Very, very different.
I wish I had known that.
I wish I had known a widow who could have told me that.
Someone who could have warned me.
You see, I had only loved one person in my whole life (OK, other than my family members and friends).
I had only fallen in love once.
And he had only fallen in love once.
We both had that love for over 27 years.
So I only had one experience of "falling in love".
When C came along and we started dating .... it was different.
I knew things would be different because he is not Jim.
But I didn't know that love would feel different.
And so as we became more serious and had deeper feelings for one another, I started to worry.
I questioned myself and my feelings.
Because ..... this did not feel the same.
I wasn't experiencing the feelings that I had 27 years ago.
I wasn't feeling that "if I don't see him today I think I'll die" emotion.
I wasn't feeling that I was falling more in love each day.
I wasn't feeling that my heart would burst from how much love I had for him.
I didn't wake up each morning almost counting the hours until we'd be together again.
So I wondered if I truly loved him.
I stressed a lot over this, not wanting to give up on the relationship, but wondering if I was being fair to him if this truly wasn't love.
It's hard to express how much pain I was in.
And I had no one to really talk to about it.
Who else would know how I felt and wouldn't think that this was just silly .... or crazy?
By this time I had my "Circle" of widow friends.
We try to meet once a week.
But I couldn't even mention it to them.
Most of them weren't dating yet and I really saw this as my "fault".
He loved me .... a lot, but here I was .... not sure that it was love for me but not willing to stop seeing him. I thought I was being selfish. Or worse .... maybe I was settling.
Then one night, at a Circle dinner, the one other woman who was dating joined us.
Her husband died the month after Jim died.
And, strangely enough (because it's rare) .... he died of the same thing.
She began dating a man around the same time that C and I started dating.
She began to talk about her relationship.
And her doubts.
And suddenly, I felt great.
Not because of her doubts .... but because I knew at that moment that I was not alone .... and I was not silly, or crazy, or selfish.
We both compared notes and we both finished each others sentences (as widows often do).
And as we spoke the other woman in our Circle began to understand and then were able to encourage us and give their opinions.
And I began to realize that the way I was loving this second time .... was "normal".
And that I had to let go of my expectations.
How could this love feel the same as my first love?
I was younger then.
So. Much. Younger.
And I was in college.
Where the only worries I had was making sure I was prepared for the next exam.
We were both worry-free.
We had no children.
We really didn't have many bills.
We had no jobs.
We had time.
We had freedom.
We had youth.
We had only each other.
And we had a long future ahead of us .... a blank slate to plan and dream about.
It's 27 years later.
I have 6 children.
I have bills.
Lots of bills.
I have a dead husband.
I have no partner to help make the small daily decisions or the big, fat difficult ones.
I have a scarred heart.
I am in a different place.
To put it mildly.
It makes sense now, but before talking to my friend, I'd never thought of all of this.
I didn't know.
It never occurred to me to look at the different circumstances.
Maybe I should have known to do that.
But I was clueless.
I'd never been on this path before.
And I'd never loved another man before.
I wish I had known.
I wish I'd known someone who could have prepared me.
That's why I'm writing this post.
To tell you.
To make you aware .... in case you're as clueless as I was.
Love ... after love ..... will not feel the same.
But that doesn't mean that it's not love.
If that person comes along .... and you don't want to let go, but don't feel the same "love", look back.
Look back at where you were.
And after you look back ..... see how far you've come.