Beyond Widowhood: Embracing Life's Second Chances With Heather Hunt And Tina Fornwald

WRT 29 | Widowhood

 

Through the depths of loss, the journey of two widows unveils the resilience of the human heart – embracing new love while treasuring cherished memories. Life’s surprises bring solace, and in companionship, we find the courage to keep showing up, keep loving, and keep living. In today’s episode, we’re diving into a topic that’s both tender and transformative – dating and marriage after the loss of a spouse. The widows Heather Hunt and Tina Fornwald sit down and share their extraordinary experiences with us. Heather tells her story of how she got engaged after the loss of her beloved Bryan. She takes us on a poignant exploration of what it means to embrace new love while still cherishing the memories of a dearly departed partner. Tina also shares her unique path to walk and how she navigates the dating world as a widow. These strong widows’ stories remind us that life has a funny way of surprising us, often when we least expect it. Brace yourselves for a tale of love, loss, and unexpected twists! 

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others. 

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Beyond Widowhood: Embracing Life’s Second Chances With Heather Hunt And Tina Fornwald

This conversation is about dating and being a widow. Also, this conversation is me sharing with you that I have gotten married. I know you didn’t see that coming. I’m going to have this conversation with my girlfriend, Heather, who is a widow and engaged. We’re going to share our experience with you. Let’s get into the conversation.

 

WRT 29 | Widowhood

 

We are going to talk about being a widow and dating. You may be salty or mad at me some people, but we are going to keep it like the real talk. First of all, I cannot stand people that are judging you because you decide to date being a widow. If you choose not to date, that’s perfectly fine too. Dating or getting married is not a solution to being a widow. It is not, “I survived widowhood.” It’s just a path that you chose to take because you felt like you had more love to give. You wanted to be remarried. Also, I was with my husband for 32 years. Heather was with her husband for seven.

Almost eight.

We both were happy with our spouses. Me deciding to get remarried or get engaged doesn’t equate that we didn’t love our spouse. Don’t say that. Don’t guilt trip us and say, “I guess you weren’t happy.” We were not happy about it at all, but those are some things that I’ve heard about people that are dating or widowed, I’m going to tell you that. I want you to email me. I want to hear your opinion about it, but we’re going to talk about our dating experience. Any other things you want to get off your chest before we talk about it?

There is no timeline. Whenever you feel like you’re ready, go for it. I don’t think there’s any certain, “It has to be one year.” When you’re ready, you’re ready.

You can be salty. Let me know about it. When I thought about dating, I was like, “Tina, you are a whole 50-plus-something person with grown kids and how is this going to work? What are Catherine and Alex going to say?” I could not even think about another man holding my hand, let alone kissing somebody or what that was going to look like. It was devastating. Mark is dead. I’m about to be out here like I was like, “I took after you part. I’m out here on a second go-around now.” Interestingly enough, my dad’s mom had been married multiple times. I knew it was a capacity in my bloodline to do this. The first way for me to do it is I started dating online because I didn’t know if I could like how that was going to work. I don’t know what your thoughts were about dating.

In this day and age, back in the day, meet at a bar, at a dance club, or something.

Library or grocery store.

Things have changed and so I did the dating app.

How was that?

That was not fun at all.

I want to know some of the bad dating experiences.

A couple still lived with their parents. Mind you, I’m 40 now.

Grown girl.

You don’t need to be 40 and living with your parents.

If you do, that’s your choice, but you can’t date out.

There are certain situations where it’s acceptable.

Bounce back or accept, but you’re talking about like they are up in there and not even trying.

Not trying or looking to find anywhere else to live but looking to get married or date again. You need to get yourself right first. I did wind up talking to a widow, which was interesting. I thought, “Maybe this will be a connection. He’ll understand. I understand.” That backfired. I don’t think he was ready to be out there. It sounded like his late wife said he couldn’t get remarried.

You bring up a couple of good points, being ready to be out there. What were some signs for you to let you know you weren’t ready to get out there?

Constantly talking about him still.

Being totally emotional knowing that I wasn’t in a place of moving forward or ready to bring somebody else into the equation.

When you date somebody, they don’t necessarily want to hear all about your late husband right up front. You need to be in a certain place to not be talking about them constantly.

