Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Excuse Me? I Wasn't Ready. Can I Get A Restart?

What made me think I could start clean-slated?  The hardest to learn was the least complicated.
                        --The Indigo Girls

Don’t think that I don’t recognize the fact that so many of you are much more advanced in the fine art of grieving than I am.  I’m that kid in the back of the class who urgently raises her hand with an answer when most of the class is thinking, “We already knew that.  Next?”

I know, I know.  I always tell you guys that I’m a work in progress.

It took me forever to grasp the fact that I would always be a widow.  In fact...I still have moments when I think, “Wait...what?” 

For the first few months, I kept thinking, “If I could just make to that year mark, I won’t be widowed anymore!  No one will think of me as widowed!  This loss will not be such a big deal and surely I won’t be as upset as I am now!  People won’t look at me funny and I will be completely back to normal!”

My 31 year old self was in for a huge disappointment.  And since I was, at that time, the only widow I knew, I had no one there saying, “Slow down!  Iceberg ahead!!”

Once I started to understand the concept that this was something that would always be inside me, I was ready to start over.  Start fresh.  Be gone old self!  Replace thyself with a sleeker and more sophisticated model!

I could be perfect.  People would never understand the depths of my perfectness.  I would be studied by people across the world.  I could reinvent myself to become the perfect mom.  The perfect co-worker.  The perfect significant other.


I’m going to share something with you that I know will shock the hell out of you.

I was not the perfect wife.

No...no...really.  I wasn’t.  I was moody, demanding, and wanted things to be my way.

And guess what?  My husband wasn’t the perfect husband.

Even after he died, I never put him up on a pedestal and thought, “I will never find someone as perfect as he was.”  Because the truth was...he wasn’t perfect.  He was...take a deep breath...

...a guy.

Now, after he passed away and I finally felt ready to date, I spent a good while actually swinging the complete opposite direction from “he was so perfect.”  I was doing my best to start my life over and that meant keeping my memories, but doing my best to erase my own emotional baggage so that I could get down to business and find a life (and a mate) that would make me divinely, and perfectly happy.

I mean, seriously...I’m due, right?

I think in one phase of my life, I actually went so far in the “starting over” direction that I started to think some not so good thoughts about my marriage to my late husband.  All I could think of were the fights we had.  The things we didn’t like to do together.  Every little thing that made us incompatible.

And I became terrified of making the same mistakes all over again.

But here’s something I want you to think about...because I just got it myself.  When you think that way, it paralyzes you just as much as thinking everything about your marriage was perfect.

I went through a long period where every new person I met, I would analyze what was going on more than I can even explain.  I mean, we all know that women tend to “over-think” right?  (There are men reading this right now who are having a good laugh and thinking, “Over-think???  You people are bat-shit crazy!”)  But I was taking it to the extreme.  Every date, every conversation, every little thing about someone, I would wonder, “Was my husband like this?  Did I feel this way on our first date?  Do I like the way he picks out furniture?  Is his car too messy? Hmmm...I don’t think this is going to work.”

When I finally confessed to my therapist that I was doing this, she very calmly told me, “You can’t recreate that relationship.  Good, bad, or otherwise.  You’re not the same person.”

I mean...I can’t make the same decisions now that I made when my husband and I first met.  I’m not a sophmore in college.  I’m a grown woman with kids.  What I’m looking for now is nothing like I was looking for then.  Back then a big requirement for dating someone was if he could sneak me into a bar when I was 19.  My needs have totally changed.

I can get in legally now.

I can’t correct the mistakes that I made with my husband.  And truthfully...they weren’t that big. They were all a part of what we in society call “marriage.”  And I can’t ask someone to correct the mistakes my husband made. 

I mean, if someone new is sitting there watching football, I can’t just throw a hissy fit and yell, “You’ve been ignoring me for years!”

Believe me...that’s a good way to get broken up with in a text.

Part of this journey is figuring out where we are now.  We all know that there are memories we will cherish for a lifetime as well as things we’d rather forget.  That’s true of anyone...widowed or not.  Just as we can’t make our kids live the childhood we wish we had had...we can’t expect someone new to recreate the relationship we might have wished we had had.

We take it all with us.  The bad things we’ve learned from.  The good things we would give anything to have again.  The fights.  The hugs.  The blessings and the opportunities missed.  They’re a part of who we are now.  And we can’t start over.

We can start again.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. Oh I love it! I'm glad you are able to share this with us. It makes me feel normal, whatever normal is. I too felt the same way you feel at times. Hitting the 2nd year mark and let me tell you, didn't think the 2nd year would be harder. All I know is that I'm still figuring things out and I'm still finding myself. But with the help you and your blogs, FB and emailing, you have helped me out so much. Thank you again!

  2. well said! i totally over think everything! i worry about my kids, my reaction...basically everything. thank you for this great reminder that we don't/can't find our husbands again, but we can appreciate the people we meet and how they meet our needs right now! today's my 14th wedding anniversary and I can feel myself remember all good things, being nostalgic...and i've already had 5 anniversaries without him! this is my 6th one alone...crazy! So now, I will remember to live in the moment and be present to who i am right now.

  3. Yes. If I awaken in the middle of the night one of the first thoughts that comes to me is "I am a widow." Sometimes also when occupied with activity. It is always there--this forced identity. No fun. Never will feel right. Don't like being forced to begin again. But each step moves me further along. To where?
    I LOVED being married!
    I don't love being a widow.
    What to do or how--still feeling my way--it's all very raw. But thank you. You help. And that is no small gift! Hugs.