Friday, April 3, 2009

Widows Loving Again

Dear Wonderful Widow.

What did it feel like the first time someone reassured you that you would find love again, that you would find another man, and that it was just a mater of time?

The first person who mentioned the possibility of a new love to me, well, I wanted to break her legs. Ok, maybe this is a little extreme, but it was only a few months after Mike died and to me the mere suggestion reflected a world of misunderstanding of what it had been for me to lose my husband.

I felt unacknowledged and dismissed; as if my marriage was just any marriage and that my pain was less that life altering. It was as if she was saying, he was just a man, your husband, and there are many more like him.

I know the suggestion was well meaning. She did not want to see me in such pain, and I don’t blame her.

What I wanted to say at the time but couldn’t, was that the pain I was in, was mine, all mine. It was what I had left, and I was not going to give it up without a fight and I was not going to toss it out for a man. Any man.

No, there could never be another Mike Elmhirst. Not because he was better than any other man or anyone else’s husband – just because he was Mike. And it was Mike that I missed, not just a husband, and not just being married.

As widows, we must be seen. We need our circumstances acknowledged. We need people to say something like, “You and your husband created something between the two of you that cannot be duplicated.” This is why our fellow widows are so helpful. They know this about us and about our marriages, our husbands and our children. It is why we write so much about our husbands…to be seen.

Yes, we might find a new relationship, and in fact many of us have. I have. When I say it isn’t the same as what I had with Mike, I mean that it is different. Not better and not worse, it is just different. It can’t be the same because he is not Mike and I am not the Mie I used to be. I have grown and changed. The experience of widowhood requires that we change.

Occasionally, on my website, I talk about dating again, for widows who are ready to explore new relationships. And invariably I get emails from new widows who are hurt at the suggestion. I understand this. It hurt me too, when I was a brand new widow.

But we are a community that is as diverse as any population. Some of us date within the first year of widowhood and some of us choose not to date at all. There is room for all of us in our community of widows.

New relationships happen for a widow when there is finally space in her heart to again give and receive. As hard as it is for a new widow to imagine, most in our community eventually get to the point where they enjoy the gift of a loving relationship again. But it takes time and work. A lot of time and a whole lot of work.

Warmly, Mie Elmhirst


  1. Hi Mie!
    This is a good post. This was the topic of conversation last night with my widow friends (we call it our Circle). We thought it was interesting that a couple of us who are now over the one year mark have a less physical reaction at the thought of dating (at first, the thought of dating again made us want to throw up!). We can see the difference in our thoughts now and those of our other friends who are still rather "fresh" in this Circle.
    And it's nice to see .... because it means that we're not stuck in our grief, but are continuing to inch forward bit by bit.

  2. When Ron died, he was (technically) my boyfriend; however, we knew we were headed for marriage and talked about it all the time. It wasn't until months after he died that I realized I could legitimately call him my fiance. In the meantime I happened to be at a dentist appointment. I was still so distraught I couldn't NOT talk about it, and told my dentist that "my boyfriend died." He said (without skipping a beat and with no "I'm sorry"): "Well, you just go out and get yourself another one." So SO minimizing. I wasn't "in it" to get a relationship or marriage out of him. I was in LOVE, thank you very much. And the assumption that new relationship = better, no longer sad, happiness, dangerous.