When my husband passed away suddenly, I knew fairly quickly I would want to date again. For some, that might seem odd.
You see, I love marriage. So much so that I even began an online community for wives (and wannabe wives) where I would encourage them to pray daily for their husbands, and it became much bigger than I ever intended. It still encourages me today, even now that I am a widow…
My daily live stream called #PrayingForYourHusbandDaily was a place where I would chat a little about some area of marriage where I might be struggling or just thinking about, and then I would lead a few minutes to pray for our husbands and ourselves as wives.
I led that time for almost two years and through it befriended women from all over the world that I haven’t ever met in real life. Hundreds of them reached out in some way to pray, encourage, financially support, or just cry with me when my husband, Paul, died. Just thinking of it can still move me to tears.
The truth is, that movement was born out of my own realization that oftentimes in marriage the best thing we can do is pray—especially when we’ve tried talking, pleading, and downright nagging to no avail (Just me? Sure, okay). There were difficult parts of my relationship that I didn’t see changing, and I needed a way to process that. I needed to see the good in the bad. I needed to focus on the God who could meet me in the loneliness of my marriage and offer hope that it could improve and hope that He cared even if it didn’t.
I suppose you might need a little backstory. I married Paul after dating him for three years (we met during my first year of college). I’m the kind of girl who always had a boyfriend. Do you know her? I’m self-aware enough (now, after counseling in many various forms) to know that my desire to be in a romantic relationship is deeply rooted in my desire to feel loved, seen, and valued because I lacked those things from a dad (never met him!) or a mom (developed a great relationship with her as a teen and adult), and even from the great-grandmother who raised me (God bless her!). You can listen here for more on my childhood: Can You Really Leave Your Past Behind You? – 028.
So Paul and I were together just over 15 years (married almost 11.5) when he died. Unexpectedly. And honestly, at the time we were in a very difficult season of our marriage.
In fact, we had lots of difficult seasons in our relationship. My husband struggled with significant anxiety and depression. He often retreated from me into his work (he had his own business, a double-edged sword that I often begged him to leave to help alleviate some of his stress). Just before he passed, he had finally begun to seek help for his workaholism and some repressed pain he carried from childhood wounds and the recent passing of a dear friend of his. He was seeing progress. We were starting to communicate again. There was hope.
And then he fell from a ladder at work and didn’t survive.
It has been 11 months since his passing at the time I am writing this, and, much to my surprise, I have more good days than bad. I think that has to do with a lot of the personal work (on myself) that I’ve been doing. I’ve participated in the weekly Recovery ministry at my church, doing life with other women who have been in similar relationships. I’ve invested in my friendships. I’m an admitted extrovert and Paul was an introverted introvert, so I have felt a sense of freedom to prioritize connection with people I love that I didn’t have the luxury of being with as often as I would have liked when I was married. Our son is showing signs of being a little people-person too, so we get to bond together with friends who care for our hearts as a family well. I’ve pursued my passion for encouraging women here at The Grit and Grace Project and in my other life circles. I believe God gave me a voice to speak hope and I’ve got a renewed sense that He wants to use my story—all of it—to build others up, reminding them they can choose joy even when life looks bleak. I’ve got the time to enjoy hobbies I didn’t even know I had, like traveling, and to invest more in those I did know I had, like fitness and fashion. In short—I’m finding myself again. It’s been an unexpected, incredible blessing in a difficult year.
I absolutely mourn the loss of my husband. I miss his quirks. I wish we got to see more good days like the ones we were having those last few weeks. I’m sad for the times we had together that were clouded by his pain… I’m also sad for the times we won’t get together. I grieve for my son who won’t get to ride in Daddy’s truck anymore—their favorite thing to do together.
But I also rejoice. My husband is whole now, and that gives me peace and closure.
And because of that, I have hope for a new relationship. That’s how I started this piece, right? I admitted that I wanted to date again.
You see, I loved being a wife. I took pride in it and I sought to do it well, by God’s grace (and to be clear, I know I fell short often, and I know Paul would agree!). But I also have a son who began praying for “a new daddy” the night I told him his daddy went to heaven. Everyone thought he wouldn’t understand, but, he really kind of did, even at three and a half! Our two dogs had both passed away just a month before, so he knew they didn’t come back from heaven and was able to connect that Daddy couldn’t either. Right after I told him and he sobbed, he quickly asked if we could pray for a new daddy. We did then, and we do often. And we also talk to his daddy in heaven and we tell him we miss him, too.
As I share all of this, I know I’m taking a risk here. But, that’s kind of what I do! I’m being vulnerable and sharing this desire I have because I believe we were meant to live in relationship and that men and women complement each other in marriage. I would love to experience that with someone. Someone who can care for me in the ways that Paul had wished he could have, and I believe he wants that for me too.
Yes, I realize that dating again will be weird, and different. I mean, I was 18 when I went on my last first date with Paul—but I’m also kind of excited to put myself out there again and discover what I really want and need in a partner. I want the first date jitters, maybe even a few times! I am looking forward to getting to have fun and laugh with someone again, even if it doesn’t end up being a serious, long-term relationship. I trust I will grow through it.
If I’ve learned anything this last year it’s that no two people’s stories are the same. I have four close friends who were widowed at a young age, all under different circumstances, and we’ve all approached dating after death so differently. And why wouldn’t we? Our first love stories varied wildly, too, right?
Maybe you’re familiar with Ashby’s story. She recently joined us on This Grit and Grace Life podcast to talk about how she approached dating after her husband’s passing. As we discussed it from her experience, I realized I wanted to share mine, in case you, like me, find yourself in a position where you’re open to love sooner than you think is “normal” or “acceptable.”
There is no one-size-fits-all dating formula.
One thing Ashby said on the episode that really resonated with me and is basically what I believe when it comes to dating after death (or divorce) was: “I don’t think there’s an equation for dating after loss, but I think you’ll know when you’re ready.” When she said it I felt a peace in my spirit, and I truly think she’s right!
Something I said in that same episode was, “If I’m patient and wise and careful, there may be someone in the future who I can share my life with. But I need to be careful to not set my eyes on that as the ultimate healing.” Yes, I’ll need to be reminded of that…during a breakup, or when I don’t get cast on The Bachelor (half kidding!).
So friends, there it is: I’m ready to date. Am I ready to remarry? Well, I won’t know until I date, will I? But I know I want to date. And I hope to, but I’m going to trust God knows what’s best for me either way.
Will you pray for me? And be sure to catch the full podcast episode with Ashby here: Single Again? How to Know When to Date After Death or Divorce with Ashby Duval – 056.
For more like this, check out:
What Your Grieving Friend Really Wants You to Know
3 Reasons You Need to Share Your Story
Ask Dr. Zoe – Grieving Divorce
When You’re Desperate to Know the Reason for Your Pain
How Self-Awareness Will Make You Successful
5 Ways Blended Families Can Be Happy and Healthy.
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Don’t miss more of Julie’s story in This Is a Window Into My Widowhood and on this episode of our podcast: Julie Graham’s Untold Story of Heartbreak, Healing and Hope – 101