Those are clues for you. One of the things that happened to me is this. I was visiting a friend that had been single for a long time. I noticed how when I was in their space, it wasn’t welcoming. I thought, “How long would I be single before I wasn’t comfortable with cohabitating?” Another thing for me at work, I had a job that was very public. I would do tours or tell people about our organization. I remember someone when Mark first died asking me, “How’s your husband?” I went on this long run, “He died.” They did not ask for that like, “How are you doing?” I got to the place to take my wedding band off.

That is key.

That was not so much just, “I’m available,” but coming to terms, “I’m no longer married to Mark. He is no longer in this world.” I took my wedding bands off. I remember I was on a trip to Chicago with one of my sisters. I went and purchased a different ring. I still need to have a ring on my finger. It wasn’t a wedding band.

It had on the same finger.

When I took it off and saw the discoloration on my finger, that was hard to think, “That’s over. I’m not married. That’s how I saw it.” That was one of the things of me coming to terms with, “He’s dead. I’m a whole person out here. I still want to be loved. I still want to be with someone or what that will look like.” It was 4 to 6 months, that was just the initial part. I wasn’t ready to date, but I was ready to start thinking about whether there could be another relationship after this one.

 

 

I do think that taking off the wedding ring is huge. That’s another thing that there’s no timeline for.

I’ve seen people dating with their wedding bands on. I said, “There are things for me to know I was ready.”

That was the same thing for me. I remember taking it off. I don’t even remember what it was for if I was washing my hands or something and I didn’t initially put it back on, and I was okay not wearing it.

That part of being okay. I remember thinking washing dishes, I have to put it back on. There was a lot of anxiety.

“I had to have it on.”

There is something about that, “This doesn’t have to be on.” I saw it and came to terms with it, but it was no longer creating me stress.

Giving me comfort or whatever it was providing for me. I was okay with not having it.

I met a widow at work. She showed me how she took her wedding bands and made them into a heart. Mark and I’s wedding band is now a double-heart pendant. I see people with it around. It seems to me like something from high school or something, more or less, it’s also someone would ask me about. I didn’t want to put his wedding band on a necklace. If I talk about it, it has to be because I choose to. If you see the double hard necklace, I may talk about it or I may not, but the choice is mine. If I put his wedding band on the necklace, it made me uncomfortable and stressed.

Another thing that was hopeful for me to feel like when I was ready is a gift that Mark gave me. He constantly told me he thought that he was going to leave this world early. He told me that he wanted me to be happy and remarried. It wasn’t anything happening immediately. He was internally sick. Mark died of a heart attack unexpectedly.

“I’m glad we had that conversation.”

When he died, I remember thinking, “I thought he stayed up too late at night drinking too much Pepsi. He should go to bed.” Being in that situation, because I have talked to some people and they have guilt or feeling remorseful, I was like, “He released me from that before I ever had to consider it.” I thought, “What a wonderful man to think of me beyond his existence.” That’s not something you want to think about. He was certain he would not be here. When I thought about that, there wasn’t guilt. There wasn’t this idea that I’m doing something wrong. That was helpful for me.

WRT 29 | Widowhood
Widowhood: What a wonderful man to think of me beyond his existence.

 

I had the same thing multiple times when we went to the hospital. Brian would tell me in the car, “I want you to know I’m totally fine with you finding love again. In fact, I want you to. I don’t expect you to live the rest of your life by yourself. I want you to find love again.” At the time, that was the last thing I wanted to hear. I was like, “Don’t talk about that.” It did give me way peace of mind knowing that he is for it and supports it.

We both had that gift. I thought about what that would look like for someone that didn’t have that gift because maybe their spouse died unexpectedly like Mark did or maybe they may have been terminally ill like Brian and kept thinking that they were going to beat it. In one of the workshops or grief support groups I was in, they asked you to write letters. It was like you write a letter and then you allow your dead spouse or loved one to finish the letter.

That’s a good example.

Maybe that could be a way of creating your own release because you know your spouse. They would maybe want you to continue if that’s what you wanted to do, to maybe write a letter to them. They could give you permission back. Sometimes there’s this bulb thing where you write something, then you burn it and release that. You may have to find a way to let that guilt go and find a way to accept that this is the life that you’re in that journey. Circling back to bad dating experiences. I am 5’9. When I dated Mark, I was an eighteen-year-old girl in the army. We were the same height. I was like, “You need to be 5’9 to be on this ride this time.” I was like, “Six feet was one of my limitations.”

