I began dating my husband, AJ, approximately 1 year after I lost my late husband Kyle. There is no rule or etiquette for “how long” to wait to date after loss. I’m sure everyone and their brother has an opinion on the subject. (You know what they say about opinions…) Frankly, it’s no one’s flipping business except for the two parties involved. (Can you tell I am emotional about this??) I understand concerns about emotions running high and maybe the concern of the widow/widower not thinking clearly. If there is a situation where safety or intent is put into question, that is another story. I have a very close widow friend that was essentially disowned from her late husband’s family because she started dating “too soon”. Bull. Crap.
Speaking of dating after loss, (get comfortable—I’m getting on my soap box here) I get so sick and tired of the dating double standard. Tell me, why is it that when a man loses his wife and starts dating, he is looked at like he is an abandoned puppy. When a woman is widowed and starts dating, she gets all kinds of judgement and crap from other people?! Men are viewed as a “poor guy” and women are viewed as a “hussy”. I’m probably preaching to the choir here, because I know a lot of my family and friends are reading this, but the stigma is fully there!
ROLE VS PERSON
I kept on the low down for a little while that I was seeing someone. I was SO afraid of judgement and feared that Kyle’s family would hate me. Yes, hate me. I saw what happened to my friend and her in-laws. I felt sick about telling them. It was something I needed to do sooner than later, because I wanted them to hear it from me. It’s a hard dynamic. They will never be able to re-cast the role of brother and son. (I am wording this with as much care as I can because it is a very sensitive thing to discuss.) I was blessed to have the opportunity to place another man into the role that Kyle once had. I was not replacing Kyle as a person, but I was potentially re-casting his role. I knew my family would be supportive, and they absolutely were. They didn’t like to see me alone and struggling with life. Not to sound callus, but do you judge someone who gets a new dog to replace their dog that died?? Should that owner feel shame?? Should they be judged for “replacing” their dog?? Should that owner never own another dog again?? Same concept, people.
Everyone in my circle who met AJ, loved him. Have you seen his smile?? How could you not?! Even the next-door security/personal body guard/over-protective to a fault neighbor who shined a spotlight on him one night, wanting to know what his intentions were, eventually gave his stamp of approval. AJ simply walked up to my front door and into our life.
Looking back to 5 years ago, AJ should have run. Actually, I’m pretty sure that I said fairly often, “I would run the other direction if I were you…”. The first sign showed up when he first asked me if I would want to go to dinner and my response was, “If you want to date me, we will have to go to another state.” Seriously. Our first few dates, we crossed the river to Missouri. I was so scared of being seen and judged. After a couple dates across the Mississippi, I decided we could try going to one place in Illinois. The Wooden Nickle. A cute restaurant/bar in little Glen Carbon, IL. We wouldn’t know anyone there, right?? WRONG. We walked right into a retirement party for one of Kyle’s former co-workers at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. Yep. I knew every single person there. I wanted to throw up. I’m pretty sure I kept apologizing to AJ over and over when we were there. To my surprise, he was greeted with open arms and was only threatened once.
I’m glad AJ didn’t run away. God knew I needed a partner in this life. He not only has been an incredible partner, he is raising Kaylee and Camden like his own. He supports me in honoring my late husband. That in itself is saint-worthy! Kyle wouldn’t want me to be alone forever. If Kyle could speak to AJ, I think the first thing he would say is “Thank you for taking care of my family since I could not.”
Until the next naptime,
Sarah Deatherage Steele
I am a Mom of 3, re-married widow, dental hygienist, fresh food snob, grief supporter for widows, and the creator of Comforting Keepsakes Sympathy Gifts. My husband, AJ and I hand make and finish every detail of our Memory Boxes, in our garage! I love my family and friends, second chances, exploring new places, and of course food!
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