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I think I'm doing ok... how do I know? 
Started by donzo
07 Mar 2021, 3:13 AM

Hi All,

I'm posting here because it seems more active than any other forum I can find, and why not (and I am in Canada).

I lost my wife to cancer 3 months ago.  We are/were both in our late 50's.  Her battle was several years long but the last 6 months was the real "caregiver" time for me, especially the last 2 months.  I was her caregiver until the end.  I love her and am very proud of her.  I also have 2 teenager kids who live at home.  I am fortunate enough financially to be retired.

The reason why I am posting here is a bit strange... The issue is, that although it has been only 3 months, I feel like I'm doing pretty good!  The first month was hell.   But I now feel that I have substantially climbed out of my grief hole.  I am doing things based on my own ideas, I am no longer am motivated primarily by "what she would want me to do".  I am feeling a lot of hope and am thinking more about the future than the past.  I still get a stab of grief a few times a week and have a good cry.  But compared to a couple of months ago I feel remarkably normal and in control.

I am very careful with COVID restrictions so have very little real interaction with other adults.  Almost everything is through phone, video chats or texts (usually sharing photos from walks or new plants in the garden, etc).  I do have a female acquaintance that I've been corresponding with, I have to admit that I do have some romantic interest in her.  But haven't gone into that with her.

But I'm wondering about how to tell when I am ready to think about dating.  Obviously not much can happen during COVID but that makes it seem to me a good time to be getting to know someone platonically first.

I don't feel guilty about this.  My wife told me multiple times that when she is gone I should find someone else.  She also told this to my kids, and I'm not worried about how they will feel.  I am worried about extended family and friends, and the woman herself.

I've been reading a lot of grief web sites to try to understand this... am I just trying to fill the hole in my life left by my wife's passing?  Am I suffering from widower brain fog?  The information I see out there seems to fall into 2 categories.

1. you must wait a year, you don't understand what you are going through and doing anything before a year is a big mistake

2. no one can impose a timeline on you, you are the only one who can know when you are ready

My problem is that I don't like (1) - seems like a one-size-fits-all solution.  But I am also worried about (2).  I am self-aware enough to know that people are not always self-aware enough to know what they are going through.  I think the real answer is somewhere in the middle.

So I thought I would put this question out to the community.  Do you all have any advice for me or can point me towards some resources that could help?  There seems to be lots of articles to help people who are having a difficult time with their grief... but not many to help people who feel they are doing good!


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07 Mar 2021, 5:33 PM

Hello Donzo,

Welcome to the community. Glad you found us – this is a welcoming, safe community where people can talk about things that are not always easily broached.  A place where people can perhaps, ‘test the waters’.

 I don’t have an answer for you Donzo, as to when you will know if it’s right to see other women. Each person’s grief and experience is different.  But I can tell you what I have learned about myself. My husband died over 5 years ago, after lengthy illness. It was expected, but I think death is always unexpected no matter how evident the signs are.  He had a crazy sense of humour (one of the many things I loved about him) and used to tell me, “Now don’t find someone new at my funeral!” I didn’tJ More recently, a few friends have asked if I am interested in dating and I say no I haven’t found anyone interested in me or vice versa.  But on reflection I realize that I am not interested in meeting anyone new, it has nothing to do with ‘finding’ someone.  However, I know a couple of people who have been widowed less than a year who are interested in finding companionship.  It’s right for them.

 Other people will often have an opinion on the choices we make after the death of a spouse.  Most times I think it is because they care about us and don’t want us to make a mistake or move on too quickly. I find it can be helpful, but not always an easy choice, to talk with people I think might disagree with me – helps me to know if what I am thinking or believing is really a good fit for me.

My husband also used to say, “What do you think of what I shared with you?” May I ask you that same question?  I would be interested in thoughts of other members of the community as well.

Warm regards,


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Reply by Mert
07 Mar 2021, 6:05 PM

Hi Donzo,

I appreciate your candour in describing your experience and your mixed feelings about it.  As you've heard and read elsewhere, there's pretty much nothing about the journey through grief that's predictable, and as you say, one-size-fit-all formulas aren't very helpful.  

You don't mention the experience of anticipatory grief; I think it might have some relevance to the speed with which you have found yourself 'climbing out of your grief hole'.  You have been foreseeing the loss of your beloved life and living her gradual decline for years; it sounds like you and she were very close and thus entered into the process of declining health and anticipated loss together.  Particularly in the final months the inevitability of death must have been your daily companion.  In such circumstances grieving begins long before the actual death and hence may not linger as long in the aftermath of loss.

On the other hand you do well to be cautious and get different perspectives on your current feelings and actions.  We know that overall men tend to move more quidkly into new partnerships than women after the death of a spouse, and that sometimes friends and family observing this perceive it as a way of fleeing from expriencing the full impact of grief,  Like any 'rebound' relationship the new match may not stand the test of time; it is very difficult to make an intimate relationship work when the ghost of the prior one is always jumping out of dark corners at the worst possible moment.

So I agree that the answer is 'both/and'.  Respect and accept your own experience; there is no right or wrong, just what is which is unique to you.  And go slowly and carefully in reconstructing your life; taking your time will greatly increase the likelihood that the new relationships you make and the new life you build will be fitting, satisfying and durable.

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Reply by donzo
07 Mar 2021, 10:35 PM

Hi Katherine,

I have lots of respect for people who don't want to get back into a relationship after their spouse passes away.

But I'm realistic about myself... I know when my kids leave the house I'm not going to want to be alone.

At around the first month after my wife's passing, the loneliness was crushing and I think that is when I started to wonder whether I will have a chance to love again or whether loneliness would be forever my companion.  The idea of looking for someone else does not make me feel bad or guilty, it just feels like a lot of work that I am not up to at this point.  I do understand that I need to feel my feet are firmly beneath me and that I have gained more self knowledge of who I am as a widower and a single dad before I do anything foolish.

