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.

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.

Widowers: They’re Still Men!

Widowers: They're Still Men!

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when it comes to the issues involved with dating a widower. Widowers are men. That means they act and behave like men. And men aren’t that hard to understand. If you start viewing your widower as a man instead of a widower, you’ll be able to quickly identify whether or not they’re ready to date again and, more importantly, are serious about you.

In the hopes that women can better understand widowers, here are five things that will give you some insight into men so you know whether or not they’re ready for a serious, committed relationship.

1. Men can’t be forced into loving someone

For some reason women have this idea they can charm a man into loving them. It doesn’t matter if he’s a widower, divorced, or a bachelor. Women think that somehow they can open a man’s eyes and make them see what a great catch she is.

Here’s the truth: You can’t. When it comes to love, men will figure out rather quickly whether or you’re one they want to spend the rest of their life with. When it comes to widowers, there’s nothing special you can do or say that will make the widower snap out of his grief. If he thinks you’re worth keeping, he’ll do that all on his own.

What you can do is learn how to dress nice, flirt, and learn how to get a man’s attention so he’ll ask you out and get to know you better. Let it be known that Marathon Girl didn’t do anything to help me put the grief for the late wife aside. The first time I saw her I had put my eyes back in my head and pick my jaw off the floor because she was so damn sexy. Then, after I got to know her better, I realized that not only was she hot but she had everything else I wanted in a future spouse. I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I also realized the only way that was going to happen if I moved on with my life. It wasn’t a hard choice. I would have run 100 miles over shards of broken glass just to have her smile at me. After six years of marriage, she has the same affect on me.

And it’s not just me. Over the years I’ve been in touch with lots of widowers who have remarried and they all say the same thing: when the right person comes along, getting over grief is a cinch.

2. Men are, by nature, pursuers

When it comes to relationships, men do better when they’re the one pursing you. If you’re pursing them, you may get a few dates out of it but odds are you’re not going to get a committed relationship from your efforts.

When widowers decide to enter the dating waters after the death of their spouse, they’re often fighting feelings of whether or not they’re ready to date and if they can make room in their heart for another woman. This often makes widower hesitant to take the lead. Women can often sense this hesitancy and tend to take control of the relationship.

Don’t do this. Men need to decide for themselves if you’re worth it. Making this decision for them is only asking for heartache if you perceive the relationship as getting serious. With widowers, having to decide to ask you out or plan a date forces them to come to grips with their internal struggle of whether or not they’re ready to date again and whether or not you’re worth it. (See #1.)

Keep in mind that this applies to the early stages of a relationship where men need to decide if you’re worth it. As the relationship becomes more serious and you become more comfortable with each other, then you can step in. Once they feel like they’ve conquered the relationship and made you the center of their universe, they’ll do whatever you want.

3. Men can only actively love one person at a time

Would you date a man who was still angry over a recent divorce or getting over a breakup with his girlfriend? No? Then why on earth do you date a man who says he’s still grieving his late wife?

Men can only actively love one person at a time. If they still have strong feelings for another person—regardless of whether that person is alive or dead—you’re going to be the rebound relationship. Is that something you really want?

Widowers have to learn how to put their love for the late wife aside and actively love you. This doesn’t mean they stop loving the late wife but it means their utmost thoughts and feelings are for you. Playing second fiddle to an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend is bad enough. It’s even worse when the person is dead.

Avoid men who still clinging to the past. If you don’t, you’re not only in for a roller coaster ride but there’s a broken heart for you at the end.

4. Men’s actions speak louder than their words

Talk is not only cheap, it can be very seductive. Don’t listen to a man’s flattering words. It doesn’t matter how many times a man says he loves you or cares about you. When a guy really loves you, his actions and words will align. Not only will he say you’re the center of his universe, you’ll feel like it too.

Don’t start making excuses for a widower’s behavior because he’s still “grieving.” If he says he’s not giving you the attention, love, and dedication you want because he’s struggling to move on that means 1) he’s not ready for a serious relationship or 2) he’s simply using you for companionship, sex, to fill the hole in his heart, or a combination of the three.

Don’t settle of a second tier relationship. You deserve better. A lot better. Find someone who will treat you like a queen instead of giving you excuses why he can’t make you numero uno.

5. Men don’t equate sex with commitment

My inbox overfloweth with emails from women dating widowers who are dumped soon after sleeping with them. The women generally attribute the widowers’ behavior to some grief related issues and want to know what they can do about it. My answer: nothing.