Another thing is Mark was White. A lot of people are going, “Is she going to be with a Black guy or a White guy?” People were asking me that. I tried to date a White guy. It didn’t work out. I didn’t know if it felt like it was too much, just like Mark. I did not want to date anybody that reminded me of Mark. I felt like that was too much pressure to put on someone to remake him. For the record, the show after this one is a conversation with my husband Fred and my children’s godfather Lionel that’s going to talk about dating a widow. We’re the widows talking about dating.

I was open to the idea of dating, and then I’m like 50. When I was dating online, two of my sisters would be like, “I would meet somebody. We’d talk about who I met or different stuff like that.” I met this guy. We were talking. It seemed cool talking to him then we met in person. A whole other thing showed up. One thing that is a tip, I used a Google phone number. I did not give somebody my real phone number.

I remember this one guy. He was good at texting and when he showed up, he had no conversation. He showed up late, which was a problem for me. We were sitting down eating and he ordered what looked like a child’s menu to me. I was thinking, “I got my own money. I didn’t need you to pay for it. I show up with cash, a phone, and keys and somebody knew where I was. “As we’re talking, he says, “I haven’t seen my daughter because my daughter’s mom said that I choked her.” I was thinking, “Where’s the car?”

Red flag.

I was like, “I want to enjoy this food because I picked the restaurant that I wanted to go to.”

I had a delicious meal in front of me.

I had my car parked real close to it. When we left out the restaurant, he tried to kiss me. I shook his hand. I was like, “Thank you.” I was thinking, “Thank you for the meal.” I got home. I couldn’t text him. This is not a connection.

This is not going to work.

Second date. I met this guy at Wendy’s. I was looking at the top of his head and he was telling me that he was 6’1. When you’re dating, you’re going to meet the person and you’re going to need to be honest. The third thing, I remember this guy, we had been talking for like two days. All of a sudden, he was asking me for money, telling me that he was in some country. He needs to get home, “You better call a friend, not me.”

I wonder if there are scams out there. Be careful of that too.

Those are just some of my dating. Anything for you?

It’s just the widow that I talked to for a little bit. He went a little crazy, saying like his wife was not okay with him.

He’s not ready to be out there.

That was odd. One of my requirements was you have to be 6 foot to ride this ride because I am 5’9 as well. The living at home of moms after being divorced.

You’ve been through a full life. I need somebody who can handle some pressure.

That was a too red flag for me. Another thing is I needed somebody who had stuff going on. Meaning, it couldn’t just be me. I dated one guy for a little while. He never married. No kids. Lived on his own. He was a poker dealer.

He didn’t sit right with you.

I needed somebody who come with a lot of baggage.

You have had a full life.

Thank you.

I don’t see luggage. Let’s talk about that. Have you had a lot of experiences? Yes. Are we perfect? We think we are, but no. You’re managing it. You’re not in denial about something. You are not looking for someone else to carry everything in life for you. I wouldn’t say baggage like that. You need somebody that’s lived a life and understands what life looks like.

Has stuff going on in their life too. I don’t want to be the main focal point necessarily of life with them.

You need to have your own life like your friends and family. We’re accenting each other’s life. I don’t want to be your world and everything. When I started dating, I knew I was dating with the idea that I wanted to get married. I couldn’t get remarried to Mark, so that’s not a good term. At the same time, I was apprehensive thinking that this person could die on me and I could be a widow. Did you ever think of that?

 

 

Yes. I had to go through therapy with that because I had such a fear of getting close to somebody again.

What made dating him comfortable?

It’s openness and vulnerability. I was very straightforward in dating, “This is what I’m looking for.”

What were you looking for?

I wanted a partner. I wanted to get married again. That was the main goal. I wanted somebody who would make me a priority. That was a goal as well. If that wasn’t where you were then let’s not waste each other’s time and move on.

That’s a good mix. You wanted someone to have a life. You didn’t want to be the focal point, but I want you to be a priority. How do those look different?

“I don’t want you so involved in my life because I have so much going on with my son, work, friends, family, and everything else. I want you to have things that you’re involved with too. I want you to text and want me. I want you to miss me. I want you to ask how my day was. I want you to ask how my son’s doing or check with me on how my workout was that day. I want to be a priority in your life, but I still want you to have things going on.”

