Judgmental people exist. It’s part of life, and many of us live in fear of the judgment of others.
However, it’s very rare, as an adult, that we experience judgment in a direct fashion. It usually comes as an undercutting comment or a question disguised as innocent curiosity or as encouragement… but intuition hints at contempt.
Widows know this hint well.
“Do you ever feel guilty for dating? “
“What do your kids think of the new baby?”
“You don’t have to feel guilty about falling in love again.”
As a widow personally speaking, I’ll just go ahead and take the time to answer this now.
I don’t feel guilty.
If I felt guilty, I probably shouldn’t be dating… How could I possibly have a healthy relationship with Mike if every time we did something that mattered, I felt guilty about it?
Answer: I couldn’t.
When we feel guilt, it is either warranted or not.
Sometimes, we feel guilt because we just should… Because we did something wrong or are doing something wrong or because we’re about to do something wrong.
Other times, we feel guilt that’s unwarranted for no reason at all. And when this is the case, we still shouldn’t be doing the thing we’re about to do… Why? Because we will likely sabotage it for ourselves because we feel undeserving.
When we feel guilty for no reason at all that’s an indication that there’s something internal that we need to explore. There’s healing to work through.
So do I feel guilty for meeting and falling in love with Mike and Myles? For getting the opportunity to carry and give birth to another beautiful baby?
No. I don’t.
That series of questions insinuates that my children and I don’t deserve the experience of loving and being loved by new people. Further, it also stems from an archaic notion that the grief we were tossed into is over once new love is introduced. I reject both of these ideals. One because it’s ridiculous to think that we don’t deserve love because we’ve experienced loss. Love is a blessing, and we will take all the blessings that we can get.
Guess what? I’m still in it here. I’m still working through missing Scott every day, especially the holidays. I’m still sad that I can’t share all of the good things that have happened for us with him. I can’t introduce him to Mike, Myles, or Lukas. He won’t see Sophie progress in cheerleading, clap for Lydia at her first home run, or seeing Jax on the ice as a goalie.
I still wipe their tears after a cemetery visit. I still answer hard questions and hold my daughter in her bed for as long as it takes because she just read her baby book and found a letter that I wrote to her back then, and she can’t understand why there’s not a letter in there from her dad.
“Where’s Dad’s letter?” She asks disappointed, near frantic, “everything’s in your hand writing, Mom.”
So I’m the person who tucks her in from something like that, heads upstairs and cries; because when I wrote that letter 12 years ago, there was so much love in my heart. And hope… so much hope for my infant daughter… that she would read it some day, as a teenager and know how loved she was… but here the time came, and instead all she could think was: where’s Daddy?
Never in my nightmares, did I ever think when pouring my heart into that beautiful letter, that it, along with so many other things, would be tainted…
So, yes, yes we will take some new, fresh, and pure love.
These are the types of things that I manage and help three children manage all of the time. The only difference now?
I have help.
We have a wonderful person who lives with us, loves us, supports us through living to the fullest and healthiest and supports us through our evolving grief.
Do I feel guilty for that?
No. And no person should feel guilty for living despite heartache and strife, widowed or not.
I felt guilt when I wasn’t able to get to my husband the minute I knew he was not safe.
I felt guilt I wasn’t able to bring him justice.
I felt guilt that I gave him so much shit when he was alive.
I felt guilt for not doing my part to make myself happy in our marriage, losing myself in a relationship, and putting the pressure on him to make “us” happy. Codependency at its finest.
I felt guilt for loathing traditions like balloon releases and leaving an empty chair at holidays.
I felt guilt that I relied on my kids too much, too early.
I felt guilty for living. Often.
I felt guilt when it was the wrong guy. Definitely.
But not any more and never….
Have I, for once, ever felt guilt for loving Mike.
The other day, we visited the cemetery so the kids could take time to talk to Scott about all that’s happened in their life. Jaxson brought his school stuff to show. The girls talked about the new baby.
Afterwards, there were tears (as there usually is), but the kids were conflicted.
“Mom, I miss Daddy but that means we wish away Mike, Myles, and Luke.” One cried (and another child later expressed similar feelings.)
They feel guilty. I thought. And for a split second, a combination of my empathy, and my own self doubt gave me the residuals of that guilt. I almost took it on.
Was I wrong? Did I curse them with internal conflict by moving forward and asking for more from life?
I quickly reminded myself that they’ve been given a gift. Forever feeling the loss of their father and cursed with grief, they’ve been given the opportunity to love and be loved. Again, here was another situation they needed my guidance on.
“You can feel both,” I said, “You don’t have to choose between hurting and missing Daddy and loving and enjoying our life now. You were made strong enough to handle both.”
And in order to coach my children on this, I have to believe it and live it out myself.
And I do. No guilt here. Just love. Because God made us strong enough to handle it all.
To you: Life is complicated, unpredictable, and really really hard anyway… might as well do what we want and live it. Big love, Meg