When the Heart Heals: A Widow's Story

By Gloria Lintermans & Marilyn Stolzman, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

An excerpt from The Healing Power of Love: Transcending the Loss of a Spouse to New Love.

At this point, widowed for about 18 months, I met Hal the night I attended my last "bereavement support group" meeting. I was instantly attracted to his energy. We seemed to have a lot in common, both professionally and emotionally. I gave him my business card with the knowing feeling that he would call, but I had no idea if it would be in a week or a year. I hold a life's philosophy that things happen when they should.

Hal called about six months later and we had dinner together; everything moved very quickly, too quickly for my comfort, but I felt emotionally safe with him and we connected well on many levels because of all we had in common.

Over this time, the pain of losing my spouse had grown softer and the sweet memories stronger, but I did feel a need to talk to my adult step-daughters. I wanted to know how they felt about my becoming romantically involved again, and to assure them that my new feelings for Hal did not in any way change how I felt about their father, or themselves. As for myself, I didn't feel disloyal to my late husband, or feel that my new relationship in any way lessened my love for him. My step-daughters not only understood my need to re-create a life that once again embraced a loving, romantic relationship, but encouraged it. Bless their hearts, for they instinctively knew that I wasn't trying to replace their father or the relationship we had created among ourselves and continued to treasure, that I would simply be adding another dimension to my life.

My late spouse wasn't retired, so our days had been traditionally structured. Although I have always worked at home, I liked knowing I had "work time" to myself. Hal is retired and since I'm self-employed, we can live our lives spontaneously. The challenge was in my not being able, or even willing, to be as available for Hal as he would have liked. My late spouse's personality was entirely different from Hal's, but I found each to be compatible with mine. Hal is much more romantically demonstrative, which I enjoy. However, I don't compare the two, and so, the difference has not impacted our relationship.

Moving from intellectual concept to emotional reality, overlapping my loving and my grieving, required a giant leap of faith when it came to becoming involved in this new relationship. I was scared. When I met Hal, almost a year and a half into my mourning, I was finally doing "okay." I had a satisfying career, good and loving friends and family around me, a satisfying balance in my life. I was feeling good, strong and grateful for the joy that my life once again embraced.

No longer did I think sex would be part of my life, and that was fine, as I was putting my creative energies into other aspects of my life. While the idea of perhaps loving someone was always a possibility, intellectually, I knew that if it happened, okay, if not, my life was fully satisfying. Well, this new 'possibility' knocked me for a loop; this attraction to Hal was emotional, intellectual, and yes, physical.

Slowly I began to trust and enjoy Hal. Or, perhaps, better said, I began to trust myself again to be emotionally safe in a new relationship and so, I was able to meet him halfway. It's still scary, but my level of comfort continues to grow, as does out relationship.

This excerpt from The Healing Power of Love: Transcending the Loss of a Spouse to New Love is reproduced with the permission of the authors;