Saying ‘I Love You’ After Saying Goodbye – Love After Loss

LoveYou

 

A widow friend of mine is in a wonderful relationship, but the “L” word hasn’t been uttered. To put a little more pressure on the couple, their one-year anniversary is in the neighborhood of Valentine’s Day. What’s a widow to do?

Similar to grief, love has no timeline. There’s no schedule or guidelines, no formula or rules. Just as everyone’s grieving period is different, people fall in love at varying degrees. Some relationships are quick-starts, immediately passionate and intense; others warm up slowly, segueing from affection to love; some turn unconditional seemingly overnight. Love grows, love changes. It’s a complicated emotion, difficult to track and impossible to predict. Our brain triggers chemical signals and our body responds.  One partner may be in the Tom Cruise-couch-jumping category, while the other is sitting quietly contemplating. Be patient, whether you’re the one waiting or catching up. Every love story is different.

My “L” word experience after widowhood was easy. About three months into our relationship, I found the word on my lips, at the tip of my tongue, almost tumbling out in conversation, as natural as a ‘thank you’ – but I held back, not wanting to say it first. Billy burst out with it, declaring his love just when I was ready to hear it.  We’d been in sync, no awkwardness.

Some advise against initiating that dialogue. George Costanza, impatient to declare his love to his girlfriend, ignored Jerry’s warning: “Are you confident in the ‘I love you’ return?  Cause if you don’t get that return, that’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there.”

But that’s sitcom love where life is scripted for cringe-worthy optimization. The rest of us on the other side of the screen, have experienced loves of all types throughout our lives: puppy love, first love, unrequited love.  And now widowed, we’re navigating the world of love after loss, which has its own distinct challenges. But it’s so worth the risk! Love always is.

For those of you emboldened, ready to speak those words – that once spoken cannot be unheard –  I applaud you; and for those waiting to hear those words – be patient.  To all my widowed friends, be brave and let yourself love and be loved…again.

LoveAgain

Love After Death? Scary Stuff!

BeBraveLove

A new romance after a long term relationship can feel a little strange, but a new romance after the death of a loved one can feel beyond bizarre and completely surreal. A good friend and fellow widow met a wonderful guy – yes, not only is it possible, it happens all the time…don’t believe the naysayers out there!  When their Saturday night date ended Sunday afternoon, their relationship segued into the next phase.

She texted me: “This was a huge step for me, first time with someone new, hard to explain the emotions…it’s just…different.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I texted back:  It’s weird and exciting, scary and happy, strange and yet strangely comfortable, thrilling with just a dash of terrifying.

“I knew you of all people would understand the feelings!” she typed back.

When you’re in your teens and twenties, starting new relationships happens more often. But for Baby Boomers fresh out of a decades-long love life, a new relationship can be scary, triggering dozens of excuses to avoid dating at all costs:  Can’t compare. It’s not the same. There’s no one out there.  It’s impossible to meet someone.  I’m too old. I’m too tired. I’m too…[fill in the blank with your favorite excuse].

It’s tempting to do nothing. Nothing can be good. Nothing’s comfy.  And comfort is something you have been striving for through the mourning, the grieving and all the upheaval since the loss.

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), nothing won’t be comfortable forever. Nothing will eventually nudge you out of your comfort zone. When you get there – and we all get there at our own pace, in our own time – don’t be scared, when it inevitably gets scary.  That’s normal. The new normal. And in the new normal you may soon feel like your old self, or some wonderful new version of your old self.

StartingOver

Match.com – let me go! Hell hath no fury like a woman who has mourned…and moved on.

HeartsKeyboard

We had fun, lots of laughs, but it’s over. You, too, eHarmony. Stop emailing me. I don’t care who made me their Favorite or that I have unread emails or how many Likes my photo received. My photo shouldn’t be visible. I’m gone. Outta’ there. Take down my profile!

Plying potential customers with technical catnip must work for Match because I’ve been receiving emails almost daily since I canceled my subscription. The very service that helped me find love, seems intent on destroying the relationship.  Similar to a monthly bank statement, Match emails me regularly – “Your weekly interest summary” with the tally for all the Winks, Likes, Emails and Favorites I received — and a hyperlink to respond and rejoin. Then there are the daily emails: “No subscription? No problem. Attend a Stir Event!” and all the personalized emails: “Someone in Merrick chose you!” “He likes you!” “Someone emailed you at 9:06 a.m.” Clearly they want to keep the pond stocked, even if this fish isn’t catchable.

eHarmony is equally infuriating. “You’ve got 2 matches!” Though their emails aren’t as many, the intent seems more egregious because they do the matching for their customers. How can they offer a non-member “match” to their customers? That’s just a big bowl of wrong. When I logged into my account, I was directed to a page that announced: “Hi paula (the lower case ‘p’ theirs) and welcome! Our new site is easier to use, more personalized, and smarter than ever. Please, take a look around at the new eHarmony. And it’s okay to stare – so get a feel for it.” I clicked. “This is where the magic happens. All your matches’ activity will post here. Go ahead and take a peek:”  Every next page featured the “Upgrade Your Membership” hyperlink.  In my profile, I clicked on the tab for my Matches and a page populated with dozens of faux photos (squares with the same male silhouette); when you clicked on the square it flipped to reveal his first name, age and town. Interspersed among the silhouettes were ad squares: “Upgrade to see photos,” “Picture this, no silhouettes when you upgrade,” “Upgrade today to communicate with your matches.”

As I’ve blogged before, I canceled both subscriptions a long time ago. For Match, I typed a lovely ‘thank you’ note in my online exit survey, explaining how grateful I was to have met such a wonderful man.  I terminated my membership with exclamation points and a smiley face emoticon – I was a satisfied customer.

