The Strangeness of Grief

I recently had new business cards designed and printed. On one side is a quote by the late poet John O’Donohue: “When you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.” On the other side is my logo and website address. I had this new card created for when I meet people who are struggling with grief. They can go to my website and read through my various posts on grief. And I can also share with them what the O’Donohue quote has meant to me since my late husband’s death in July 2011.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ve started to respond that I am living one of the best chapters of my life. I met a wonderful man three and a half years ago. He is a widower and together we have been creating this new phase in both of our lives. We have fallen in love and often feel as though we are many years younger than our septuagenarian ages. We have figured out a schedule that gives us both independence and together time while maintaining our separate homes. We share all entertainment and travel expenses 50-50 and thoroughly enjoy exploring the world together. We have taken our time determining how we want to structure our relationship. It’s been a very exhilarating time for both of us. We are defining and then re-defining what it means to be a “we” at this stage of our lives.

So here I am living a very exciting life-in love, reasonably fit and healthy, financially secure, retired, finding creative outlets, having fun, finding ways to make my home reflect the me I am becoming, and giving back to my community in the ways that I can.

AND…I miss my late husband and he misses his late wife. When we reminisce about our younger lives, we frequently encounter memories that involve our late spouses. They will always be a part of our sense of who we are. In this way they have become a part of our relationship. And this is where the experience of strange enters. By strange I mean hard to understand. I am very much in love with this wonderful man and yet I will always be my late husband’s widow.

My experience of strange is very different now than it was when I was first widowed. In the beginning it was about mourning and grieving while learning to forge ahead alone. Today, I continue to design a new era of my life that includes both my late husband and my new loving partner. This time in my life is both strange and enlivening.

What I know now is that we do have a say in how our life is going to go. We can survive grief and hardship. We can learn how to thrive again. These are life transforming moments. If we bring all the transformational learning and teaching to good account, we can mindfully design the subsequent phases of our lives.