A widow friend of mine is in a wonderful relationship, but the “L” word hasn’t been uttered. To put a little more pressure on the couple, their one-year anniversary is in the neighborhood of Valentine’s Day. What’s a widow to do?
Similar to grief, love has no timeline. There’s no schedule or guidelines, no formula or rules. Just as everyone’s grieving period is different, people fall in love at varying degrees. Some relationships are quick-starts, immediately passionate and intense; others warm up slowly, segueing from affection to love; some turn unconditional seemingly overnight. Love grows, love changes. It’s a complicated emotion, difficult to track and impossible to predict. Our brain triggers chemical signals and our body responds. One partner may be in the Tom Cruise-couch-jumping category, while the other is sitting quietly contemplating. Be patient, whether you’re the one waiting or catching up. Every love story is different.
My “L” word experience after widowhood was easy. About three months into our relationship, I found the word on my lips, at the tip of my tongue, almost tumbling out in conversation, as natural as a ‘thank you’ – but I held back, not wanting to say it first. Billy burst out with it, declaring his love just when I was ready to hear it. We’d been in sync, no awkwardness.
Some advise against initiating that dialogue. George Costanza, impatient to declare his love to his girlfriend, ignored Jerry’s warning: “Are you confident in the ‘I love you’ return? Cause if you don’t get that return, that’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there.”
But that’s sitcom love where life is scripted for cringe-worthy optimization. The rest of us on the other side of the screen, have experienced loves of all types throughout our lives: puppy love, first love, unrequited love. And now widowed, we’re navigating the world of love after loss, which has its own distinct challenges. But it’s so worth the risk! Love always is.
For those of you emboldened, ready to speak those words – that once spoken cannot be unheard – I applaud you; and for those waiting to hear those words – be patient. To all my widowed friends, be brave and let yourself love and be loved…again.