Let's talk love after loss. I have personally kept quite private on this topic, yet I think it's important to talk about.
I have been so blessed to have amazing people come into my life, just when I needed them most.
Shortly after Rob died, I had males that became my best friends (thank you Parker and Drew). I didn't think that could happen, but to have someone to take you to dinner, an event or just offer a man's perspective (and have it be completely platonic), was a huge help in my healing process. To this day, one of my best friends is a male as well.
I have heard many friends say and have said myself prior to my loss, if I lost my husband, I would never date anyone or get married again. Well, unless you've been there, it's really not a fair statement to make. As time goes on, many realize - they don't want to be alone, yet you wonder - when is the appropriate timing, am I ready, will I be good enough? I believe there is no perfect timing and if someone seems to be a match for you, experience it, enjoy it and welcome it. I've been widowed for 14 years and am still in the process of finding Mr. Right. There are others who've been widowed for less than a year and find much love and happiness early after their loss, that makes me, happy for happy! Yet, when you are older, have children and get pretty comfortable in your own way, new relationships can get complicated as children may find it difficult to see their parent with someone other then their mom/dad, family and friends have strong feelings and opinions and the relationship that should be between two people becomes a relationship with many. It can become very complicated and not having the ability to accept something different than what once was can be challenging.
I have had long term relationships, obviously those haven't worked out even though each one, I thought was perfect at the time. Realizing that nothing is perfect and since I'm the common denominator of these that didn't work out - I sought out after each one to find out why.
At this stage of the game, anyone who is single has gone through a lot of stuff. I guess we call it baggage. However, when you consider your own baggage as pretty heavy, then your friend gives you a reality check saying, "Honey, you don't have baggage, you've got a steamer trunk!" It makes you question, who would want you and a steamer trunk?
I haven't dated a lot, but have had a couple long term relationships.
I learned a lot from these relationships that helps me to understand what others go through when dealing with abuse, affairs or just selfish behavior but also learned the importance of experiencing life, relationships and the ups and downs that go with it. It can be a beautiful thing. I also learned about "red flags".
When your partner makes a plan to go night fishing, showers and puts cologne on, that's a red flag. When he has the ability to turn his mistakes all around and make it all feel like your fault - another red flag! I went to my counselor and asked if this situation was a red flag, her response - "how many red flags do you need?" Then handed me the book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship. This book is a very good read even if you are not in an emotional or abusive relationship. I think all of us at times say and do things that we don't mean. This reminds us of how are words, even when not intentional can hurt people.
It's not easy walking away, it takes courage and strength because you feel embarrassed and a failure yet, on the other hand I showed my kids strength to walk away from something that wasn't right.
People would say, how can you even date again after such a great loss or after someone else has put me through so much turmoil? If I didn't move forward, I would be stuck and perhaps miss out on life, after all we are supposed to live it. If I allowed an abuser to hinder my choices to move forward, he wins, he's in control. Don't let controlling people win.
For awhile, in another relationship, I felt I had the perfect blended family. I was so happy and learned that it is possible to love other children as much as my own and the bonus, the blended kids loved each other. It was pretty special. Then life goes on with struggles, different parenting styles and values that are not matched. Sometimes it's not about love. The love can be there, but two adults just want different things, as and a result the relationship lasts longer than it should because you see and feel the love between the kids. It's tough. Again, having the courage to do what is right and what is needed is so difficult, yet most often those choices bring you on the path you are supposed to be. For me, without all the relationships and experiences I've had I wouldn't be who I am and certainly wouldn't have the understanding I have that now I can share and relate to others.
So, rather than dwelling on what didn't work out, I'm grateful to have had each experience as it put me where I am today - a wiser, happier and more understanding woman. My hope for you if you have lost, is that you can accept your journey, realize your loved one would only want you to be happy, and perhaps you can find love again knowing it's different but different can be pretty special too.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Vonnie routinely provides speaking engagements to private organizations and community groups throughout the year in an effort to raise awareness about suicide and encourage education about mental health. Learn more about i understand's "Love Heals" Lecture Series.
This blog is part five in a six-week series titled, "Life After Loss".