With men, sex doesn't equal commitment. This goes for single and divorced men and widowers. If the man wasn’t a widower, most women would realized that they had just been used for their bodies. But because he’s a widower and “grieving” most women aren’t quick to what just happened.

You want a committed relationship, get the man to sacrifice for you. Have him prove his love. As Alisa Goodwin Snell, licensed therapist and author of “Dating Game Secrets for Marrying a Good Man” writes:

Sacrifice is deeply connected to love. If you are excessively available, eager to please, quick to meet his needs, and reluctant to express your feelings or needs, you will deny him the opportunity to sacrifice for you. This will turn him off to you and the relationship, due to your lack of faith and trust in him, while also preventing him from developing deep love for you.

If you’re looking for a serious, long term relationship with a guy, zip your legs and wait to see if it's you he wants or sex. If a guy’s looking to use you just for sex, he can only put a seductive façade for so long. Sooner or later the real him will appear. Better to be cautious and make sure the widower is serious about you then to end up with a one night stand and regretting it.

Remember, widowers are men. They act and behave like men. Most widower issues are really man issues. Never the term widower make you think otherwise. Understand men and 99% of any widower-related issues will be solved.

Other widower-related articles by Abel

  • 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
  • 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
  • The Other Love of His Life

    Amy Paturel has the My Turn column in the latest issue of Newsweek which, interestingly, deals with her fiancé and herself having to make peace with the dead wife before they could move on. A lot of her emotions echo what women who are dating widowers have emailed me over the years. Writes Patruel:

    I pored over her pictures trying to learn everything I could about the woman who came before me. She would always hold a place in Brandon's heart, so I needed to know who she was.

    A chill came over me when I visited her memorial page and read through the online guest book: "No one could ever fill her shoes," someone wrote. That launched me into my next search: "dating a widower." Every site I visited warned of men who disappear after a few months out of guilt, those who constantly draw comparisons to their late spouse and those who live in the tragic state of "what if?" Brandon hadn't done any of those things.

    But then I read this: "If he has pictures of her on the walls, clothes of hers in the closet and trinkets of their life together on display, he is not ready."

    Brandon insisted he wanted to move on, that she was dead and he was not. He even avoided the red flags I had read about. About a month into the relationship, the ring came off. Pictures were tucked away and replaced. Slowly, her clothes began to disappear from the closet.

    Yet I still grappled with the feeling that I might never measure up to what he lost. In his mind, she will always be 33 and beautiful. Me? I'll get gray hair, wrinkled skin and flabby thighs. What's more, their relationship will remain perfect, frozen forever in newlywed bliss. In six short months, they didn't weather the storms that come with age and time: sleepless nights caring for newborns, arguments over money, in-law drama.

    Her essay is a good vignette on what it takes for both people to find peace and start a new life together.

    You can read Paturel’s essay here.

    (Thanks for the link, Erin!)

    Widow’s Friends Disown Her for Having New Relationship

    In my latest post on the OpentoHope site, I answer the following question from Anne: I lost my dad and husband within a week of each other three years ago, and life has been a battle. My dearest friends (a couple that my husband and I used to do everything with) won't accept the fact I am seeing another man and have been for nearly two years. The husband told me the other day never to come back and see them. I have given them space and continue to love and support them, Please help. I am just so sad about it. I have tried talking to them but they won't. I am also their daughter's godmother and she is heart-broken her parents are doing this. Help me.

    You can read my answer here.

    My Life: Seven Years Later

    My latest post on the OpentoHope site was posted today.

    November tenth is a day that creeps up on me now.

    It wasn’t always this way.

    In past years it was a day heavy with memories, emotions, and unanswered questions.

    Now it’s a day just like any other.

    This year it wasn’t until after lunch that I looked at the calendar in my office and noted the date. Suddenly, I realized what day it was. I pushed my laptop to the side and looked out the window at the green grass and sunshine. In seconds the memory of hearing a gunshot from our bedroom and finding my late wife’s lifeless body flashed through my mind followed by a tinge of the raw terror that flowed through my body that afternoon.

    You can read it in its entirity here.

