Goal: Overcome the Death of a Spouse and Find Love Again

Marathon Girl and I got a write-up in Utah Valley Magazine. The article (and others in the magazine) focuses on achieving goals. My section is about how I made goals to rebuild my life after the death of my late wife. Marathon Girl's section focus on running. If you don't want to read, I at least encourage you to check out the beautiful pictures of Marathon Girl (just ignore the ugly guy next to her). From the article:

Abel Keogh is as uncomfortable with change as the next 6-foot-3 guy. But after becoming a widower in 2001 when his pregnant wife took her life, Abel realized if he didn’t embrace change he also wouldn’t embrace happiness.

Over the next several weeks, Abel forced himself to go through a mental exercise of deciding where he wanted to be in five years. He made a list of 30 or 40 things he really wanted to do, and every day he lived his life as if enacting all of the changes he envisioned.

One if his primary goal was to marry again and have a family. Fifteen months after burying his wife, he married Julie—who he calls “Marathon Girl” on his blog. They quickly added five children, who are ages 7, 6, 5, 2, and 5 months.

***

Many in the widow/widower world get comfortable in their grief and self-pity. Abel knows there is a powerful stage in the next process.

“When I chose to change, I realized I had a chance to create a new life and do things I couldn’t have done before,” he says. “You have to figure out how to adjust or you can get smashed by it.”

On Nov. 10, 2011, Abel marked the 10th anniversary of his first’ wife’s death with a thoughtful and upbeat post about moving on. He had crossed everything off the list he had made previously.

“We can make the life we want to make,” he says. “We’re the ones who hold ourselves back.”

Abel held himself back by not initially forgiving his first wife for taking her life.

“Once I stopped being angry and blaming her, everything else fell into place,” he says. “For others, this might be losing their job or having their spouse walk out on them. Part of the healing process is moving on and getting past the victim mentality.”

Read the entire article or check out the awesome photos of Marathon Girl.

Widower Wednesday: 10 Years Later

Ten years ago today my late wife, Krista, took her own life. It’s a day that I haven’t publically acknowledged in years because life goes on and I enjoy my new life too much to be bogged down in sad memories and anniversaries. But the 10 year mark holds some significance for me because in the midst of my sorrow and misery I promised myself I would rebuild my life and be happy again. And I gave myself 10 years to do it.

In the months that followed Krista’s death I had no idea where life would take me. The emotional toll of her suicide left me floating from one day to the next. I found it hard to get up in the morning, focus on work, hang around with friends and family, or participate in activities that I previously enjoyed. My zest for living was vanquished. I didn’t want to live my life this way but I was unable to focus enough to think about what I wanted to do more than a day or two in the future.

Then one morning my alarm clock went on the fritz. As a result I missed my morning run and was late to work. It seemed like the beginning of another day where my life was spinning out of control. I hurried to work that morning wishing I had stayed in bed. On the way home from work, I bought a new alarm clock. And it was this new alarm clock that helped me put the future into focus.

Before I went to bed that night, I set the clock’s time and the alarm. This alarm clock also happened to have a date feature. I set the day and the month but stopped when I got to the year. Instead of setting it for the current year, I pushed a button and watched the years scroll by. As I watched the years pass by I started thinking what I wanted my life to be like one, five, and ten years down the road. I didn’t come up with a concrete direction that night but at least I was thinking about it.

Every night for several weeks I looked on the years of the clock. Eventually I had a fairly clear idea what I wanted my life to look like 10 years in the future. I won’t list everything I wanted to accomplish during that time with but the top three things on my list were:

  1. Forgive Krista
  2. Remarry and start a family
  3. Become a published author

I had no idea how long it would take any of those three things to happen but I figured if they could all happen within10 years, I would have successfully rebuilt my life. That night I vowed to live my life in such a way that I could accomplish everything on my list within a decade.

Fast forward to today. I’m not only living the life that seemed like an impossible dream 10 years ago, it’s far exceeded any expectations. It only took a year to forgive Krista. I haven’t had any anger or animosity towards here since then. Three months after that I married Marathon Girl. This year we celebrated eight wonderful years together and have five(!) amazing kids. My first book was published six years after Krista died. I’ve had two more published since then and have many more on the way. All the other goals on my list have also been accomplished usually sooner than I originally thought possible.

Ten years ago if someone would have told that this is what my life would look like today, I wouldn’t have believed them. Back then I didn’t think it was possible to rebuild a life and become happy again so quickly. I never would have thought that wounds of loss could heal so soon. But they did. And it all happened because I figured out what I wanted to do with my life then worked my butt off make a dream become a reality. As a result, I’ve never been happier or more satisfied with my life. I wake up excited to take on the challenges that come with every new day. I can say without reservation that I love my life.

