One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by GOWs and WOWs is what does it take for a widower to move on and love them as much as the late wife. I always tell them that the first thing a widow(er) to move on and start a new life is making a mental adjustment. They need to stop seeing themselves (and wanting others to see themselves) as a widower and stop feeling bad about they’ve lost. Instead focus on all the beauty and love this world has to offer and work hard to do what it takes to find happiness again.
The following was posted on my Widowers Dating Again Facebook group. I share it with the author’s permission. I think it does a good job encapsulating the mental adjustment widowers need to take in order find happiness.
Here’s Todd mental adjustment in his own words:
The day I decided to stop acting like a victim was the most empowering and life-changing day I've had since my late wife died. The first year or two I think a person basically has to go through the depression, the sadness for the spouse that they lost, for the loss of the marriage (so to speak) and then for our own personal loss. I think that we NEED to throw a "woe is me" pity party for a while to let ourselves feel and express the anguish.
However, at one point, it just gets to be a constant pity party. And believe me, I am one of the most guilty for having ridden that pity pony for all too long. Eventually I realized that I was no longer sad for her, I was just sad for me. I kept hiding behind the veil of "honoring her, and my love for her, by never loving another; by loving her and only her until the day that I die.” I did that no matter how long that is, or how depressing and lonely that makes me.
Then I realized that this was only an insult to her and everybody who loves me that was still around. I mean, if it had been me dead, and not her, I would have been pissed beyond belief had she gone through life that way. She loved life and loved to experience everything about life, never letting the opportunity for a laugh, a hug, a kiss, a party or a quiet supper pass her by. So how could I possibly think so lowly of her to subconsciously accuse her of being happy in some way that I was miserable, or that she would be in any way 'dishonored' if I were to live life to the fullest extent possible?
Did the dating come easy? Hell no! Did I have to deal with guilt and some bruised emotions through the processes? Hell yeah! Did I have to learn to take things slow, and slowly teach myself to subconsciously subdue the tendency to say her name in place of the dates'? Yeah, and that one I still am very wary of. Is it worth it? A great big yes!!!
We make the mistake too often, and too easily as widows and widowers to openly proclaim, almost with a tone of self-righteous indignation that when they died, so did we. Because of that we can no longer live. We tend to proudly boast of how we will never be with another person, and our lot in life is to grow old alone, always hanging ourselves on that romantic cross of martyrdom in some twisted form of "honor" to our deceased. We constantly accuse others' pain as de-minimus, as petty, as grossly selfish because "they don't understand what real pain or loss is". After all, NOBODY could understand suffering like one of us, right? We wear this martyrdom as a golden badge of courage, when instead it should really be considered a coward's cross of thorns.
When the time comes to let go and spread our wings to fly again into a new future, into a new journey, it’s scary as hell. Why would we risk losing again? What if he/she was the only person I will ever attract in that way, what if nobody else ever gets me the way that he/she did? What if I'm not good enough for anybody else? What if I fall flat on my face in front of the world? Hiding behind a couch of lost love is so much easier than stepping out into the room and dealing with living again. But there is no real reward in hiding there either.
I honor her now by living. In my heart, in my prayers, in words directed to the heavens and in visits to her grave from time to time I honor her. I do not constantly mention her to everybody anymore, as I think that does two things in the negative. First, it disrespects the woman I am with now, and second, it’s a selfish thing to do, because by constantly dropping her name, it’s a not-so-well-disguised cry for others to recognize me as a WIDOWER, and not just as Todd.
The other thing I would add is that making the mental adjustment is only the first step. Thoughts are worthless unless they’re followed up with actions. Any widowers who take this first step also need to walk the walk. Then you can start rebuilding your life. The results can be amazing.