However, the act of talking with someone where there is a phantom of "more than just friends" definitely puts a spring in my step and a sense that maybe life is not over, maybe there is more joy to come.  I just want to make sure that the connection is real rather than just the euphoria drug of temporarily blocking a wound.

I'm not sure what you mean by “What do you think of what I shared with you?”   Does this mean something particular, or the life that you shared together?  Both my wife and I agreed multiple times that we have no real regrets.  We were blessed that we met, and that we were able to share a wonderful life with each other.  We were always 100% open and honest and fully committed.  We took lots of risks and lived life as fully as we wanted.  And while we didn't always agree, we always compromised and both felt happy with all our collective decisions.  It was a storybook life, really.

When my wife would tell me to find someone else when she was gone, I would say "I will try", usually through tears, and she would try to lighten the load by saying something like "I know it will not be easy, because I AM irreplaceable."  So she had a good sense of humor too.

Hi Mert,

Yes, I've talked with a counselor and she mentioned the anticipatory grief.  There was definitely years of premonition of what was to come.  But I wasn't sure how much that was involved, because when she did finally pass away, the shock was so strong and raw and "uncushioned" that it felt impossible to me that the anticipatory grief softened the blow at all.  But it maybe that it is helping with the recovery...  some processing was done in advance I'm sure.

Thank you for your words about the caution and relying on my own experiences.  To tell you the truth, I am not really looking for a partner at this point.  I'm looking for the hope that one will come in the future.  Having someone to talk to who has that feel gives me that hope.  But it also feels emotionally risky.  A good solid rejection would just make hope that much further away.

Anyway, for now I am happy that I am feeling good and in control.  That I am for the most part moving forward and living life again.  I also worry though that maybe this is a happy valley of grief and its going to rise up and bite me hard again.  Time will tell :(

Thanks again
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07 Mar 2021, 10:54 PM

Hi Donzo,
That cryptic phrase was just asking for your thoughts on what I had said. I had meant to say earlier that the honesty you and your wife shared seems like a gift to me. You know what she wanted for you - no wondering there.
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Reply by MargMarie
08 Mar 2021, 1:04 AM

Hi Donzo
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your wife, I kinda understand what you are saying/ feeling. It has been 4 months since my husband passed away, and while I have had many friends and family surrounding me, the thought of " being alone" for the remaining years is difficult. I don't find myself " lonely" , on a daily basis , but thinking of the future, going for a drive, eating out at restaurants, vacation...doing this " alone" seems daunting. Sometimes I wonder if I just want a companion, someone who understands the loss, and can sit  in the moment, if that makes sense. I enjoy reading everyone's thoughts and experiences here on this site. It seem like a safe place to ask questions and share my journey....
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Reply by Mark99
08 Mar 2021, 4:28 PM

Such a brilliantly insightful thread here and how we all grieve differently. No right or wrong. No good or bad. Just the path our grief journey takes us on. The fact we can share our journey's is how knowlege, understanding, and vision happens. 

I subscribe to the idea my grief is a wound where light enters and allows me to harvest memories of Donna, us, and our love. I feel the grief and somehow within me my memories collide and create new uderstanding. Closure is indifference. Closure is denial said pretty. I won't do that to Donna and us. I walk with my grief not as a burden or pain, though it will hurt at times, but as light knowing that even after her death I continue to become of the person she loved into being.

Here VH is one of the first sites/communities I joined and amazing one at that. I found another which is equally amazing and brilliant. Hot Young Widows Club created by Nora McInery. I've never met a more fierce, supportive, stunning in their sharing of grief and loss. It is for widowers as well. Just amazing. 

I'd say McInery's TEDTalk on grief was one that opened my eyes to my grief journey in ways I did not realize and one that fits with this thread.

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Reply by donzo
08 Mar 2021, 5:41 PM

Mark - wow, I just watched that TED talk on youtube.  Powerful stuff... really gets the waterworks going.  She is good.  I'm going to have to listen to it a few more times.
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Reply by AMT
23 Mar 2021, 2:59 PM

Hi Donzo,
How are you today? My discussion forum handle is AMT and I volunteer with CVH. I read your post and the comments on this thread yesterday and have been thinking about it since. I very much appreciate you sharing your question around new frienships and potential relationships after a loss. I connect very much with the importance of feelings of hope and finding them intermingled with feelings of grief. I also really liked how you ended your initial post, that idea ofpeople being self aware but maybe not as self aware to notice what they are going through.
Of course none of us know when you are ready or what is the right decision for you to make moving forward, only you know that. But I sometimes have found it very helpful to spend some time identifying what kinds of decisions will I be making that might be a personal warning sign to me that I am not making healthy decisions? Or, what kinds of decisions will I be making that might be a sign to me that I am making healthy decisions? For me this exercise helps to give my self aware something to reflect my choices against. I hoep you don't receive this post as an instruction. I sent it only as an idea.

Very warmly,
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Reply by barbcurt
09 Apr 2021, 11:09 PM

I would like to say thanks to Mark99 for the link to the video.  My wife must be watching over me.  I had a good moment at work that I desparately wanted to share with her.  Of course, driving home from work left me a little teared up know once more I would not be able to share with her in person.  I lost her a little over 2-1/2 years ago.

When I arrived home, I checked my email.  There was the newsletter.  I had read Donzo's post and was following along intermittantly.  Then I came to the link.  I thought why not so I watched.  It brought so many tears but I was captivated.  I watched it and another and think I may watch more.
Just thank you for bringing it to my attention on a day when I really needed to see it.  That is why I say my wife must be watching over me.
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