So if you find yourself in a place where you’re not happy with your life, take a long hard look about where you want it to be one, five, or even 10 years down the road. Then examine your life as it is and see if there are people, habits, or other things in your life that are stopping you from living the life you want to live. Don’t let the actions of others determine your happiness or where your life ends up. If there issues that need to be addressed, figure out what steps you need to take to solve those problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re a widow, widower, someone who’s dating a widow or widower, or someone who’s going through other hard times. Get off your butt, throw off the shackles that are hold you back and start making changes today.

My journey to reach this point in my life wasn’t smooth—I experienced plenty of bumps and setback along the way—but the rewards were well worth it. Life is too short to be sad and miserable. The future is a blank slate. Do what you need to do so that a decade from now you can look back and triumphantly declare that you’re living a life that seemed like an impossible dream today.

Dad's New Wife

Frequent readers and commentator Karen M. liked to a great advice column in the comment section of my latest Widower Wednesday post.

Hi, Carolyn:

My mom passed away suddenly in November. My parents had been married for 40 years. My dad started dating two months after her passing and just got engaged. I have met his fiancee three times total, and they have been together for about six weeks.

Is it okay that I am not thrilled about this? To soften it, they told me they would not get married for a year but also said they are basically living together. I think they expected me to congratulate them. I feel like I need more time to get used to this. Am I being mean?

Anonymous

There is a bright and clear line between what you’re entitled to feel (anything) and entitled to do (very little). Since the way you react to your father’s relationship carries potentially lifelong consequences on your relationship with him, keep your response within these boundaries:

1. It’s Dad’s life, not yours.

2. You grieve your way, he grieves his. There’s no one “right” way.

***

4. Don’t criticize his fiancee; you don’t know her well enough. When you do know her well enough, don’t criticize her then, either. Identify troubling facts when necessary, without assigning blame.

Read the entire column at the Washington Post.

The only thing I have to say about it is that I agree with it 100%.

Widower Wednesday: Memorial Tattoos

In the spirit of walking the walk when it comes to putting your spouse first, Marathon Girl and I took a trip to southern Utah, without the kids(!), for three days last week. It was a great chance to rest, relax, and put each other first. Our relationship is stronger because of it. I highly recommend planning a getaway with your own spouse if you feel the relationship needs it.

***

Last week I received an email from a woman who is dating a widower (wife died 2 years ago, they’ve been dating 15 months) who is doing everything right. He’s made her feel like #1 through his actions (as opposed to his words), and done everything he can to provide a safe, loving home for her and her children, and recently proposed. She’s looking forward to a long and happy life with this man.

There’s only one problem. There’s a small memorial tattoo (a heart with the late wife’s initials inside the heart) on the widower’s chest. Every time the woman sees the tattoo it serves as a reminder of his past love and life with her. Though she’s accepted his past and past marriage and the fact that he will always love her, the constant reminder is driving her crazy.

She’s talked about the tattoo with the widower. He doesn’t see a problem with keeping it. He says it was something he got when he thought he’d never love again and doesn’t think it’s something that needs to go. He also doesn’t want to go through the pain of having it removed.

The woman doesn’t want to lose this great man but doesn’t know if she can live seeing the tattoo every day for the rest of her life and wanted to know if she should learn to live with it or cut and run before she goes nuts.

My thoughts: If the tattoo bothers you that much, then maybe it’s best to move on. You’ve had 15 months to adjust to the tattoo and apparently it’s bothering you more now than the first time you saw it. Just keep in mind that you might be losing an otherwise great guy. I’m not faulting you for feeling this way (Marathon Girl wouldn’t have married me if I had one) just asking you to weigh the pros and cons of ending things over the tattoo.

However, I’m wondering if a compromise can be reached. Have you asked him about altering the tattoo? What if he filled in the heart or altered it in some other way so it obscures the late wife’s initials or doesn’t look like a memorial tattoo. Seems like that way he keeps the tattoo but turns it into something that’s not just a reminder of his past life. Maybe the two of you could visit the parlor where it was done and see if the people there have some ideas or options for the two of you to consider.

From your email, he seems like a great guy—a cut above most widowers who start dating again. If it’s just the tattoo and only the tattoo issue that’s bothering you then I’d try to find a way around it. It sounds like you have a relationships where you talk to each other, bring it up. See if the two of you can find a solution that makes you both happy.

***

I know there are women who read this column who are with or dated widowers with memorial tattoos. How did you guys deal with it? Any suggestions on how to resolve this issue?

