Survivor’s Guilt

10984528_10152782650499016_349880005645931066_oWhen is it okay to start dating after the loss of your spouse?

In 2012 I was widowed at the age of 55.  My late husbands Melanoma skin cancer had returned after 22 years and took him quickly within 4 months of diagnosis.  I was devastated, yet I knew I was too young to live the rest of my life alone but the thought of being with another man just didn’t sit right with me.

Survivor’s guilt settles in quickly once you are left alone after everyone returns to their homes and jobs, except you ~ the widow.  You start to feel guilty because you didn’t do more, or your should have done more, or you couldn’t do more.  Why am I alive?  Why did he have to die so young?

Perhaps you can relate and have experienced something similar.  These feelings of guilt are quite normal.  How we move past this guilt and when become the bigger question.  I recall thinking about this on New Years Eve 2012, just three months after being widowed. I was not going to drag my sadness and loneliness into the new year, and from the stroke of midnight I resolved to wake up the next day with a totally different mindset.

Having the right mindset and setting goals got me through so much in life so far, so I set out to make some small goals for three months.  Little did I know, that that positive attitude would turn my whole life around and within six months of my husbands passing I would meet another widower and start a new friendship.

The very idea of being with another man still haunted my thoughts however, but I missed real conversations and the warmth of human touch.  I enjoyed our dinners and chats before our group grief counselling sessions where we met as I wasn’t feeling so alone anymore; he understood my tears, my moods and my loneliness.  Survivors guilt returned in a bigger way, a way that took me completely off guard.  I’m a very strong woman, but the very thought of falling in love so soon scared me.

I loved my husband of 34 years, he was the love of my life and we had two children together and a wonderful marriage.  People often said “You are an amazing couple, the way love was intended.”  So how could I possibly be feeling anything for someone else, especially so soon?

We don’t pick the times in our life when change happens: change happens because of life.  Finding support among my family and friends was paramount and the only thing that got me through those horrendous waves of survivors guilt.  My good friend Ron gave me the best advice, he said “Life is for the living, and if I should die before my wife, I told Bonnie to hook up with one of the pallbearers.”  Now this might sound awful but at the time I was feeling so much guilt, I remember thinking how this statement made me feel better about being in a new relationship; not everyone thought I was a bad person, or that “it was too soon” etc.  Grief is individual: we all grieve differently.  I later went on to re-marry this widower three years later and to this day we never forget our spouses, those special anniversaries and went on to write books about our stories: “Love Found Me Twice” and “God’s Gift of Another Angel”.  Their pictures adorn a special room in our house where we can all still remember.  Our family and friends think it is wonderful that we publicly always talk of them in such a loving way.  Just because someone dies doesn’t mean you have stopped loving them.

Remember that love never dies.  Surviving the loss of a loved one is huge, but just know that if the tables were turned that you would want your surviving spouse to be happy again.  We only have one life to live!