    The American Widow Project

    On the way to work this morning, I heard a fascinating report on NPR about the American Widow Project – a non-profit organization for (young) military widows. The American Widow project was started by Taryn Davis who was just 21-years-old when her husband was killed in Iraq. Feeling alone she took a camera and started making a documentary that ended up being turned into a national support grow for other widows. It’s a moving story and you can listen to it here. Though I’m not a military widower, I remember wanting resources that could help. Now it seems like there are more and more of them. I hope young miliary widows can find the support they need through this group. You can check out The American Widow Project here.

    Update: Here's a trailer to their documentary.

    A Letter to Carol

    Carol, The email addres you left on my contact form bounced. Here's my reply:

    You're not being too sensitive. You should feel like the number one woman in the the widower's life. Instead, you're playing second fiddle to a dead woman.

    The problems with the in-laws aren't going to go away either once you become engaged or get married. If anything they're going to get worse since the guy you're dating doesn't have the spine to stand up to his former in-laws.

    Stop wasting your time on this relationship. It's time to move on and find someone who will treat you like the center of his universe.

    Best wishes,

    Abel

    Widow’s Friends Don't Want Her to Date Again

    My latest post on the OpenToHope site is up. I answer the following question. Ann from Michigan writes: My husband of 23 years and my dad died within a week of each other. It was awful. We had a large circle of close friends who were great to me, but when I met another man, they were not happy and were always looking for faults with him and trying to tell me not to be with him. They don’t understand that I am just trying to move forward with life. I will always love my husband, but I know I must move on. I can’t go back to the way it was before March 2006. Some people have even broken off their friendship with me. Why can’t they understand and support me?

    You can read my answer here.

    How to Talk to a Widower

    Note: Though I wrote this, the real author of this piece is Marathon Girl. Most of the insight in this essay comes from her. When you're in a relationship with a widower, some widower-related issues are bound to arise. For example, the widower might seem like he's having a hard time moving on. Maybe he spends an inordinate amount of time thinking or talking about the late wife. Perhaps you've become quite serious yet his home still looks like a shrine to the deceased. Knowing how to approach and talk to him about certain subjects can be difficult. Below are some suggestions to be able to effectively talk with the widower about problems that may be hindering your relationship.

    Pick the Right Time

    Finding the right time to talk to the widower is critical. Don't do it when he's upset or otherwise in a bad mood. Wait until he's in a good frame of mind. This will help him be more receptive to what you have to say.

    Marathon Girl is very good at knowing when to talk to me about anything that needs to be addressed in our relationship. If I've had a stressful day at work, she knows its best not to talk about it until I've had a chance to unwind. She knows I'll listen better and be more receptive to dealing with the problem if I've had an hour or two to play with the kids or write. She also knows that if I'm in an extremely good mood (say the Detroit Tigers just won the World Series) that it's probably best not bring up a serious subject until I've had time to celebrate.

    The key here is patience. Most issues don't have to be addressed immediately. Just wait for the right moment to bring it up. If he's in an agreeable mood, the widower will be more likely to listen to what you have to say -- an important first step to resolving the problem.

    When Talking About the Late Wife, Don't Act Jealous

    Sometimes widowers say and/or do things that make you jealous. Maybe he tells a story about a trip they took or a fond memory of her. Maybe he keeps a lot of photos in the house of her despite professing his love to you. Whatever he's doing, it's driving you crazy because you feel like you're competing with a ghost.

    When you talk with him about this it's very important that you do not come across as jealous even if that's the only emotion you have at the time. You can't expect the widower to stop loving his first wife. (You should, however,expect him to treat you like the number one woman but that's another essay.)

    You need to tactfully let him know that you want a strong, loving relationship with him but it's hard to when he keeps talking about or doing things that show his love for the late wife. Let him know that you're not resentful of the love he has for her but that you need to know he feels the same way about you. Nine times out of ten the widower is unaware how his actions are affecting you. Not coming across as jealous will make it more likely that he'll listen and change his behavior.

    Know What Problems You Need to Solve on Your Own

    There are going to be some widower-related issues you need to deal with on your own. This doesn't mean you can't tell the widower about them but if you do, you need to let him know that he can't help solve them.

    After Marathon Girl and I became serious enough that we were discussing the possibility of marriage, she let me know it was sometimes hard for her to think about marrying me because a lot of the things that would be firsts for her (marriage, honeymoon, buying a house, having kids, etc.) were going to be seconds for me. Even though she told me about her feelings, she also let me know that this was something I couldn't solve for her. She told me it was an issue she had to work through on her own and would let me know from time to time how she was dealing with it.