Widower Wednesday: Grief Counseling

 

An emailer writes:

My [widower] boyfriend has a lot of feelings of anger/guilt/frustration/sadness that surfaces now a little more frequently than it did in the beginning of our relationship. I'm realizing he may not be ready for a relationship, sadly, just yet. However, in general, I do believe he could greatly benefit from grief counseling/therapy. I've mentioned this idea to him a couple times (as have many people), and he seems resistant to it. My question: is it a bad idea to continue to push this idea?

Don’t push it. Sending someone to grief counseling who doesn’t want to go is just as effective as a sending a drug or alcohol addict who hasn’t hit bottom to rehab. In order for any kind of counseling to even be remotely effective the person has to be willing to accept help. If your boyfriend doesn’t want it, pushing it is only going to make him resent you and others who are suggesting it.

I’m not a big fan of grief counseling. I think it’s been oversold as a solution to those who have lost a loved one. The loss of a spouse doesn’t make you a victim who requires professional help. Most people can work through the loss of their spouse without the help of a professional. Most people are better off without it.

From what I’ve read 6 to 12 months after a loss of a loved one, most people are doing just fine. Only 10% of widows/widowers will need some sort of grief counseling and generally they’re the ones who are still grieving after a year after their spouse passed.

There’s a new book by journalist Ruth Davis Konigsberg called The Truth About Grief: The Myth of the Five Stages and The New Science of Loss. Though I haven’t had the time to read it yet, Annie has read it and written a great summary of the book on her blog.  From what I’ve read on her blog and elsewhere, it seems to mirror my own conclusions from 2005 that grief counseling doesn’t benefit most people and it could be holding some people back from moving on.

Update: A reader, Ted, sent a link from a recent Time magainze article by Kongsberg. It's a good read. An excerpt:

Our modern, atomized society had been stripped of religious faith and ritual and no longer provided adequate support for the bereaved. And so a new belief system — call it the American Way of Grief — rose up to help organize the experience. As this system grew more firmly established, it allowed for less variation in how to handle the pain of loss. So while conventions for mourning, such as wearing black armbands or using black-bordered stationery, have all but disappeared, they have been replaced by conventions for grief, which are arguably more restrictive in that they dictate not what a person wears or does in public but his or her inner emotional state. Take, for example, the prevailing notion that you must give voice to your loss or else it will fester. "Telling your story often and in detail is primal to the grieving process," Kübler-Ross advised in her final book, On Grief and Grieving, which was published in 2005, a year after her death. "You must get it out. Grief must be witnessed to be healed." This mandate borrows from the psychotherapeutic principle of catharsis, which gives it an empirical gloss, when in fact there is little evidence that "telling your story" helps alleviate suffering.

Widower Wednesday: Avoiding the Late Wife’s Family

Today’s Widower Wednesday question comes from a recent widower with a young child who’s is in his first serious relationship since the wife died. He’s crazy about the new woman in his life and feels incredibly lucky and blessed to have found love again. There’s just one problem: his girlfriend refuses to meet or spend any time with the late wife’s family. In addition, the girlfriend makes small complaints when the widower wants to take his child and spend time with them. The widower wants to know if he’s asking too much by wanting the girlfriend to meet the late wife’s family and spend some time with them occasionally.

Everyone comes into a relationship with some sort of past. Relationships with widowers usually involve knowing and spending time with the late wife’s family—especially if there are children from the first marriage. A lot of women are uncomfortable meeting or spending time with the late wife’s family and I don’t blame them for feeling that way considering how poorly they’re sometimes treated.

However, I have a problem when the girlfriend refuses to meet them or even consider getting to know them. It seems like the larger issue is that she doesn’t want to admit or acknowledge the widower’s past marriage and that by refusing to be part of it, the late wife’s family, the late wife, and the widower’s past will magically disappear.

Having a successful relationship with a widower means accepting the fact that the late wife, in some small way, is always going to be part of the relationship with a widower. Like it or not, the widower’s previous marriage made him the man he is today. By cutting the late wife’s family out of the picture and refusing to even meet them, the girlfriend is denying a chance to get to know people who have influenced on who the widower is. At the very least she should try to spend some time with these people and give them a chance as they’ll probably play some role in her relationship with the widower if it’s too continue.

In any case, the late wife’s family is going to become a much bigger issue as the relationships goes on. She may only make a small fuss now when the widower wants to see them, but the complaints are going to get bigger and louder the longer the relationship goes on. Personally, I don’t see a future with her unless she’s willing to at least meet the late wife’s family and be more open to the widower’s past.