You talk about Nate. I remember thinking about dating and my son Alexander is smart. He comes and tells me, “You’re going to date? Do you know how complicated you are, and how demanding you’re going to be?” I was like, “Whoever gets me is going to get a prize.” He was like, “I don’t know how that’s going to go. That’s going to be complicated.”

The flip side of it was my daughter. She was a daddy’s girl. She has never faulted me for dating or getting married. It was another sense of the reality that her dad is gone. That is hard to navigate this child, this person you love as you’re navigating your life. Alex was living here with me in Virginia. He got to meet Fred when we started dating. He got to interact with him.

My daughter is on the West Coast. It was very periodic as far as conversations. She came after we got married. It is complicated with other people outside of you and your dating experience. I have my siblings and other friends. It can be complicated. There are those other people besides you in the relationship. I was able to leverage my friends to be like the investigator asking questions.

Facebook stalking.

It can also be a lot of negativity from people questioning your decisions. There’s something in our society. Things like women are supposed to be widows forever. The too-soon question, what does that look like?

I got that a lot. I don’t think anybody ever came out and specifically said it.

I wouldn’t say, “Just be around the corner.”

I got the looks of, “You’re dating? Almost like it’s too soon. Are you sure you are ready for that?”

How long had it been?

It had been about fourteen months since he had passed.

That’s fourteen months times how many days a year, hours, therapy sessions, walking, thinking, journaling, grief, and support group. Your time didn’t just go by. You were working on Heather.

Putting in the effort, dealing with the grief, reading the books, dealing with the emotions, and everything.

Leaning into a very tough process. You weren’t getting married to fill a space, to replace Brian, or just to do that. Do you think that’s what people are thinking?

That’s a big part. I also think a big part, at least in my situation, is finding a father for Nate. For me, I think a of people think, “Single motherhood is tough. You need to hurry up and get a partner so you don’t have to do this alone.” I can do this alone. I’ve done it alone. He adds wonderful help and partnership to Nate, but I did not start dating him to be Nate’s new dad or to help me take care of Nate. I’m dating him because of the wonderful person that he is and the partnership that we’ve created, not to hurry up and have another set of hands around the house.

 

WRT 29 | Widowhood

 

When you talk about the partnership that you’re creating, dating Fred is extremely different than when I was dating Mark. You don’t get to put on a dating app. I need to have a man that can love me and always knows there’ll be a part of me that will love my dead husband.

I don’t know if you put this out on your dating apps, but in some of the apps, I didn’t even say I was a widow.

I did, then I took it off because then I felt like it was causing a whole bunch of different energy I wasn’t prepared for. That was like a game-changer. I don’t know if it looked like I was prey, a purse, or something like that.

At what point, when you are talking to somebody, do you mention you’re a widow?

When did you?

I tried to be pretty transparent at the beginning because a lot of times, they would ask if I had been divorced or that kind of thing. I felt like that was an open shoe to step in and say, “I haven’t been divorced. I lost my husband,” and talk about that.

I remember Fred and I met at a place called Café Stella. It’s this coffee place. We met at Zoosk. That’s the dating app we met on. I want to have chemistry with someone. When I see you, I want to feel giddy inside and butterflies. I didn’t know if I could ever feel that way again. We met at Café Stella. I was like, “I’m tired of these dudes not showing up.” We had been texting for three days and I was like, “Do you mind? Can we meet at Café Stella? This is not a booty call. I just want to see if we have some chemistry.”

I remember walking into Café Stella. He was reading a book. The book was not upside down. He was reading it. I saw his long legs. I was like, “It looks like he’s going to be the right height. Checked number one.” I once again have my phone, keys, and some cash because I don’t want anything else. He stands up and I say, “I am a hugger. Can I give you a hug?” He says, “That’s fine.” I was like, “I feel like he works out. This is good.”

You’re getting a little feel for what’s going on.

We sat there in Café Stella and talked for hours. I had to go to church that night and was like, “We have to go.” I was like, “There’s chemistry here.” I didn’t know I could feel. I wanted to. I desired it, but I didn’t know if it could happen. From that moment, I was like, “This is a prospect. All those swipe lefts.”

I remember feeling the same thing. We talked quite a bit on the phone before we met in person and then we ended up meeting. I was late. I felt horrible. I called immediately. I had got stuck at work with some meeting or something. I was like, “I’m so sorry. If you need to reschedule, I understand.” He’s like, “It’s okay. It’s not a big deal. Just get here when you can. Be safe.” I was like, “Okay.” We met at a coffee place too. We met at Pourfavor. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before.

