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Pilgrims Progress's picture

Pilgrims Progress


An unexpected aftermath of grief

For some time after my husband John died, I thought the ache in my heart would never go away - and how could I go on living?


But with time, friends and family, and my faith community (including wondercafe), I gradually started to feel like my old self again.


This last year has been one of renewal. A renewal if confidence, energy, enthusiasm, an adventurous spirit - culminating in my recent trip to Canada.



Why is there always a "but"?


The truth is at the moment I'm feeling a bit lost.


What I didn't expect - or even think about - was then when John died the love he evoked and we shared would still live on in me.

So what I was left with was a need to love - and nowhere to direct it.


At first I thought it would be enough to disperse it more widely - through friends, family, (particularly grandchildren), and stepped up church and community committments.

(A scatter-gun approach, firing off tiny pellets of love and compassion in many directions.)


It's had a  limited success.


It seems I'm missing a central focus - a significant other - in my life.

But, in my heart of hearts, I know John was my soulmate and irreplaceable.


So folks, any suggestions out there to get me through this?

Have other older widows, widowers faced this and found a successful outcome?


Do I ultimately have to accept the fact that this is how my life will be from now on? That it's simply a part of the ageing process?


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jon71's picture



I believe you can love again. I'm not in your situation but I have seen it. My wife's dad's first wife died sort of young. They had two kids and really loved each other. After some time his daughter's introduced him to their favorite teacher, they hit it off, and got married shortly thereafter. They had two kids (my wife and her bro.) and really loved each other. Listen to your heart and I'm sure you'll be fine. Best wishes.

LBmuskoka's picture



Not that my situation is completely similar but I have experienced the loss of love - both literally and figuratively - so I will venture to add some small comments.


What I found immediately after the loss - and no matter whether the relationship was positive or negative - was a time that the very idea of entering another relationship was unfathomable.  If the relationship had been positive there was a feeling that you could never find that again:  If it was negative there was the thought you never wanted to go through that again.


Then there comes a time when you want more - particularly if one is passionate about life.  Its not just the physical sharing one misses but the ability to share those little wonders one discovers each day:  those moments when you go "wow" and immediately want to tell someone who will understand how you felt.


With the exception of Wondercafe, I have found that total strangers just don't get that!


Back to being serious, I do feel that we all bring our past relationships to new relationships - both negative and positive experience.  There is danger in both, because regardless of how the past ran its course one can destruct the new relationship by comparing instead of discovering the new facets.


When you get to be our age Pilgrim, anyone we meet has had a history - frankly, you know that we wouldn't want it any other way because its our journeys that makes us interesting - just as we have had histories.  We're all stumbling along, carrying our history bags; but  I'll be the first to say it is easier when you find someone who will lighten that load.


Just as heading out to the great unknown - Canada - was somewhat fearful, embarking on another relationship is fraught with pitfalls but you'll never discover a new world if you don't open the door. 


Remember our favourite Anais Nin quote......

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.


tempered with these words of wisdom from my greatest life teacher, Dr. Seuss,

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act.

waterfall's picture



Yesterday I was rummaging through some books and happened upon one that my friend had loaned me called Sacred Contracts (note to self, return book) and tucked inside was a note that she had obviously made for herself as a reminder (or was it for me?)


She had written," You have to give up the life you have in order to get to the life that is waiting for you"


Knowing her as her as I do I'm sure that it would mean that she would still honour her past experiences and cherish the tapestry of events that has been woven into her life. I have watched her since we were young mothers, go from a woman with a grade 11 education to achieve a Masters degree in psychotherapy, womens studies and theology. She has travelled the world and often I live vicariously through her. She is a most stimulating conversationalist. While persuing her passion, she met the love of her life.


No regrets, no guilt. It's only natural what you're feeling. We humans are built that way. To love and be loved.




Serena's picture



Grief is strange that way.  I thought that I was over the worst of my grief from my Mom and Dad's death until about a week ago and then it hit me terribly again almost like when my mom first died (or actually a month afterwards is when it really hit me)


So I guess it comes and goes and it maybe depending on what else is going on.   For my mom when my Dad died a big part of her life died with him and it was harder for her than for me because she had less going on in her life to distract her.

revjohn's picture



Hi Pilgrims Progress,


Pilgrims Progress wrote:

It seems I'm missing a central focus - a significant other - in my life.

But, in my heart of hearts, I know John was my soulmate and irreplaceable.


The people we allow into our lives become, in their own ways, part of our lives.  When they are gone part of us is gone.


Can that part ever be replaced?