Widower Wednesday: Remembering the Late Wife during the Holidays

Last week I received seven emails from women who were all worried about the same holiday issue: how to deal with the widower doing something to commemorate the late wife during the holidays.

One lady wrote to me concerned that the Thanksgiving dinner she was attending would include a toast to the late wife. Another woman was worried about her widower wanting to scatter her ashes on a ski slope Christmas Eve. A third was worried about the widower who insists on visiting cemetery Christmas morning and how that might affect his attitude the rest of the day. You get the picture.

Holidays can be tough on anyone who’s lost a loved one. Generally, the first holiday season (and the first year for that matter) without the late wife is the hardest because the widower’s learning how to adjust to life without his wife. Once someone’s made it through their holiday without the late wife, the holidays become the second, third, and fourth time around.

My suggestion on how to handle these situations depends on 1) how long ago the late wife died and 2) how the widower acts during these events. For example, I didn’t have a problem with the Thanksgiving toast because this was the family’s first holiday season without her. Instead of focusing on the toast, I suggested she watch on how the widower treated her during the time before and after that moment. Did he seem focused on the late wife and the past or her and the present? Was he introducing her to friends and family or letting her fend for herself? Was he doing his best to make the day festive or did it feel like a wake? So long as the widower was doing his best to make the day special for her and treating her like number one, I didn’t see a problem with the toast.

I was a little more concerned with the widower who wanted to scatter the ashes onChristmas Eve. First he brought up the scattering the ashes after the two of them had already booked their trip. Second the wife had been dead two years and I found it odd that he was choosing their trip to do it. Sure, it might have been his way to saying good-bye and move on, but doing it during a trip that was supposed to create new holiday memories with another woman seemed like awfully bad timing. My suggestion was to talk to him and see what the reason was for doing it during their trip and there was a better time to do it that wouldn’t distract from the fun trip they were to enjoy together.

I was really worried about the widower who wanted to visit the cemetery on Christmas morning. The day held no significance in their relationship aside from the normal holiday stuff. They weren’t married on that day, she didn’t die on that day, nor did any special event in their marriage happen on that day. It’s just something he had done every Christmas (and every other major holiday) since his wife died five years ago. The woman said that after he visits the cemetery he’s comes home quiet and moody – not exactly the best way to usher in the spirit of Christmas. Where the wife’s been dead five years and he won’t go the day before or after Christmas to visit the cemetery, it appears like he’s still grieving and not ready to move on. I suggested that unless the widower was willing to forgo or delay the cemetery visit, it would probably be best if she spent the holidays elsewhere. In the meantime she might want to think about whether the widower is ready to start a new life with her.

Holidays without a spouse can be tough, but remember that once a widower has made the choice to enter a committed relationship with you, your relationship—not his grief—should come first. While there’s nothing wrong with remembering the past, living in the present, counting our blessings, and creating new memories with a new love is a much happier and productive way to spend the holidays.

Widower Wednesday: Moody Holiday Widowers

Thanks to everyone who sent in their holiday widower questions. I’m working on answering them all of them personally while addressing the most common topics on the blog.

By far the most frequent holiday that found its way to my inbox was about widowers who get sad, depressed, or moody during the holiday season. One woman wrote that she was dating a man who had been widowed for two years and felt like the entire holiday season was going to be spoiled because he’s become more distant and doesn’t want to participate in planned holiday activities.

I want to have empathy for these widowers. I really do. I know that holidays can feel empty without their wife by their side. I couldn’t wait for my first Christmas without her to be over because all I could think about was that she wasn’t around.

The problem is that these widowers have willingly become involved in a committed relationship. If they’re willing to commit to someone, they need to man up and make the holiday season enjoyable for the new woman in their life. That might mean trying out a new tradition, spending a day with her friends and family, or just enjoying some alone time with the new woman. It doesn’t mean sitting at home sulking or becoming withdrawn and uncommunicative.

My gut says that widowers in a committed relationship who become overly withdrawn during the holidays or other special occasions aren’t ready to move on. Talk to the widower about what’s bugging him, but unless he can find the strength to man up and make you number one, plan on having more holidays and special occasions ruined.

Widower Wednesday: Sleeping with a Widower

After reading my Sex and Intimacy with Widowers article, a reader asks if abstinence guarantees that a widower won’t leave the woman he’s dating.

The answer is no. Abstinence doesn’t guarantee that a widower won’t up and leave you anymore than sleeping with a widower guarantees he’ll be there for you tomorrow.