The tone of our communications has changed.  In my latest email to Match I noted: “I have friends who are members and will monitor the status of my profile,” requesting one of their Customer Care representatives contact me immediately to confirm my profile has been removed. Minutes later, I was unable to partially log into my account, as I’d done earlier when checking to see if I was still “out there.”  Now they know I mean business.

Keep all your ‘Come Back’ deals, I’m happy and in love. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has mourned…and moved on.

 

LikeLoveKeyboardKeys

Sex After Death. Discuss.

 

images-6

You’re ready to get out there and date, but are you ready for sex? The gender divide is more defined on this topic; widowers seem to have more of an accelerated timeline (slippery stereotypes aside).  Talking with the widowed community, encounters range from weird to exciting, as well as weird AND exciting. Some say they felt like a teenager again; while others experienced feelings of being unfaithful.  How did you feel?  For most, insecurities and middle-aged angst eventually give way to romance and adventure.  Being held, being touched, getting naked, keeping it casual, falling in love.  What’s on your agenda these days?

 

Looking for love in 2014? Click here.

images-9

“He liked your photo!”

“He Emailed You!”

“People are finding more love online!”

images-6

It’s been almost three years since I’ve been a member of Match.com and eHarmony.  I typed a lovely ‘thank you’ note in my Match.com online exit survey, explaining how grateful I was to Match for enabling me to meet a wonderful man and fall in love.  I terminated my membership with exclamation points and a smiley face emoticon – I was a satisfied customer.

Which is why I was surprised to continue receiving my Daily Matches, Wink Alerts and multiple emails informing me about men interested in my profile (“He Chose You!”).  When it comes to online dating, Match’s approach is to give you the sea and you do the fishing.  That need for a well-stocked ocean explains why they continue to keep my profile up on the site, though I’m not a member.

At certain times of the year the online dating services ramp up their campaign (“A fresh year, means a fresh start”).  I’m anticipating inbox overflow as Valentine’s Day approaches.

The emails tease with specific data, such as:  the time (“Someone emailed you at 7:39 a.m. on 12/29”), numbers  (“Smile!  You have 9 Photo Likes This Week”), locations (“Someone in Staten Island just made you his Favorite!”), and names (“Babbalooee7  winked at you”).

Not only has Match kept my inactive profile on their site, but they began taunting me with emails that questioned my happiness: “Unsure if you’ve met ‘the one'”?  eHarmonyAdvice sends me newsy emails with articles such as “6 Signs You Might be Sabotaging Your Love Life.” Clearly, these companies are vying for repeat customers, even if they have to break hearts and ruin relationships.  “Come back for $14.95 a month,” a few months later eHarmony was down to $9.95.  Match offered 50% discounts and a great deal of “less than $5 a week.” Who says you can’t put a price on love?

images-14

If you’ve ever registered with one online dating service, you’re likely to hear from others. Forever. I’ve never so much as clicked on any of the following sites, yet receive unsolicited emails from Christian Singles and NYEasy Dates (which really needs to change its name), BlackPeopleMeetDating (I’m not black) and SeniorPeopleMeetDating (I’m not a Senior).

Looking through old emails, I saw a note to my friend, Iyna:  “Had a pre-date phone call Monday night, photos looked good, but was a long-talker (I almost emailed you for a rescue call), he misquoted TV shows and when describing a woman in a story he said: ‘She was beautiful…looked like a hooker.’  NEXT!  Then another guy who seemed promising – cute picture, widowed, Brooklynite, 48, born in Italy, in US for 8 years – starts out with good emails…then started quoting scripture. Oy, don’t give me The Corinthians and bad Seinfeld banter!”

For all the zany ones, there were plenty of nice guys, too.  I thoroughly enjoyed my dating days – whether it was dishing with my girlfriends the next day over the bad dates, or the thrilling hint of romance after a good date.  What else can make you feel like you’re 20, when you’re 50?  Why go through the hassle of bad dates?  Because eventually you get to the good ones.  Isn’t happiness worth the effort?  I’ve had a ‘grin and glow’ thing going on ever since I met Billy. As my friend Claudia commented one night, “I don’t think I ever saw you not smiling all evening.”

For those of you getting ready to dive in, or perhaps just dip your toe in the water, a few suggestions:

  • skip the free sites and join one of the major online dating services (Match, eHarmony, JDate, etc.)
  • first look around and get acquainted with the site before reaching out
  • when someone contacts you, start with emails to get a sense of their personality
  • practice safe cyber dating, use an email address that doesn’t have your name in it
  • have a phone conversation before you meet
  • for a first date, make it just for coffee and meet in a public place
  • tell a friend when and where you’re going
  • tune out all the naysayers complaining it’s impossible to meet someone (stats prove them wrong)
  • be a good date: look your best, have a few things in mind to talk about, smile, ask questions and be a good listener
  • if you’re going out for drinks, stay sober
  • if your date is widowed, it’s probably a comfortable subject to broach; if not, be brief – initially – when telling your story
  • don’t give your last name, home address or any personal information to any dates until  you feel comfortable
  • trust your intuition
  • have fun and enjoy the experience

Happy fishing!

DownloadedFile-1

Dear Diary, Bridget Jones is a widow.

DownloadedFile

Check stats for widows and widowers in films and books.  Have one glass of wine.  Do not text anyone after second glass of wine.

Widowhood has been used for storylines in film and literature.  What do you think of Hollywood’s portrayal of widows and widowers?  What movies and books (whether fiction or non-fiction) rang true for you?  See my list of books (‘Late’ Lit) and films on my Widow Info page and check out The New York Times Book review of “Mad About The Boy,” the third book in the adventures of Bridge Jones, now a widow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/books/review/helen-fieldings-bridget-jones-mad-about-the-boy.html?_r=0