I have several blogs started, my drafts tab is getting longer and longer (I’m not a fan of this). I had one entry in particular I really wanted to share with you today, it is topical, but I feel I’m still processing my thoughts on the topic so I think it’s best for me to push pause and really get to the bottom “of things” before I hit publish. I’m taking my own advice, right? “Be still.” I am trying to handle some of life’s lemons with grace and not be so reactive. So before I answer some of your questions, I have one for you. Whether or not you are a blogger, please help me with this conundrum. It can be a bit odd, at times, sharing my own journey. Being transparent with my life is MY choice, but there are obviously other people who are a part of my journey, and not everyone is going to be my best friend, I don’t have a perfect history with everyone I’ve encountered. Who does?
While I want to be 100% authentic, I also still want to be respectful, if I am 100% authentic (from my perspective) in regards to some people who are a part of my story, I might ruffle some feathers or hurt feelings. This is obviously a struggle for me. However, I feel the content is important and completely relevant. I want to share it but I’m struggling to find that balance; how do I share my story, be authentic, including people who didn’t make the same choice as I did, to be transparent, and still be “fair” to them? I don’t intend to intentionally disrespect anyone but this blog is from MY perspective, it is my story, as I lived it. If you’ve read more than one or two of my blogs, you know authenticity is everything to me. I hope this week is a bit slower and I’ll have more time to write, in turn, process and share more with you. In the mean time, please share your thoughts with me on this. How do I tackle including some of my not so bright spots and the people who shaded them without outing them, or “throwing them under the bus”.
So, on a day where I’m not feeling 100% myself but miss my readers and the connection I have to you and my blog, I thought it would be a perfect day to address some of your questions. You all are wondering a lot of the same things. Some of these questions are personal and others are more “generic”, not specific to me but my opinion on this or that. Let me preface all of this by saying I am not a professional grief anything, these are my thoughts, experiences and opinions as a blogger/survivor of grief.
If one person has asked me, I’m sure many others have wondered so here it is…
Dating? When did I start dating after I lost Luke? Do I think there is a “right” time to start dating after you’ve lost a romantic partner? How do you respect your new partner while “honoring your past one”? You guys really don’t ask easy questions and this is like a seven part blog series that maybe I’ll get to one day, but here’s the long/short version.
I have dated seriously twice since I lost Luke, and that’s been two years and four months ago. My first “relationship” was with a man who was fairly close to the “situation”, looking back, my relationship with him was 100% my grief. I feel bad for saying that, but it is what it is. I was desperately trying to hold onto whatever was left, what I thought was left of Luke. I wasn’t ready but thought dating might “fix me”. I cried A LOT throughout the course of this relationship (the beginning, the middle and then less toward the very end). This person was very aware of my grief but I don’t feel he had the emotional capacity to truly handle it. I think he thought he would “fix me”, too, we were both wrong, about a lot of things. For all of the reasons I thought I wanted to be with him in the beginning, I started to resent and hate towards the middle/end…I wanted something good to come from Luke’s passing but my relationship with this man just wasn’t it.
It was a nice idea, I guess…it would have made for a nice story but that’s all it was, a story. I didn’t like that he was getting the things Luke loved most in the world, maybe I felt like he didn’t respect that we were Luke’s first, I’m not sure…I just knew he was somewhat competitive of Luke (maybe this is a fairly normal feeling, I did have Luke on a pedestal for a long time but I had him there when he was alive, too). How do I just take him down? I think this man felt he treated me “better” than Luke did, so why was I still grieving? In some ways that is true, I honestly can’t argue with that, Luke wasn’t perfect, our relationship certainly wasn’t, but I loved him fiercely. I couldn’t help that I wasn’t just over him because this man was doing certain things that Luke didn’t do. A relationship isn’t a list of traits on paper, it’s your heart, it’s your soul. I hated feeling like I had to defend that.
Bottom line, I don’t think this relationship would have worked out regardless, it probably never would have even happened outside of the circumstances, but it was right around the six month mark that I started dating, and it lasted about eight months. Maybe it helped me survive that time, maybe it made it worse, I’m still not sure. I just know I walked away and never looked back. I won’t say I didn’t have happy times with this person, I truly felt I loved him but grief is tricky and really pulled one over on me. This first relationship after Luke was a layer of my grief. Sadly, another’s person’s feelings were collateral damage. I was still Luke’s, in my heart…I didn’t want to be anyone else’s and that wasn’t his fault. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure that out. I’m sorry people got hurt in the process.
My second relationship was a two-timer. We dated somewhat casually for three months, took a month off and then were exclusive for about six. I felt he was very supportive of my blog, he would notice when my light wasn’t shining brightly (grief day or otherwise) and while his support was silent, it was there. I can honestly say I fell in love with this man, he made me happy for reasons I still don’t understand…that’s not easy to admit considering we are not together. I made the call but it was a pretty clear call to make. If Luke taught me anything it was that you can’t change people, you can only love them…love I did, “fix” I will not. I can say this breakup was hard on me, I was very sad to see it end, even though I knew it was for the best.