When it comes to getting involved with a widower phyically or emotionally, my advice has always been to take things slow.  Most widowers—especially recent widowers—are quick to commit to relationships before they’re emotionally ready. As a result it’s not uncommon for them to end relationships as soon as things heat up. Taking your time in the early stages of the relationship with a widower can save you some heartache if the relationship comes to an unexpected. Taking things slow give you a good chance to learn if the widower’s ready to move on and start a new life with you or simply looking for someone to keep him warm at night. Widowers who are looking for an easy score or not ready for a serious relationship will have a hard time holding back if you put off his advances until you’re sure of his intentions.

When you decide to become physical with a widower is ultimately up to the two of you. Just keep in mind that the second most common issue in my inbox is from women who feel used and taken advantage of after sleeping with widowers only to be unceremoniously dumped soon after. If that’s something you want to avoid, take your time before sleeping with a widower.

Widower Wednesday: He Keeps Talking about the Late Wife

Note: This is the first installment of Widower Wednesday.  Each Wednesday I’ll be addressing common widower issues that come into my inbox. If you’d like to suggest a topic or ask a question, send me an email.

***

It seems the topic in my inbox this week has centered on widowers who talk about their late wife their past relationships. Women want to know whether this is normal behavior and when the widower will start talking about the present and future instead of the past.

Yes, it’s normal for widowers to talk about the late wife and their life together. This need to talk about the late wife and their past life together often helps make the transition from the old to new life. As widowers make room in their heart for a new woman, the topics of conversation should evolve from the past to you and your future together.

Since everyone grieves differently, when he starts to make this transition depends on the person. Some widowers can do it in a matter of weeks; with others it takes a bit longer. As a rule of thumb, if you’ve been with someone for six months and they’re still talking about the past and showing no interest in talking about you or your future together, I’d be very concerned whether or not the widower is ready to move on.

Another red flag to watch for is widowers who constantly talk about the late wife. One of the recent emails I received said just about any topic of conversation was tied in to what the late wife liked or thought about a certain subject. This seems to go beyond a healthy talking about the past. Deciding what to have for dinner, for example, shouldn’t turn conversation about what the late wife liked or didn’t like to eat. If the widower is making her a part of every conversation you have, it’s a sign he’s still grieving and not ready to start a new life with you.

Dating a Widower Book Update

Quick update on the status of the Dating a Widower guide. All the feedback from beta readers was received last week. I appreciate all of them taking the time to read it and give me their thoughts. Though the overall feedback was positive, several beta readers expressed concerns that the book was a little off the mark of what it was trying to accomplish. After taking time to review everything, I’ve decided to rewrite certain sections of the book before it goes to press. So, the book is still on track to come out this year, but with all the rewriting that needs to be done, the release date is going to be pushed back until November. And, yes, I’ll still need about 10 people or so to review the second version. Email me if you’re interested in reviewing the new book.

On the upside, I was finally able to find someone who actually knows how to design book covers. I’m hoping to have it finalized no later than next week. I’ll post it here as soon as it’s ready to go.

Thanks again to all those who took the time to read it and give me feedback.

Looking for Beta Readers

As you know, there’s little useful information out there about Dating a Widower. As a result, I’ve been writing a Dating A Widower book. It’s a short (approximately 10,000 word) guide that talks about the ins and outs of dating a widower. The guide is based on my own experience, emails I’ve received from women dating widowers over the last 5 years, and insights gleaned on this board. Right now I’m looking for 15-20 beta readers who are willing to read the book and give me some objective feedback on the content. If you’re selected to be a beta reader, I’ll give you a free hard or e-copy after the book has gone to press. I’d also like 2-3 widowers to read the book as well.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader, send me an email letting me know your interest along with your email address so I can email you a draft. The draft will be sent sometime next week. You’ll have two weeks to review the manuscript.

UPDATE:I want to give everyone a big THANK YOU for everyone who expressed interest in becoming a beta reader for my Dating a Widower book. Afer I posted the request on the Dating A Widower Facebook group I had over 100 responses from those expressing interest in becoming beta readers. I only expected 20-30. The amount of interest tells me there’s huge, untapped demand for this kind of information. I hope my book can provide the information about dating a widower that can help you with the common relationship issues that arise.

As much as I would like to get everyone’s feedback, I don’t have the bandwidth to read over 100 critiques of the manuscript. As of now I’m limiting the number of GOW/WOW readers to 20 and widowers to 5.

I’m still wading through all the messages and trying to fill the remaining spots. You’ll get a message from me if you’re selected. If you don’t receive a message from me, please don’t take it personally. I still want your input. After the first round of critiques, I plan on posting a couple of chapters on this board for further review. I’ll send out a general email when those are ready to go.

