widow-do they not understand I am my own worst critic in every decision I make? That I second guess each one?
The introducing of a new man into our lives, was done with much fear and apprehension. Not because he’s not an amazing man, but because there’s no one who was more scared to death to move forward...than me.
I was scared of what would happen if it didn’t work. I was scared of what would happen if it did. I was scared of our kiddos hearts being affected. I was scared to marry again. I was scared of shifting our lives, yet again. I was scared of new beginnings-the list goes on and on. The simple truth is I would’ve never made the choice I did unless I gave it major thought, and weighed out both the good and bad.
Yet in the end, despite the fear, there was love. And the pull of that love was too great. And our relationship, so special, I knew I would forever regret not giving it a chance.
As a widow who’s already experienced loss, it’s heartbreaking to experience additional loss from people who want you to continue living in your pain. When they stand in judgement while you’re simply trying to rise again after you’ve fallen, so many times before.
The irony in all this, is no one would want that happiness for us more, than the person we lost. A new man has come in, yes. But this new man has loved Joel’s family, helped raise his kids, and ensured we are never again alone. You don’t think that would make my late-husband beam with pride? Do people think they’re being loyal to Joel in pushing his family away? It’s insanity. It makes no sense, and it adds another layer of pain to a family who’s been steeped in it for far too long.
I wish people could learn to give more grace to widows. They have experienced so much. It gives me a righteous anger when they’re judged on their path to wholeness and happiness. Are they not worthy of it?
The truth is-no one deserves happiness again more than them. NO ONE. Nor should they have to apologize for their joy.
May we as a people desire that for the Widow, despite how it makes us feel. Their happiness above all. No judgement-love.
To my fellow widows, let me leave you with this. I spoke to a woman in tears the other day about the topic of grief. She just wished she had a Manual telling her how to grieve and move forward the “right” way. The problem, I told her, there is no right way. There’s only your way. And your way may be filled with more peaks and valleys than most understand. Your way won’t look like my way, just like my way won’t look like your way. Both are our way...and that’s ok
There’s so much grace in this journey. We’ve been thru hell and back. There’s no judgement here. Only true acceptance. Acceptance in your process. Acceptance in this road you’re walking that leads you home. To joy, to purpose, to hope. May it be yours, once again.