    I really appreciated her doing this. Not only did it let me know what was going through her mind but it set an example for me. If Marathon Girl was willing to put the time and effort into working on problems, I should be willing to work on mine as well.

    Solve One Issue at a Time

    If there are multiple issues you need to discuss with the widower, pick the most important one and work on that first before bringing up the others. No matter how much a guy loves you, he hates being dumped on. Men are much better at being receptive to what you say when we only have to deal with one problem at a time. When you start going off on multiple issues, we start blocking out a lot of what you're saying or start thinking of you as a nag.

    Back when we were dating, there were times when Marathon Girl had several issues she wanted to discuss but wisely picked one at a time. When she felt the time was right brought up another one and we worked on that. She knew that telling me all the issues at once would make me defensive and make it less likely that they could be resolved.

    Effectively communicating and working on the unique issues that arise with a widower can make or break the relationship. Knowing a little widower friendly psychology can be a good first step in having not only having open lines of communication one but a successful, loving relationship.

    ***

    Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

    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
  • The Widowerhood Excuse

    Let's say you're dating a guy who pledged his undying love to you one day but the very next day became withdrawn told you he wasn't ready for a relationship. Let's say you dated him for several months and he exhibited this erratic behavior on a consistent basis. Would you stay with this guy or end the relationship? Most people would realize he wasn't ready for a serious, committed relationship and would move on. What if you were dating someone who was exactly the same as person in the previous paragraph with one notable exception: this man also happened to be a widower. Would you be more tolerant of his behavior hoping that he'd eventually commit or would you end things with him?

    Unfortunately, there's a tendency to put up with behavior from widowers that women wouldn't put up with from single men. Slap the widower label on someone and suddenly their widowerhood becomes an excuse for all sorts of screwy behavior. If the he's not willing to commit to you, it's because he's still grieving. If he gets angry when you try to talk with him about your relationship, it's because his wife died. If the widower keeps the house like a monument to the dearly departed wife it's nothing to worry about (he'll move on eventually), it's because he's still sad. If he tells you he feels guilty about spending time with you and needs some space -- well, you get the point.

    If you're involved with a relationship with a widower, you should expect the same treatment from him as you would from anyone else you were dating. Don't let his widowerhood give you an excuse to cut him some slack. Yes, dating a widower comes with some very unique issues and challenges, but that doesn't mean the widower is allowed to put you through the emotional wringer whenever he feels like it. And you shouldn't enable his bad behavior by excusing his unwillingness to have a loving, committed relationship because of his marital status. Men will generally rise to whatever standards you hold them to. If you lower the bar, they'll find a reason to meet your lowered expectations.

    When I was dating Marathon Girl, it became readily apparent that she wasn't going to change the way she wanted to be treated simply because I had lost a wife and daughter. She let me know early on her reservations about dating a widower and told me if she didn't feel the relationship was moving forward, she had no qualms about ending it. She was not going to settle for someone who wasn't going to treat her like the number one woman in his life.

    Marathon Girl was patient when hard moments came and always willing to listen if I needed to talk, but her high expectations made me realize something: if I really wanted a serious, committed relationship with her, I was going to have to make the necessary mental and emotional effort to move on. Excuses would not be tolerated. Marathon Girl's high expectations are one of the main reasons I was able to move on and marry her as quickly as I did.

    Your relationship with a widower should be moving forward to marriage or wherever long term goal the two of you have for the relationship. There may be a day or two where things don't go as planned, but all relationships had bad days. Ninety nine days out of 100 the widower should make you feel like you're the number one woman in his life. If he's struggling in giving you the loving, committed relationship you want, in a loving, caring way let him know how you expect to be treated. And don't be afraid to let him know that if he's not meeting your expectations, you will end the relationship.

    Remember that not all widowers are ready for a serious relationship. Some widowers date simply because they want company. Some date before they're ready -- while they are still heavily grieving for the loss of their wife. And some know they can use their grief as an excuse for getting away with a lot of bad behavior. You need to make sure you're not dating one of these men.

    If you're not looking for something serious but want a relationship that comes with extreme ups and downs or abusive behavior then sit back and let the widower take you on an emotional roller coaster. However, if you want a loving, committed relationship then demand the same treatment from him as you would from any other man you were dating. If a widower really loves you, he will treat you like the number one woman in his life. He won't let his grief or loss serve as an excuse. He will do what it takes to make you feel loved and important. He will not only tell you that he loves you but show you that he loves you. He will treat you the way you deserve to be treated.