Thanks again for your overwhelming responses. And please feel free to post any issues you have on this Facebook board or email me your questions.

Dating and Marriage: No Regrets

Dating and Marriage

Writing in response to my Dating and Marriage: One Regret post David asks the following questions.

Abel,

I’m truly glad things worked out for you.

I don’t know your story, other than your late wife shot herself to death when she was pregnant. Personally, I could never marry someone in the kind of short time periods you talk about. And I wonder (and feel really uncomfortable saying this… but you have chosen to make your life public) how you maintain this opinion given what happened in your first relationship?

Doesn’t a long courtship give you the opportunity to see warning signs about how a person copes with challenges? I have been dating my girlfriend for a year and a half and I am learning what works and what doesn’t work with her, and then I have to think about whether I can cope with that effectively in the long term.

My response:

David,

Some background on my relationship with my late wife: we grew up in the same neighborhood. I knew her for years before we started dating.

During the time we dated and there was no indication whatsoever that she was suicidal or would emotionally change once she became pregnant.

When we decided to have a child after two years of marriage there was no indication she’d go off the deep end and take her own life. All of the warning signs occurred after she became pregnant—and even then the warning signs weren’t always crystal clear. Extending out our courtship another month or another year wouldn’t have given me some vital piece of information that would have made me change my mind about marrying her.

If anything losing her taught me that I shouldn’t waste time dating or courting someone once I know I’ve found the right person. That’s why when I realized I could spend the rest of my life happily married to Marathon Girl (and that she felt the same way), there was no point in dating anymore. We’ve been happily married now for seven years.

Like all couples we’ve had good and bad moments in our relationship but I can say that an extra month or even an extra year of courting wouldn’t have changed our minds about each other.

I’m not saying you should rush into marriage, but at some point all the dating in the world isn’t going to give you any further insight into that person. Then you have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to experience all of life’s good and bad moments with that person and no one else. If you are, then what’s the point in dating for another two months or two years?

In my experience and those of my friends, extended courtships (1 year or longer) aren’t any more successful than those who married within months after meeting each other. If anything, those in long courtships stand to lose the most if the relationship doesn’t end in marriage because they invested more time in it. I personally believe if you date someone for a year and you still don’t know whether or not that person’s right for you, then the answer is “no” and it’s time to quit wasting each other’s time.

There are no guarantees in this life, David. Whether married or single, we’ll go through periods of joy and heartache, riches and poverty. People we love will sometimes make stupid choices. If I could go back in time, I’d still marry my late wife even if I knew how things would end. Furthermore, I have no qualms about my whirlwind courtship with Marathon Girl. Even if she was to be taken from me tomorrow, I have absolutely no regrets about getting down on my knee and asking her to be my wife and spending seven wonderful years with her. I refuse to live in fear of things that are out of my control.

We all have the ability to discern and judge for ourselves whether or not the person we’re dating is the one person we hope to spend the rest of our lives with. It’s not just learning how someone reacts to challenges that’s important because I guarantee life’s going to throw you curveballs at you that neither of you will anticipate. It’s about whether we love someone enough to hold their hand and take a leap of faith and experience life together as husband and wife.

The question for you, David, is whether or not you love this woman enough to take that step.

Widower Friends

Widower Needs A Friend

In the comment section of 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers, Tyler writes:

I have spent a lot of time online getting information on grieving, etc. After a wonderful marriage of 21 years, I have found myself as a widower of a big six weeks. NO-I am not ready to move on! That is a long way off. I happened upon this site as I was searching other information. As I have read these articles, however, a question has been raised in my head.

I understand that the lonliness [sic] and emptiness is a big part of the grieving process. Is longing for a friend to talk to necessarily a bad thing? As noted in some of your articles, I understand that widowers are no different than other singles in how we need to treat women. (Quite frankly I am shocked that this would have to be said.)

As with many single people who are not looking to become involved but want to be active rather than festering at home, is there an appropriate way to approach this situation? Looking at it from the opposite point of view, if I were a woman approached by a guy like me wanting a "friendship" after 3-4-5 months of widowerhood, I would probably run away as fast as I could!

In my case there will absolutely be no intimacy until marriage, so that is not the issue. I would also never even approach someone even as a friend without my children's knowledge and approval.

Thoughts about approaching a "friend"?

I highlight this comment because Tyler’s comment reflects a lot of the emotional state recent widowers (including myself many, many years ago) find themselves in: they’re not ready to date or even form a serious relationship but they want to reach out to someone (preferably female) who they can talk to and connect with. Even if they aren’t intending to get serious with someone, they’re trying to connect on an emotional level that’s bound to lead to some kind of emotional/romantic attachment on his part or the woman he becomes friends with. The result is going to be an emotional disaster for one or both people involved.