Well . . .no.  I credit that to the uniqueness of the individual gone.  They leave a uniquely shaped hole that no other unique individual can fill.


Can we live with that hole?


Well . . . yes.  It isn't always easy.  Conventional thought on grieving is that the whole process is, more or less, over in roughly 18 months time.  As far as averages go that probably makes sense.  There will always be exceptions.  Some folk might be able to move on very quickly while others may take significantly longer to move along.


I expect that the level of connection also plays a role in grieving.  That which we are most connected to we will miss the most.


Pilgrim's Progress wrote:

Do I ultimately have to accept the fact that this is how my life will be from now on? That it's simply a part of the ageing process?


What you had with your John is a relationship that was unique and can never be repeated.


I do not think that prohibits the development of another unique relationship from forming.  How that happens will be between yourself and that other unique individual.  Sometimes it doesn't happen for trying while other times it happens quite by surprise.


What you had with your John is part of who you are and it will shape who you will be.  Sometimes you will be keenly aware that what is at work in you is perhaps more of your John than it is your self and in those times you will miss your John that much more.


Grace and peace to you.


crazyheart's picture



myst's picture



No wise words or stories of shared loss, emptiness, the ebb and flow of grief ..... just big hugs for you PilgrimsProgress.

carolla's picture



It is not part of my journey yet Pilgrims, so I have no experience to share.  There is much wisdom written above, with which I concur.    Having met you briefly, I can imagine your longing to have a specific person with whom to share your life and travels. 


I don't think John can be replaced (nor can any of us), but as others note, there may other relationships ahead which will be satisfying, but different.   When the time is right for you, I think you will be open to those possibilities of new life.

Motheroffive's picture



Thinking of you, Pilgrim.

martha's picture



There is no reason to be guilty about living, PP. Trite words from a stranger, I appreciate.  Your husband is clearly the love of your life.  As a loving person yourself you want to share that gift.  Be patient and don't be scared: this is a wonderful world with wonderful people, like you! in it.

It won't be the same and it can't be, anyway.  It'll be new! What an adventure!!

John Wilson's picture

John Wilson


I am now old enough and wise enough t know that I have no advice whatever to give.

Except for my children (Childern! All in their fifties!) all of my family, and all the people I worked with over the years are gone.

It'san amazing world; I enjoy every single day. I have discarded a lot: ambition, desire for aquisition, worry about the future...

There is so much to enjoy so much to learn...

I take to heart the advice I read: 'Live as though you will die tomorrow, learn as though you will live forever.'

As I say, I don't recommend that, merely that it works for me. I believe I am enjoying life more than I have ever done...I disagree with many here, often, but don't dislike anyone in WonderCafe...everyone is interesting. Everything is interesting!

My one great big fat problem: Of the 500 or so books in my den, which one will I re-read now? (I underline a LOT and even find my stupid opinions (going back some 50 years in some cases) ...uh...interesting.

Like some of the posts in Faith and Religion, I think how could someone think THAT???

Always wondered what old age would be like...FAR better than I could have imangined.

Wishing you the same....(Martha: Yes yes yes!!!)




Pilgrims Progress's picture

Pilgrims Progress


Thanks so much to the kind and caring folks who posted here and wondermailed me. You have given me much to consider, and I appreciate it.


I've taken to the garden with a passion in the last few days.

I'm a "troubled Spirit" gardener.

Most of the time I'm content to plant natives - and let Nature do it's work. 


But, in those times when things aren't going well, I weed and prune to give both the plants and myself resilience to face what lays ahead. It seems to happen just often enough to benefit the plants and myself.

Nature has a rhythm of it's own, that only God truly understands.


I noticed a spare space - and have filled it with a new plant which catches my eye whenever I walk past.

So, this is what I must do, find new hobbies and people to fill up the spaces in my life. This won't be easy - I enjoy my solitude more than most.


With this in mind, I've enrolled in in two courses starting next season.

One is "Ageing Well" and the other is "Understanding Islam".


The latter was brought about by watching the distress of those caught up in the floods in Pakistan.

My inner turmoil is related to feeling lost - lost in my own life.

But how much more difficult is it for those flood victims? They've lost family members, their homes, their livelihood, and are battling to find food, water and shelter?


(You're so right Rev John - this last comment was something my John would have said. I seem to have incorporated a lot of his way of thinking!)

lastpointe's picture



 Grief is definately a process. and it catches us by surprise often.  SOunds, smells, events.


I hope that you can take the times of intense grief and use them as a time of remembrance.


I have found that friend often have arbitrary time lines for when we should "be over it".  I hope you will feel comfortable talking about pain and grief here, even if friends feel its time to move on



Elanorgold's picture



My Omi lost her husband in WWII, and she never married again, but, she lived with dear old Opi, a close friend, till she died in 1987. It was a platonic love, and he became ill and died shortly after she died. They loved each other very much.

seeler's picture



Pilgrim - I haven't been in your situation - Mr. Seeler and I have been married for almost fifty years and I've always assumed that he would outlive me.  Lately we've both been showing our age.


But I've observed, and gained wisdom with age.  My younger sister was widowed in her thirties (tructing accident).  Within a short time she was dating again and entered a long term relationship.  Eventually that ended.  She was heartbroken but said later that she had always known that it wasn't built to last.  Then she met F---------.  He had been divorced for a few years.  Neither was looking for a serious relationship, but . . .   Anyway they were married about twelve years ago - and they are still on their hunnymoon.  


I belong to a senior bowling league.  Over the years I have watched several people meet, become friends, and go from there.  The oldest are now in their 90s - and very much in love.  My girl friend who I have known since grade school, lost a husband to a heart attack in their 40s.  She was grieving the cancer death of her second husband when she met a widower.  Neither intended to marry again.  But I was to their wedding.  Others have decided not to marry at their age - but to remain good friends, sharing much of their lives together. 


The choice is individual.  One of my closests friends right now is my age (late sixties).  She recently lost her husband whom she had nursed and cared for over the last few years.  She says that she has no interest in meeting somebody else, but she is getting her life back - getting out of the house for more than a few hours when she used to have to hire a sitter.  But who knows, in six months, in twelve.  She has a beautiful home.  Maybe someday she will meet someone she wants to share it with.


Tiger Lily's picture

Tiger Lily


Hey Pilgrim.  Thinking of you today and sending gentle and caring thoughts your way.


Edit:  from Tiger Lily (trying out new username)

Judd's picture



It has been my experience with widower husbands that the ones who had the happiest marriages remarry quickly - often in less than 6 months.

pommum's picture



Hi Pilgrim ... sending warm thoughts your way and sorry we didn't get a chance to meet!

qwerty's picture



 Well Pilgrim ... (as I type that I can't help but think that I may be channeling John Wayne).   Don't think of it as finding a replacement.  You can't do it and anyway you don't want to.  Just live your life.  Find someone you can tell your secrets to and share your wonder with.  Let your relationships be what they are and what they become.  You don't need to drive them in some predetermined direction.  Having met you I know you have lots of adventure about you and you need to have someone to share your adventures and help you explore your adventurous nature.  Don't think of it as finding a partner.  Think of it as finding a "partner in crime".  Maybe your accomplice will be a man or maybe could be another woman ...  Go out and do what makes you happy.  Life is short.  If in the course of doing your "rock and roll duty" you find yourself in the sack, who could blame you if you happen to make each other happy ... or loved.

LBmuskoka's picture



To Qwerty, I say hallelujah and pass the tequila


Rock Wisdom: 

My rock and roll heartaches always end up in song
Sometimes I get it right .. sometimes it's wrong

     Kim Mitchell

pommum's picture



LOL .... my son is a big Kim Mitchell fan!

Pilgrims Progress's picture

Pilgrims Progress


Sheesh, qwerty, - I didn't realise you were such a sensitive new-age guy!


LOTS to think about there!  Life is indeed short, and it cheers me up a little to think that there could be at least one more adventure ahead for me.


Ahem, I'd prefer not to ride into the sunset with John Wayne - far too right-wing for me.

Can I have Kevin Spacey instead?


Thanks again for the support folks. Not through to the other side yet - but there's still a glimmer of light in this tunnel.

Still, there is a positive consequence, I'm more creative when suffering the "blues blahs".


LB, I seem to remember at the picnic that qwerty was drinking my Aussie red wine - not tequila.

I'd only brought one bottle of duty free with me, so I poured a thimble full in each glass.

qwerty looked into his glass and said, "I prefer my glass poured from the top half down."

(Now there's a man that knows a good red when he sees it!) 

LBmuskoka's picture



Heh, Pilgrim - my apologies for my obscurity:  My reference to tequila was brought on by Qwerty referencing "rock and roll duty" combined with lost loves,  eliciting memories of Jimmy Buffet and Margaritaville and a very bizarre encounter with Kim Mitchell aka Max Webster in my distant youthful past.



LB - oh no, those flashbacks are back

I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.

     Hunter S. Thompson

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