I remember the first time I checked that box.
Although it doesn’t define who I am, it is a part of who I am. They don’t have a box that reads “I love a dead guy but I’m tryin’“
Today I sat across from someone who (with good intent) fired off dating questions to me like I was a 21-year-old sorority sister. I started answering as if I was on a game show trying to beat the clock – and then two things happened. I stopped myself – I stayed true to the pleasure I take in privacy. While I paused to take a moment to ground myself from dating jeopardy she said “I remember when I was single…” Insert every memory of freedom a woman with 3 children has about her years of single-hood.
…I thought about that little box. It happens every time I start to see the words bouncing out of their mouths. I start neutralizing my over expressive face that never lies. Remembering the size of heartache and difficult conversations that have unsuccessfully tried to shoe horn themselves into that tiny checked box. I recall all of the work I’ve put in to get me to a healthy space to open my heart.
I get it – if you haven’t lost a partner you cannot understand the depth of humanness it leaves in its quake. Dating after loss has been the 2nd most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And contrary to every Single person’s belief – it’s not because men in Vancouver (or anywhere else in the world) are awful. Overall, I don’t believe that to be true. It is difficult because grief shows the most raw and real version of us. You are tested and then left in a corner with your heart in your hand muttering “here is my heart, please don’t shatter it.” And then exposed to people who don’t necessarily know what to do with it.
Becoming a widow didn’t release me into the world as a single vibrant 32-year-old. I’ve had to fight to re-build a new life for myself. I’ve wished away the bags under my eyes and unpacked the emotional bags onto my bedroom floor. Allowing just anyone into that world seems to dishonor everything I’ve nurtured in these past 3 years. So sorry Mom of 3 – I’m not ‘boy crazy.’ It takes a special set of circumstances to connect with people as a widow(er). It doesn’t include drunken nights out or swiping left or right.
I’ve been reminded that checking that little box doesn’t make me immune to future heartbreak. Widowhood does not come with a vaccination called “haven’t I been through enough?” And it certainly does not protect you from well-meaning (yet thoughtless) platitudes like “You’re so young and beautiful – you’ll find someone!” Usually, leaving me to wonder if I should have been worried all of this time…?
I never want someone to be nervous or unsure whether or not they can ask me a question. I feel a deep longing to educate and relate to others about widow(er)hood, loss and human connection. It has become my purpose to encourage personal knowledge and freedom. Part of that comes with a responsibility to reflect on conversations like this. It’s not a jab. It is done with love. Although I’m sometimes left annoyed or exhausted by these conversations, I’m often grateful for the reminder that Adventuring Loss is filling a need of understanding to those that have experienced searing loss regardless of the box you check.