So for women who are dating widowers keep Tyler’s emotional state in mind as you start a relationship with a widower—especially a recent one. Yes, some widowers are ready to move on but a lot of them are looking to rebuild the emotional connection they had before their wife passed away. This means you need to keep your eyes wide open when you date a widower. And if you feel the widower’s not ready to move on, don’t be afraid to end the relationship and let him know that you don’t feel he’s ready for a serious relationship.

For widowers who feel like Tyler, I can understand the need to talk to someone about what you’re going through. And if you don’t have a friend that has lost a spouse, finding someone who can relate to what you’re going through can be very, very difficult. That being said, if you don’t feel that any of your current friends are the sounding board you need, get some kind of counseling. Sure, it costs money, but you can get stuff off your chest without the risk of becoming emotionally involved with someone. Friendships become strong when they’re based on enough common interests to grow and develop. Loneliness and a broken heart always make for a poor friendship foundation.

Update:Due to some comments on this post, here's the response I sent to the poster:

What is the purpose of this “friend?” you seek? Are you looking for someone you can talk to about your grief or someone you can just hang out with occasionally?

In either case, why does this “friend” have to be a woman? Don’t you have any guy friends now that you can hang around with on occasion?

Instead of seeking out an individual person, why not join a club or some other group where there are a lot of people and start making friends that way.

Friendships develop when there are enough common interests to build something on it. Loneliness and a broken heart always make for a poor foundation to find a friend.

Death do us part; then on to Match.com

Dating a Widower I got a brief mention in a Florida Weekly dating column on widowers making the transition to a new relationship and the challenges that come with it. My "Dating a Widower" Facebook group even got a mention. :-)

Vicki Kennedy makes for a striking widow. Now that she's said she won't fill her husband's senate seat, she has stepped firmly into the national conscience as a public figure of grief. The First Lady holds her hand at presidential conferences and liberals everywhere speak her name at prayer circles. At 55, she might some day remarry. But the odds are against it.

If things were different and Vicki passed before Teddy, chances are he'd be married this time next year. In fact, men are four times more likely to remarry after losing a spouse; 61 percent of men start dating within the first two years, compared to just 19 percent of women. It's ironic that the same men who hem and haw about being dragged into marriage — there's a reason women set ultimatums — are the ones who rush to find a ball and chain so soon after losing their spouse.

You can read the entire article here.

Love Happens: A Movie About Me And Marathon Girl???

Looks like lots of simliarities between the trailer for the movie Love Happens and my own life. Of course my book came after I met Marathon Girl and everything in the book actually happened. But MG is just as cute, if not cuter, than Jennifer Aniston. Even though it's a chick flick, I just might have to see this show with MG. :-)
LOVE HAPPENS: Movie Trailer - The funniest videos clips are here

10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers

Note: I've updated a dating post I wrote a couple years ago and posted it on the Open to Hope site. The article is also reprinted below. 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers

Dating again after the death of a spouse can be an awkward experience. It can bring out feelings of guilt, betrayal from the person dating again. It can also bring out feelings of confusion and concern from friends, family, and those who were close to the deceased spouse.

If you’ve lost a spouse and are looking to date again, here are 10 tips to make sure you’re able to successfully navigate the dating waters.

1. When you decide to date again is up to you

There’s no specific time period that one should wait before dating again. Grieving and the process of moving on is something that’s unique to each person. Some people take years, others weeks, and then there are those who choose never to date again. Whatever you do, don’t let others tell you you’re moving too fast or waiting too long. Make sure it’s something you’re really ready to try before taking that step.

I started dating five months after my late wife died. Too soon? There were some friends and family who thought so. But five months was when I felt ready to at least test the dating waters. And thought it took a few dates to get the hang of things, I have no regrets about dating that soon.

2. Make sure you’re dating for the right reasons

If you feel like dating again, take some time to understand why you want to date again. It’s not wrong to date because you’re lonely or desire some company. Single people date for those reasons too. However, if you’re dating because you think it going to somehow fill the void or heal the pain that comes from losing a spouse, it’s not going to happen. However, dating does give you the opportunity to open your heart to another person and chance to experience the unique and exquisite joy that comes with falling in love again.

