How to Deal with the Death of a Loved One, Joy in Peace?

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The Death of a Loved One, Joy in Peace

The death of a loved one is devastating, and leaves us questioning: Will I ever want to find love again? And how would I find it? Do I explore dating sites? Try to meet women in bars? Rely on intros from friends? What’s appropriate behavior for a fifty-four-year-old widower? The questions far outnumber the answers.

For thirty-two years, my beloved wife, Hope, and I enjoyed a fulfilling marriage. We raised a family, built a home, and shared our dreams with one another and our two sons. Then Hope got cancer, and overnight our lives changed drastically. Hope fought a long, brave battle, but it was one she couldn’t win. In April 2012 my dear wife and best-trusted friend died, leaving me alone to figure out a future I’d never even imagined.

When you lose your dearest companion, the hardships have just begun. Your whole heart collapses to half its size and transforms into a Hole Heart. The process of restoring it to wholeness is like Lego construction; you build it one little piece at a time. At first, you sort through bricks of varying shapes and sizes and place them carefully until they gradually begin to assume the shape and weight of your newly imagined Whole Heart.

The Death of a Loved One is Tough

For a year, all I could do was grieve, but eventually I emerged from mourning—my new heart felt ready for life’s next chapter. I began to go out with women again, and endured the awkward and hilarious embarrassments a man can expect when he hasn’t dated in decades. What I discovered took the mystery out of relearning how to be physically intimate. I learned that a widower can find love again. It’s a hard road, but as I found, love isn’t limited to the person you loved first. That love never fades, but a Whole Heart has room for more. When you invite love back into your life, your new love becomes extra-special in its own right.

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It’s okay to feel sad, angry, empty, or lost after a date that didn’t go right, but if you spend your time worrying about the “what if?” instead of enjoying the right now, it robs you of all joy. Understand that it takes time and practice, and that each woman you meet is unique. Like an inexperienced teenager, you’ll make dumb, inconsiderate, hurtful mistakes. It’s a fact. Practice and learn, so when the right person comes along you’ll be ready for affection and intimacy again.

Embrace the journey, feel it, live it—then move on so your failures don’t consume you. Have fun. If your dating escapades become the target of your friends’ jokes, so what? Entertain them with style! Eventually, you too can emerge from sorrow and rediscover love and joy.

Contributor Dennis Freed is the author of Love, Loss, and Awakening: (Mis)adventures on the Way Back to Joy, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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