No.

You should take Fred and go check it out.

He is a bit of a coffee snob.

It’s good. They have coffee flights and everything. I remember us going for a walk together. We had coffee together, and then we decided to walk a little bit. I remember us brushing our arms a couple of times while we were walking next to each other. There was chemistry there. I remember talking to him about my late husband and I started getting teary-eyed. After, I stopped talking to him about it. This was back in the coffee shop. He asked if he could give me a hug. He gave me a hug and I leaned into him. The chemistry was completely there.

That part right there for a man to be confident enough and who he is in the space that he’s showing up in for you and not feel conflicted about this spouse that has died is so important. It is important for them to know, “It’s not a competition. I’m not trying to make Mark bigger than life and you have to fill his shoes and be in a competition because no one’s going to win at that.” I feel like that’s a misnomer or people feel like they’re going to have to deal with when dating a widow or a widower.

WRT 29 | Widowhood
Widowhood: A man has to be confident enough in who he is and not feel conflicted about the spouse who has died. It’s important for them to know that it’s not a competition.

 

A big piece, especially for me in dating, as we tend to look at our marriage versus our new relationship, what worked and what didn’t work, what’s different, and what’s like. One of the big things is these are two completely different people. It’s not the same. I can’t compare them. They’re completely vast. It’s like comparing apples to bananas. There’s no comparison. That was a huge thing because being married to somebody and having that long relationship, it’s easy to try to maybe find someone that’s similar to that.

You know that works if they have these same characteristics or different stuff. I didn’t think of it that way. You mentioned melting when you were talking about Brian. Fred and I had been dating for 4 to 6 months. My sister, Ulanka, Fred, and I went out. It was the first Something in the Water down in Virginia Beach. We got rained out. We went to eat at Cooper’s Hawk for dinner. Fred and I went back to my condo for a second, and then he was heading back to his place. I was getting us a drink. I was walking to the couch and I froze.

I thought, “This is one year of me living in Virginia. Mark and I had a plan for us to live in Virginia. There is this strange dude sitting on my couch,” and I lost it. It was a trigger day. I wasn’t prepared for it. He looked at me and was like, “Are you okay?” I told him what was going on. He first came, took the glasses out of my hand, and put them on the counter.

He is smart.

He said, “What’s wrong?” I told him what was going on. He said, “What can I do? Do you want me to stay? Do you want me to leave? Do you want me to hug you? What do you want me to do? You always get to feel however you want to feel about Mark because you had a husband you loved. I just want to know how I can be there and support you.” We had not gotten way close yet, but he almost got some straws that day.

WRT 29 | Widowhood
Widowhood: “You always get to feel however you want to feel about Mark because you had a husband you loved. I just want to know how I can be there and support you.”

 

I knew he got me. He understood. He had enough life experience. Unfortunately, he had a failed marriage, had been divorced, and had children. He knew what life looked like when life was like. It wasn’t this insecure person. I was like, “I can work with this. This is someone that can give me space when I’m having an emotional moment about Mark and not make it about them, feeling like, ‘You’re with me and you love me. Why are you feeling like this?’”

“Why are you bringing this up?”

“Why are these pictures up?” None of that. Me too, being in widow groups, people dating and talking about how people are demanding.

I have heard that. That was one of my fears of demanding that I can’t have pictures of my late husband up, can’t talk about him, or all of these things. It’s like, “I don’t want to be with somebody like that.” The guy I’m engaged to, his name is Brian as well. Same spelling and everything.

To that point, Fred’s middle name is Mark. You can always say the first name and not have a problem.

I was like, “Maybe this isn’t a good idea. Maybe this is the red flag.” We went with it and it’s been wonderful. I was also thinking of all the things that seemed to come up when I started dating again. You deal with all these emotions when you’re grieving and you’ve lost your spouse, but because you’re not in a serious relationship, some of those emotions are maybe buried.

Latent. Some things you don’t do until you’re dating never come up and be, “Ah.”

That’s exactly what happened to me. I don’t know if that happened to you. We started dating and more of these emotions of being close to somebody of fear of losing somebody again, not thinking I can handle that again. All of those things came back up and other emotions, just fear of losing him or getting close to somebody again, all of those things and dealing with that that I didn’t foresee.