3. Feeling guilty is natural – at first

The first time I went to dinner with another woman, I felt like I was cheating on my late wife. As we entered the restaurant, I was filled with feelings of guilt and betrayal. Throughout our entire date I kept looking around to see if there was anyone in the restaurant I knew. I thought that if someone saw me out with another woman, the first thing they’d do is run and tell my dead wife what I was up to. It sounds silly, but I couldn’t shake that feeling the entire evening. A week later I went out with someone else. The same feelings of guilt were there only they were less intense. It took about five dates before the feeling went away entirely and I could actually enjoy the company of the woman I was with without feeling guilty.

As you date, feelings of guilt should subside over time – especially when you find that special someone you might want to spend the rest of your life with. If the guilt’s not subsiding, you might not be ready to date again. Give dating a break and try dating again when you might be more up to the task.

4. It’s okay to talk about the deceased spouse – just don’t overdo it

Unless you’re good friends or have known your date previously, he or she is going to be naturally curious about your spouse and previous marriage. And it’s OK to talk about the spouse when you’re first dating someone. Answer questions he or she may have about your marriage but don’t spend all your time talking about the dead or how happy you were. After all your date is the one that's here now. And who knows, he or she might make you incredibly happy for years to come. Constantly talking about the past, may make it seem like you’re not ready to move on and start a new relationship. Showing that you care enough to get to know them can help reassure your date that you’re ready to start a new life with someone else.

5. Your date is not a therapist

Would you like going out with someone who constantly talked about issues she was having in her life? Dating isn’t a therapy session – it’s an opportunity to spend time with someone else and enjoy their company. If you find yourself dating just to talk about the pain in your heart, how much you miss your spouse, or tough times you’re going though, seek professional help. Spending $60 an hour on professional help you much more than spending $60 for dinner and a movie. Besides, your date will have a more memorable night if it’s about him or her then about everything you’re going through.

6. It’s okay to make mistakes when you’re finding your dating legs

When I started dating again, it had been seven years since I had gone out with anyone other than my wife. Because I had a certain comfort level with my first wife, I often found myself forgetting proper dating etiquette such as opening the car door or not walking a date to her door when the date was over.

If you find yourself forgetting simple dating etiquette, don’t worry about it. Most dates would understand if they knew it had been awhile since you dated. But don’t make the same mistake over and over. Learn from them and continue moving forward. You’ll be surprised how fast your dating legs return.

7. Defend your date

You may discover when once the family and friends learn you’re dating again they may not treat this new woman or man in your life very well. The treatment may come in the form of a cold shoulder at family activities or constantly talking about the deceased wife in front of the date. If you have family and friends who are doing this, they need to be told privately, but in a loving manner, that this behavior is not acceptable. If you wouldn’t let family or friends treat your spouse that way, why would you tolerate that behavior toward someone else – especially when your date could become your future spouse? Don’t be afraid to defend your date. If you can’t do that, then you have no business dating again.

8. Realize that not everyone will understand why you’re dating again There will always be someone who will not understand why you’ve chosen to date again. They may give you a hard time for dating again or have some silly romantic notion that widows and widowers shouldn’t fall in love again. Their options do not matter. All that matters is that you’re ready to date again. You don’t need to justify your actions to them or anyone else.

9. Take things slow

The death of a spouse means losing the intimate physical contact. After awhile we miss the kisses, having someone’s head resting on our shoulder, or the warm body next to us in bed. This lack of physical and emotional intimacy is enough to drive a lot of people into the dating scene. Don’t feel bad if you find yourself missing these things. It’s completely normal.

In the dating world wanting something that was part of our lives for years can become a ticking time bomb. It can force us into a serious relationship before we’re ready. The result: lots of broken hearts and emotional baggage.

If you find that you’re on a date and it’s going well, don’t be afraid to take things slow. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s hard not to throw ourselves at our date if things are going good because we want to be close to someone again. We want that warm body next to ours and have the words “I love you” whispered in our ears. But it can save you and your date a lot of emotional heartache if you wait to make sure what you’re doing is because you love the other person and not because you miss the intimacy that came with your late husband or wife.

10. Make your date feel like the center of the universe

It’s a basic dating rule but it’s often forgotten by widows and widowers. Because we already have someone special in our lives, sometimes we forget to make our date feel special too. Treat your date in such a way that he or she feels like she’s the center of your universe. He or she shouldn’t have to compete against a ghost – even if you only have one date with that person. As long you’re out together, he or she should be the center of your universe.

Even though dating can be awkward and difficult at times, it can also be a lot of fun. There’s no reason being a widow or widower should hold you back from enjoying a night out. Part of the reason we’re here is to live and enjoy life. And dating is a great way to start living again.

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More widower-related articles by Abel Keogh

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower