Growing up I never wanted anything more than the ability to be a wife and a mom one day. It seemed like I waited forever for the love of my life to come along and for the two of us to become a family. I knew how lucky I was to find someone to love and who loved me in return. And Ben and I tried not to waste a moment of our life together. Building our family was something that didn’t happen as quickly as we wanted (or at all in the manner that we wanted it to), but we never gave up hope in believing that God had a plan that was bigger than us.
If you had asked me last summer if something happened to Ben would I ever want to find love again, I would have answered with an emphatic “NO,” just like I told him numerous times when we talked about it throughout our married life. A love like that only comes along once in a lifetime, right? Most people don’t have the opportunity for one great love, much less two. And I knew I would never settle for anything less.
And for a few months after Ben died, I couldn’t imagine ever getting over my grief enough to care about anyone else, much less love them. There were days I longed for the love and happiness we shared, and days too when I felt guilty for wanting to be happy again. I would read books about grieving widows and toss them aside when it got to the part where they had remarried or started dating. I judged the women in my support group for dating after losing their spouses. How could they understand my grief when they have already moved on? Did they ever even care about their spouse?
Then after a few months, it truly hit me that I was alone. The reality of the fact that Ben was gone and he was never coming back really began to set in. People weren’t around as much, and visitors weren’t a constant in our house. I realized I missed the companionship that came from marriage, and the comfort from knowing that there is always someone there for you at the end of the day. I especially missed having the ability to submit to someone else’s leadership and decision making. I started clinging to the hope found in those chapters of second love. The fact that they had found happiness didn’t mean they grieved their first love any less, but that they understood what a wonderful blessing that they had and wanted to reclaim the beauty of that relationship again moving forward.
I judged myself for even considering dating again, much less marrying someone that wasn’t Ben. And I spent a lot of time reading God’s word and asking for him to comfort me in those quiet, lonely moments. And I felt peace. I knew my grief wasn’t gone, and that I would always grieve Ben, but I began praying for someone that would be able to walk that journey with me, to comfort me and provide encouragement.
And because I am a researcher, I not only read stories of people who dated after losing their spouse, but I also messaged people who had been in my shoes and asked them questions about whether it was too soon for me to feel this way, and whether it was possible to grieve and love someone else at the same time. I read the journals Ben kept for years, knowing deep down that he didn’t want me to be alone, but longing to read the words where he set me free to try to find love again. And every time I saw the story of a widow remarrying, I searched for the length of time that they waited before they felt they were ready for that commitment again.
Some of the widows I knew talked about online dating, but I didn’t want to go through that kind of drama. And despite several people trying to get me interested in some of the men that I already knew (or friends of friends), I had no interested in seeking out a relationship myself. I began praying that if God wanted me to date or develop a relationship with someone else that he would drop them into my lap.
People told me that I was just lonely and that I shouldn’t want to date to fill the void that I was left with after losing Ben. I worked hard to prove to myself (and others) that I was perfectly happy single and raising my children on my own. But truth be told, I believe that all single people are lonely every now and then, and if I waited til I was perfectly happy being single before dating Ben, I would probably have never gotten married. The difference is that fifteen years later, I am reminded every single day of what life was like before Ben, and of the loneliness that he amazingly took away when he was here.
Friends, no one has judged me more critically then I have judged myself over the past months. I have heard repeatedly that I can’t be ready to date again, it’s too soon. And people have remarked that I “got over” Ben really fast. I still grieve the loss of Ben every single day, but I also know that it is possible to love like that again. A few months ago, a friend shared with me the words of her own mentor… she told me that the fact that I am willing to open my heart to find love again so quickly after losing Ben is a testament to the amazing marriage and husband that I had. Ben loved me, he loved our kids, and he would want nothing more than for us to find happiness, fulfillment, and contentment again.
I will never stop loving Ben, grieving Ben, and missing Ben; but I know that it is possible to find another great love. Someone who will walk the journey of life with me and my kids, accept that we will always love and miss Ben, and provide the comfort and spiritual leadership that we long for. And friends, there is no time limit on love. It doesn’t matter what kind of pain, tragedy, sickness or loss that is suffered, God has given us the infinite ability to love deep, and to love big.
I know from experience that life is short, and we should live every day to the fullest. We only get one life to live and if God sees fit to give me that chance again, why would I waste a single minute? I know that when I share of that great love, I will face judgment and people won’t understand, but friends, I know from the decade I spent with Ben, that that love is worth every heartache, every pain, every judgment and every sorrow for the sheer possibility of loving BIG and having the chance to serve God with someone who loves me and God that much back!
***I don’t share my heart on this easily, but I know I am not alone in this struggle. I have spoken to widow after widow, who not only shares my heart on this, but who also worries about the judgment they will face. Please know that we don’t do anything lightly. We pray, we seek God, and we struggle with how much of our pain to share with others. At the end of the day, I pray that you will give us more grace than we give ourselves. We didn’t choose to walk this path, but we are trying to make the most of every day that the Lord has given us as we do!