There wasn’t a space for it to happen, either.

Until that relationship, that’s what opened that up, working through that and having somebody who allows you to feel your feelings. It’s not about them. A lot of times, my Brian doesn’t necessarily say anything when I’m having triggers. He’ll just hold me, give me a hug, or hold my hand and just know that he’s there and he’s listening to me. I didn’t have a lot of that support from friends. We didn’t talk a lot about this. I had some in my family, but a lot of people don’t understand. They don’t know how to relate. They don’t know what to say, so maybe they don’t say anything at all.

What do you think when they’re silent?

It’s hard to know what they think when they’re silent. A part of me felt maybe they didn’t care.

You’re left to make stuff up in your mind.

Make assumptions. My mind would go to maybe some negative assumptions rather than they just didn’t know what to say.

They need to tune in to the widowhood conversation. They could hear about what to say. They need to go back to some of them.

I didn’t have a lot of people that I could be raw like that. I think a lot of people tried to fix me, let me hurry up and make a joke to make her smile, “I’m tired of watching her cry. It’s uncomfortable for me to watch her cry. I want her to stop crying, so I’m going to fix it,” instead of allowing me to cry. If I need to cry, let me cry. Brian has allowed me to cry. Not trying to fix it or trying to give advice. Just let me get those emotions.

One of the things that my sister Ulanka, in our conversation, talked about is just being there, being quiet, and being in the moment whether you’re watching television or doing whatever. My sister Ulanka was living in California when Mark died, then she moved to Virginia. She spent a lot of time coming back and forth to visit me in Pennsylvania. She saw the most wretchedness of this. As her sister was dealing with a horrific moment, being in that space. It’s important to mention that it’s okay if you don’t know what to say, but just be there. Sometimes you being there and holding that space is more important than ignoring it and acting like it didn’t happen.

WRT 29 | Widowhood
Widowhood: It’s okay if you don’t know what to say, but just be there. Sometimes being there and holding that space is better than ignoring it or acting like it didn’t happen.

 

Also, trying to fix it. There’s nothing for you to fix.

People will say, “How are you doing? What would you want?” “I would want Mark to come back.” I shouldn’t say that, but that’s what’s in my head. If you’re a widow or a widower, it’s important to tell your friends, “We can’t fix this, but you can go with me on this journey. There’s no magic stamp to put on here and make it better.” That’s important to know because they hurt because you’re hurting. They want it to not hurt anymore. They’re trying to figure out how. How did he propose?

WRT 29 | Widowhood
Widowhood: If you’re a widow or widower, it’s important to tell your friends, “We can’t fix this, but you can go with me on this journey.”

 

We were in the hot tub just hanging out, chatting, and he proposed. I was like, “Are you being serious?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Yes,” and then we went up to his room. He got down on one knee. He had the ring and he asked again. I said, “Absolutely.” That was that. I was completely caught off guard. I had no idea that he had even gotten a ring. We talked a little bit about what rings I liked, but it was just in passing. I didn’t think much of it.

How did you tell people?

That was hard. I felt a lot of judgment. I felt a lot of concern about how are people going to react. I was very concerned about people’s emotions. Maybe that’s not where I was supposed to be, but that’s where I was. A lot of people loved my late husband. To tell them that I’m now engaged to somebody else, I didn’t know how they were going to take that. I wanted to be mindful of their emotions. I maybe shunned my happiness and was more concerned about their emotions and finding out that I was engaged with somebody else.

What I understand is your level of concern for other people back to when Brian passed. Even in that moment, you’re looking at your husband’s dead body and you’re thinking about how everybody else in the room is doing that.

Overall, it went okay. A lot of people were surprised. A lot of people thought it was too soon and that’s okay. Everybody can have their opinion. It doesn’t change the situation. I was surprised. I thought my mom would be not so happy about it, but she was very accepting of it, which was wonderful. For the most part, people have been accepting. Late Brian and I had a close group knit of friends. They’ve all had a hard time adjusting to him being gone and now adjusting to somebody else in the picture.

They struggle with that a little bit. It was close to our son’s second birthday. I always invite my late husband’s family to come to Nate’s birthday parties. I wanted to wear my ring to the birthday party. I did send out a text to his family and let them know, “Just so you know, I’ll be wearing an engagement ring. Brian and I got engaged. I didn’t want you to show up at the party and be like completely formal.” I didn’t get much of a response from that. I was a little concerned.

