Let’s start by me recognizing that I live in the U.S. and in this country everything is a competition. We have very competitive sports all year long. We compete with each other to be the best in everything. It makes no difference if it is at our jobs, homes, or recreational activities we want to be and have the best of everything and we compete with each other to achieve this goal. We are a race of competitors. The saying goes “second place is the first loser.” The mentality seems to be to win at all costs. All one has to do is watch an election race in our country and you can see to what extent one will go to, to win.
I have been amazed at just how much this mentality leaks into all aspects of our lives. I am a recent widow. My husband, Mike, crossed over in May 2015. I have been a widow for 9 months now. I am still trying to find my footing in this area. I have been single, I have been divorced but until 9 months ago I had never been a widow. It is nothing like anything I have ever been through before.
When you are single you tend to refer to someone as your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and you don’t give it much thought. When you are divorced you generally do not want to discuss your ex, unless you have to, and then you do so with measured words for fear that if you really speak your mind you could create chaos in your life, your kids lives or even with extended families. After all if you have children you more than likely have to deal with your ex-in-laws since they are your children’s grandparents. But when you are a widow you do not have these issues.
Your spouse has died. In my case my husband. He was still my best friend when he died. He was still my son’s father when he died. He was still my partner in crime, love, laughter, all of it. Nothing is ever absolutely perfect in any relationship but when your spouse dies on you they are still a good part of your life. There are no negatives, everything is forgiven if not forgotten. My point in saying this is that as a newly widowed woman I haven’t learned the new terminology. I haven’t figured out how to not talk about my husband. He was my world for so long and for much of that it was good. It isn’t like when you get divorced or break up. You tend to avoid talking about the ex. But when they die it feels like it is impossible not to talk about them when someone asks you “so what has been going on in your life?” Your point of reference is to a memory now. You no longer have a tangible being to love, to hate, to be angry at or to avoid talking about. Now all you have are memories.
For me, my memories were mostly good. I knew love. Mike was a man that accepted me just as I was. He didn’t try to change me into someone he wanted me to be, instead he loved me the way I was. He was proud of who I was and he was proud that I was his wife. I know this because he told me often, almost daily, and he meant it. “You know I fell in love with you because you cry over the littlest thing, right?” or “You know I love you because you always speak your mind even when you know others are going to disagree.” He always had a reason on why he loved me. But the bottom line is that he is no longer here and I am left behind to pick up the pieces of this life. I am to young to not move on and besides that the only promise he made me make was that I would move on and live life. I wouldn’t give up. This included loving again.
But here is the thing. The wall I keep running up against. The first time it was said it blew my mind. Now it takes me back and it takes my breath away. That thing is when someone point blank asks the question “How do you compete with a dead man?”
The first time I was asked this question I tried to explain that there is no competition. You build your own foundation and make your own magick happen. The second time I was asked this question I was dumbfounded. You see, I have several twenty something people around me all the time. My sons friends. They all range from 20 to 30 years old. If you ask them this question they all say “You don’t, you just move on.” But when it comes to people in the 50+ age group they all want to know how to compete with a dead man.
Here is my answer: You don’t! You love the woman in front of you for the person she is. You become her friend. You become her everything. You lend an ear when she needs to cry. You listen to her when she talks. You touch her when she needs to be touched. You do everything you would in any other relationship. You build your foundation. I can promise you that she needs you to do these things more than anything else. She isn’t constantly comparing you to the man who is no longer here. He is gone, she knows this and he isn’t ever coming back. She lives with his memory but that is all she has left is a memory. A memory is not a tangible being to hold her at night when her world is dark.
We all have memories of lost loved ones. We can all identify with the pain of loss. When it is anyone else, your mom, dad, grandparents you reach out and you do all you can to show how much you care. When it is a spouse it is no different. That need is still there and very deep. It is not a competition it is compassion. If you find yourself falling in love with someone that has lost a spouse know that they need you to reach for them, not run from them. They need you to know that they want and need your love and that there is enough room in their heart to love you and hold the memory of what use to be. As time goes on and you show her that you are not going to cut and run her memories will start to fade. They always do. The thing is until you build that trust and she knows you will catch her when she falls she is going to hold onto the only things that get her through her day and that is her memories. The memories of being loved, touched, understood.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. You are not a replacement. You will never replace what was there instead you are the healing her heart needs. You are the person she is reaching for and giving her love to. She will love you for you and for what you have together. Not as a replacement but rather as a new here and now, life moves on and we all move forward, in this instance we move forward together.
I was once told that grief is love with nowhere to go. I believe this. You grieve because that person, regardless of who it is, is no longer there to share the love your heart has to give. She is giving you the love in her heart. She is giving you all that she is and in return she only asks that you be gentle with her and give her the love you have in your heart. I promise it is worth the effort. You will see her bloom like a rose blooms in a garden. You will fill her heart with joy if only you are just you and love her just as she is. No competition. No comparisons. No replacements. Just you and her. You will be amazed at the love that comes forth and your life will forever be changed. So just don’t! Don’t compete with a dead man. Just be YOU because if she has chosen you then you are all she feels she needs.
Now go love and think about how you compete and what you are competing for.