A lesson in everything right? I learned how to be at peace with being happy through this relationship. I learned I truly am capable of loving again (being 30-ish and questioning if that is even an option is tough). I think the reason for our “break” after three months was my anxiety over being so happy. Also, I had severe survivor’s guilt over having such strong feelings for someone who wasn’t Luke. I felt like I was betraying him, but the root of it was that I was so afraid of losing someone else. My happiness made me more anxious than being level or even sad. That’s odd, but it’s still a bit true for me, I’m working on not being so afraid of happiness.
All we have is the now and I try to remind myself of that daily. So I’ll chalk this relationship up to mostly happy memories, I don’t think real love is ever a mistake (I really loved him), and a lot of lessons. I’m closer to knowing what I really want, what I need out of someone, out of a relationship and that feels amazing, to feel so in control. My sister is right, I never settle, even when it takes me longer than it should to sort through my feelings. You’d be surprised to learn I’m an over-thinker? (Insert an insane amount of sarcasm here)
So, my “final” answer. I waited about 6 months. I felt like it was too soon and even had a lunch date with Luke’s Mom to get her blessing before I could speak openly about dating again. I didn’t need her blessing, I wanted it, I guess I needed it for myself but she would think that’s silly. I wasn’t “ready” but I forced myself to be, again, in an effort to make myself “better”. It didn’t work. I truly didn’t know I wasn’t ready, I thought I really loved this person, I thought I was in it for the right reasons, but I wasn’t.
Some people might be ready after six months, some might need six years, and maybe you don’t know until you go through the motions.
Follow your own intuition, you’re going to get a lot of advice, from a lot of people…pushing and pulling you in a lot of different directions. Try to silence the noise of it all. Grief, as lonely as it can be, comes with a lot of noise, it can be maddening. Don’t let anyone tell you what will make you better or what you need to do/don’t do. People can’t fix you when you’re grieving, you fix yourself, you have to learn how to carry that on your own, I think.
Also, learn how to separate what’s really healing you and what’s just masking pain. Masking pain only brings more pain long-term, trust me, I did a lot of masking. That really is a huge piece, healing over slapping a band-aid on it. Band-aids are for scrapes and cuts, not grief.
I think the only one size fits all here is that you have to do whatever YOU are comfortable with and not get wrapped up in what other people are going to think and/or say about your actions. Guess what, no matter what you do, they will have an opinion. Live your life FOR YOU, not for anyone else, you deserve to be happy! If you really aren’t ready and people are pushing you toward the dating pool, speak up. If you feel ready, but are worried people will think it’s “too soon”, well, those aren’t the people you’ll come home to every night. You have to do what is best for YOU.
Respecting your partner? This one I struggle with a little, I’m still trying to find a balance I can live with. Of course you should respect your partner but not at the cost of stifling your healing or belittling your pain to make them feel bigger. Sure, don’t put the one who passed on a pedestal but I don’t think I should have to put the man who came after on one to compensate for my loss. If you feel you’re hiding your grief, you’re either not with the right person or you’re not ready, in my opinion. I am very open about my past before I get involved with anyone so I feel like they kind of sign up for everything that comes along with it, but I also see how it could be difficult for anyone to be the person who comes after. (The Man that Came After“. It’s worth a read, for sure.One Fit Widow) really nailed this in her blog post; “
How could anyone know what they’re really in for until “they’re in”. I think we all go in with great intentions, some people can, some people can’t. We go in with an idea and that is typically a lot different than reality. I think it’s a balance of respect for yourself, your journey and your partner. I found having a space outside of my relationship to talk about my grief was beneficial but I also needed to explain to my partner when I was having a bad day. Open communication is always key, but this is an even more delicate situation. Again, there is a fine line to walk here and there just isn’t a right or wrong answer.
I know more questions will come after this topic and I have way more FAQs backlogged. I hate being 32 and feeling like I have this “widow” dynamic to any future relationship (some people probably feel like I shouldn’t even bring it up) but this is who I am. I need someone who understands my passion if they’re going to love me. As I’ve said in the past, this isn’t my blog, it’s not Luke’s, it is yours. For as long as I’m helping, I’ll be writing. I will always be honest, even when I know that will come with criticism from some. Again, these people will only affect me if I allow them to. Maybe I just answered my original question.
Again, I spent way too much time on one question, I promise to spend more time answering other FAQs, but this is a good start, and one of the questions that has been hardest for me to answer. We all know I’m not here to sugar coat, or to put a bow on anything, if you can learn something from me, if I can save you one second of heartache, here I am.
Xo – His Mom Strong