Was it going to be good or bad? The silence of it.

“How did they feel about it?” They were okay. They felt the same way. They thought it was a little soon, but they were happy for me in the end.

I hear people say soon. What is it to understand? I love this Brian. I’m sad that Brian is not here. I’m having a trigger versus, “This is not a good spot to be dating.” How do those look different? For me, it was the idea that when there were moments that were devastating about Mark, I was incapacitated for a long period. I could not comprehend the sadness. I was emotionally distracted. I could drive, which is like things that happened during like the anniversary of his death or his birthday. The anniversary of his death hits me harder than his birthday.

It’s a way. It’s not a consistent place that I’m living. For me, I’m extremely appreciative to have a husband that lets me have that space and supports me in it. Whether I need to make sure I’m scheduling my appointments with my therapist, but I’m not driven to stay there and live in that spot differently than when I found myself when Mark first died. I saw those things from me because this and Mark in that life have changed, but there’s a part that will be sad at different points in time.

As you said on anniversaries and stuff like that, it’s hard on Nate’s birthday to not have his father around. It’s hard on his father’s birthday for him not to be their anniversary, our wedding anniversary, and things like that. Open communication has been key. I will tell the new Brian, “This is what’s coming up this week. Just so you know, it’s the anniversary of our wedding. I’m already in my feels about it.” Open communication with him has helped our relationship. I do not want him to fix anything. I am giving him a heads-up that I might have some triggers to speak. I may be a little bit more emotional than I usually am. I’ll be all right, but this is why.

Open communication is the key. Click To Tweet

You cannot make it unhappy. You cannot make this go away. Do you feel like how you feel during those times has changed over the years or is it just the same as it was then?

It’s changed. It evolves. As you said, it’s more of a wave than a constant. It’ll come and go. Sometimes the frequency of those waves is a little bit longer in between the two. They’re not back waves. There’s a little bit of time.

I had the experience that you had the blended family thing. When we were kids, it was nothing at all as far as other people involved. Now I have my children. Fred has two children. They have grown. I remember the first Thanksgiving because Fred’s parents are deceased. He has maintained relationships with the mother of his children and their family. They’ve been like his family. We were dating. He was like, “I spend Thanksgiving with my children’s parents.” I’m like, “That’s your wife’s family.” I was like, “How is this going to go?” I was like, “Everybody will be there. Your ex will be there.” I was straight-up scared. I was like, “Lock. You are going with me.”

It was an easy situation. I was scared, but it wound up being good. We still spend Thanksgiving. My mom, my sister, and my son went and spent Thanksgiving with them. People are old enough and mature enough to understand. His ex has another partner. He has a partner. They have kids. I was afraid of nothing. I was afraid of how the kids would like me and engage me. When I started doing the show, they were helping me with equipment and doing stuff. They are helping me set up for the first time. If we open ourselves up to the possibility, we could be surprised as far as what life has to offer us.

If we open ourselves up to the possibility, we could be surprised as far as what life has to offer us. Click To Tweet

It’s going with the flow. We get in our heads, “They’re not going to like me. This isn’t going to work. This is too hard,” and all those things. Instead of we take it one day at a time. It winds up happening beautifully. It happened for Thanksgiving. You had all these feels like, “I got to bring backup because something goes down. We got to be out of here.” You want protection. In reality, you didn’t need it, but we get in our heads ahead of time instead of taking one step at a time and seeing how it unfolds.

I’ve had like a lot of your time. Widowhood has got a lot of Heather in this episode. If you are a widow thinking about dating, what are some tips or some things that you thought of? Maybe it’s lessons learned from your experience or some things you knew out the gate that you needed to do.

Make sure you are ready. That’s an internal thing. That’s something you just feel. I wouldn’t be pressured by any external pressures. Being transparent, open, and honest is huge from the get-go of what you’re looking for. As a widow, if you have kids, you’re getting older, or you have other responsibilities, you don’t want to waste somebody’s time and you sure as heck don’t want your time.

If you’re not ready, don’t do it. Know what you want for your dating experience. If you want just to be dating and be dating or you want to get married but understand the parameters.

Express and communicate that’s what you’re getting instead of being wishy-washy or unsure of what you want and getting all sorts of crazy things going on. A lot of the tips that you gave as far as bringing cash mean in a public place. Letting somebody else in your family or your friendship know where you are and when to expect you. Maybe checking in at some point during the date with them to make sure that they know everything’s okay.

