Jewish World Review August 24, 2011 / 24 Menachem-Av, 5771
There is no guilt in moving forward
By Sharon Randall
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When someone asks for my advice, I try to answer with as much care and sensitivity as brutal honesty will allow -- even though I know they're probably going to do whatever the heck they want to do anyway.
At least, I hope so. In a perfect world, we should all get to do what we want, provided no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, one way or the other, someone often ends up getting hurt.
Recently I've heard from a flurry of readers asking various versions of the same question for themselves or "a friend." It's one I often hear. The answer may seem obvious, but most things are clearer in hindsight.
Basically, it's this: How long should you wait, after being widowed or divorced, to start dating again? How do you get past the guilt and move on?
And what if your grown children (or parents or cousins or whoever) are dead-set against your dating and threaten never to speak to you again?
Here are some examples:
A widow for two years isn't sure she's "ready" to start dating again, but wonders when she will be and how will she know.
A man who recently lost his "bride" of 60 years longs for companionship, but worries he'll be disloyal to his wife's memory.
A woman, after three years of grieving for her late husband, became "friends" with a "dear man" she met at church. Her grown children are furious about it and refuse to have anything to do with him. She doesn't want to give him up, but fears alienating her children.
Life sure stays interesting, doesn't it? First you go through the agony of a loved one's death or a divorce or the end of any relationship you thought would last forever. And just when you think maybe you'll survive it, life says, OK, it's time to learn how to risk being alive all over again.
I remember, nearly two years after my first husband died, my first official date in 30 years.
Someone asked me to dinner and I said yes. I don't know why. I wasn't lonely. I missed my husband, but I had learned how to be happy and whole alone. It was just time to "risk" again, and somehow I knew it. Mostly what I recall is that my sister wanted to buy me a corsage.
There would be other "dates," but the first one was huge and not without a measure of "guilt."
Yet greater than the "guilt" was the advice of a friend who wrote, after my husband died, to say this: "The challenge for you now, having lost your loved one, is to live a life that is honoring to his memory, while at the same time, that life moves forward, so that only one person has died and not two."
I clung to that advice the way my children had once clung to me, like a cat trying to avoid a flea dip. I tried every day, in every way, to be fully alive.
Years later when I remarried, it was for the same reason: It was time to risk being alive again. Somehow I just knew.
Never once did it occur to me to ask for permission -- not from my children or other family members or friends. Never once did anyone object.
One of the harder truths learned in the loss of a loved one is the sobering realization that every life -- no matter how good and true and strong -- will come to an end. Even your own.
The same God who gives us life lets us choose how we live it. Only you can choose how to live your life. You can't choose for your kids. They can't choose for you. If they don't know that, it's up to you to teach them.
How long should you wait to start dating again? Until you learn how to be alone.
How do you get past the guilt? There is no guilt in moving forward with your life.
What if someone objects? Tell them it's your choice, and you are choosing to be alive so only one person has died, not two.
My advice? Do what you want.
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