    Don't settle for anything less.

    ***

    Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

    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
  • Suicide Survivor

    About a year ago I became acquainted with a new term: suicide survivor. It was in an email from a woman whose husband had recently killed himself. She had read both my current and old blog and was looking for advice to help her make it through another day as a suicide survivor.

    I found the term suicide survivor confusing. But with a little research I realized that the term didn't refer to one who attempted suicide and survived; rather, it refer to the loved ones left behind.

    I reread the woman's email, and pondered what to say to her. Usually I can find some pearl of wisdom or my own experience to be of help to those who email me.

    But this time my mind was blank.

    After a few days I emailed her back. I can't remember what I said but I was left with the feeling that my words wouldn't be of much help or comfort.

    Then a few months later another email arrived from a different suicide survivor. I replied but again felt my words would be of little comfort.

    But the emails kept coming. Every few months another suicide survivor contacted me wanting to know how I put my life together. And every time I'd shoot off an email and think I really had nothing to say.

    The emails from those suicide survivors lurk around in my mind and during an occasional quiet moment, I ponder what I could have shared with them that would have been of some value.

    Though it's taken awhile to gather some thoughts on the subject, I finally have some words to share.

    So to those suicide survivors who have wanted to know how I put my life back together and I learned to live again, this is for you.

    Suicide Survivor

    It's been said that time heals all wounds.

    That may be true in matters of love. But the suicide of a loved one is a unique monster. The scars remain long after the person had died. Anger, feelings of betrayal, and lingering questions can last a lifetime.

    It's been four and a half years since my first wife killed herself.

    I can still hear the sound of the gunshot echoing from our bedroom. The acrid smell of gun smoke still stings my nostrils. The memories of that day are just as vivid as the moment they happened.

    Memories of that day will never fade.

    That is probably for the best.

    ***

    After my first wife died, I labeled myself a widower.

    I was no longer Abel. I wasn't a brother, a son, or a friend. I was a widower – a victim of my first wife's suicide. And for a long time, I thought I'd never be anything more than someone whose wife had died when he was 26.

    Looking back I see the widower label hindered my ability to grow emotionally. And I started thinking that everyone else viewed me as a widower instead of Abel.

    When I started dating again, I worried that the women I dated would only be able to see me as a widower. I never thought that someone out there would be able to see the positive things about me.

    But someone did.

    As my relationship with Marathon Girl become more intense, I realized a choice needed to be made. I could continue to think of myself as a widower, or I could become Abel again.

    I chose to become Abel.

    And with that choice came emotional growth, a wonderful relationship, and a more positive outlook on life.

    So what does that have to do with being a suicide survivor?

    Labeling yourself a suicide survivor is will stunt your spiritual and emotional growth just as much as labeling myself a widower did.

    You're not a suicide survivor. You're a friend, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a mother or father. Think of yourself as James or Betty – whatever your name is. Think of yourself as anything other than a suicide survivor.

    You didn't become a suicide survivor by choice.

    So don't let the unfortunate actions of others define who you are. Don't let their bad decisions stop you from living your life.

    ***

    Before my first wife took her own life, I never knew anyone who had killed themselves. Suicide was one of those things I thought was something reserved for depressed teenagers, the businessmen who had lost everything and couldn't live with the debt they had incurred, or those who were severely mentally ill.

    Occasionally I heard stories about a friend of a friend of a friend who had committed suicide. These stories always seemed to be told in hushed tones as if to indicate they were never to be repeated. But in reality, the whispered conversations only emphasized to me suicide wasn't something ever to be discussed.

    It wasn't until after my first wife died that I really understood why the someone's sucidie, was discussed in quiet way: no one really knows why a person would take his or her own life.

    In the weeks or months that followed my first wife's death, I saw that very question in the eyes of family and friends: Why had my first wife killed herself? Their sad expressions pleaded for an answer that I didn't have.

    Four and a half years later, I still don't know why my first wife killed herself.

    And I probably never will.

    It was difficult to learn to be okay with not knowing answers I desperately sought. When bad things happen, we want some justification for our lives being upended. For months I pondered my first wife's family history of mental illness or the incredible stress she was under in the weeks leading up to her death.

    I soon learned that thinking about the reasons for her suicide were pointless.

    Why?