You got a Google phone number because so much is related to our phone number.

People can just google your regular cell phone number, pull up your address, and all sorts of other information. Google Voice number is huge.

Also, a DVA phone number. I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Do you have any questions for me?

Did you talk to your kids about dating prior to dating? Did you say, “I’m thinking about dating. How do you guys feel about it?” What was their reaction? Nate is two, so I didn’t have to say, “Nate, I’m going to start dating. How do you feel about that? Are you okay with that? What are your thoughts on that?” because he doesn’t understand but your kids are older and have feelings about things. I was curious as to what that conversation was.

Alexander was living here in Virginia with me. I do remember telling him that I was going to start dating and I felt like I still had more love to give. I wanted to be married and be happy. He showed up and said, “That’s fair. You have the right to want to be happy.” He doesn’t like that his dad is dead and what that looks like, but there wasn’t a guilt trip situation. For Catherine, it just became her dad is dead. What does that look like? Mark was a good guy. He was a good husband and father. The void of his existence is huge. I made it clear to both of them, like you were saying, “I’m not getting married to find somebody to be the place of your father.”

You have the right to want to be happy. Click To Tweet

When we had that conversation, I was like, “The only replacement per se you have with your father would be your godfather that your dad and I selected together.” I was thinking, “I’m glad that we identified godparents for them because it’s like engaged because it’s here.” Talking about dating wasn’t hard. The, “I’m about to get married,” part was hard. Alexander had been here. He gave me away at the wedding. We had a whole dance routine. It was so much fun, but it was breaking my daughter’s heart.

Alexander had a different relationship, probably with Fred than Catherine was able to have.

He had a relationship. For Catherine, “It was this guy over there that’s now about to be my mom’s husband.”

“In my life, I’ll end up taking some of my mom’s time and I don’t know how I feel about this.”

She had come here. She met him. We went out to dinner. She had training here when she was in the Navy. She met him a little bit off during that period. It was a little bit of getting to know him, but the, “You’re going to marry him,” hit hard. We got married in February 2022. She came to visit in May 2022. I remember her coming to terms with it and separating her dad’s death for me being happy. I wanted her to be here for the wedding, but only if she was going to be happy.

It came to the point that her being here would’ve torn me emotionally thinking about my daughter versus my own happiness. Her not being here turned out to be the best decision. When she came in May because she tried to come from Mother’s Day, I got to focus on her. We got to unpack her feelings about this situation. She has warmed up to Fred. I love that when I stepped back and gave her space to embrace this on her own time.

You didn’t force anything on her.

Take it day by day. “I wanted it now.” It was like, “That’s not happening.” I vented on some support widow groups on Facebook. People gave me some good advice. I’m glad I listened. Now it’s fine. It is still horrible that Mark is not here and what that looks like, but her happiness for me is genuine.

I’m glad you all were able to get to that point. I was just curious about their initial reaction.

Any closing comments as we wrap up the widows to getting married and got married such thing?

I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything.

What I want to say is thank you for being part of this conversation. If you feel like you still have love to give or you have space in your heart, “I know what I want to do.” Getting remarried is like the idea of having 1 or 2 children. You have space in your heart to love both your kids. You’re not trading your love for your deceased spouse for this person you’re with. It is a different season and it’s something wonderful that you may want to allow yourself to enjoy. Thanks for being here, Heather.

 

WRT 29 | Widowhood

 

Thank you. I love that ending because that’s 100% right. We do have extra love in our hearts to give.

Widowhood, bye.

This was a very lively conversation. I’m glad that Heather was able to do this with me. I just found out she got engaged. I didn’t even know that either. She threw that on me. Life is full of surprises and the best thing we can do is just keep showing up every day. I am sorry for the person that you have lost that has driven you to this conversation, but I appreciate you allowing me to be part of your hood and allowing us to go on this journey with us.

Connect with us on Facebook, be part of our support group and our peer-to-peer, be a part of our book study, whatever you can do to create your community because life is here and you are living it. I want you to enjoy the life that you have. Life is a gift. I know it’s hard when someone you love is no longer here, but there is an opportunity for you to find love and joy in loving your life and the experience that you have. Keep showing up. Talk to you soon.

 

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Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

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