    The truth won't change what happened. Agonizing over the past would not bring my wife back from the dead.

    Instead thinking about questions that could never be answered in this life, I started thinking about what I could learn from the experience and turn a negative into a positive.

    Do the same.

    Don't dwell on what you don't know.

    Concentrate on your blessings and lessons learned.

    ***

    Those who have lost a loved one to suicide and read my old blog always seem to have the same question: Where was my anger? Was I not upset that my wife killed herself?

    The answer is yes, I was angry. Very angry.

    The reason my anger doesn't appear in that blog is because I couldn't write when I was angry. But that doesn't mean the anger wasn't there.

    I never knew what it was like to truly hate someone like I hated my first wife in the months following her death. I was mad that she killed herself and furious that she shortened the life of our unborn daughter in the process.

    The anger was so intense that my first wife was blamed for anything that went wrong in my life.

    Bad day at work? I blamed my dead wife.

    Car problems? I blamed my dead wife.

    The Broncos lost a football game? I blamed my dead wife.

    My anger was so bad that I couldn't even write about how my first wife died on my old blog. Every time I tried to write about her suicide, I found myself typing out some drivel that I ended up deleting.

    So for nine months I hid the manner of my wife's death from the readers of my blog just so I could write a coherent sentence.

    At some point, however, I realized just how unproductive all that anger toward my dead wife was.

    And once I could put the anger aside, I found my outlook on life improved. I found a richness to living I hadn't noticed before.

    I'm not saying anger is a bad thing. I think anger toward someone who has killed themselves is beneficial. It's a natural emotion and part of the healing process.

    But prolonged anger will eat at your soul.

    So be angry at the person who took their own life. Scream your hatred into a mirror. Dance on their grave if it will make you feel better.

    Then get over it.

    Clear your soul.

    Move on.

    ***

    Let's go back to the beginning. The part where I mentioned it was for the best that memories of my first wife's suicide are still a vivid part of my memories.

    Those memories remind me how short life is and how fortunate I am to be blessed with a second wife and two wonderful children.

    The memories remind me to live every day to the fullest, to take nothing for granted and let those whom I love know how much I love them.

    So to those who have lost a loved one to suicide, I'll say this: go and live your life. You live in a beautiful world that offers endless possibilities.

    Don't wallow in misery, sorrow and anger.

    Embrace life and choose to live.

    ***

    Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

    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
  • The Grief Industry

    A few minutes after 9 p.m. Monday, a red Honda traveling at a high rate of speed drove off the road. The driver overcorrected and the car skidded sideways, striking a second vehicle. The driver and the passenger of the Honda, both 16-year-old students at a nearby high school, were declared dead at the scene of the accident. The driver of the second vehicle was taken to the hospital in serious condition. The accident was the lead story on every local news broadcast. It was the main story in the newspapers. Photos of the red Honda, totaled beyond recognition, were shown over and over again.

    As I read an article about the accident, what stuck with me wasn’t the sad details but that the high school sent 11 grief counselors to the school to help students cope with their loss.

    Eleven grief counselors.

    Make no mistake, it was a tragedy. Two sons, friends, and brothers are dead. Another seriously injured. Two families are mourning their loss. A second family is anxiously hoping their loved one will recover.

    But this wasn’t Columbine. It was an auto accident most likely caused by an inexperienced driver going too fast. It’s the kind of accident that could have been prevented. Why did the school district feel the need to send 11 grief counselors to the school. Did they feel the need to talk with the entire student body?

    Unfortunately sending in an army of grief counselors at the faintest hint of tragedy has become common practice. We’ve become conditioned to believe that no one can begin to move on or start to heal unless we’ve all done our due diligence with a grief counselor or therapist.

    Friends and family members of the 16-year-old boys are going to be sad over the coming days, weeks, and months. With some the sadness might linger on for years. And, yes, there may be one or two that need professional help. But most will not. The vast majority of those who loved and knew them will move on with their lives.

    Most people – teenagers included – have the ability to adequately cope with death of friend of loved one without professional help. Those most likely to take up the services of the 11 grief counselors those who 1) weren’t that close to the boys who died and 2) already have some type of emotional problem. Rather than sending grief counselors to the school (since when has it become the business of schools to provide grief counseling anyway?) the school should have seen how students were dealing with the death of the boys weeks or months later. Those that appeared to still be having emotional issues should have been referred back to their parents and let them decide how best handle the situation.

    ***

    Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

    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