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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

As I close in on 3 months since Bunny died it appears that I have broken ALL of the rules.  Especially, you know, the overall Big Rule - Don't make any major decisions:

The Rules:

  1. Don't quit your job
  2. Don't rush into clearing stuff out of your house
  3. Don't start a new relationship
  4. Don't move
  5. Don't make any financial decisions

In other words, don't do anything at all. Just wake up every morning, do what you have done every day before your wife died, just without her. It's like being told to keep on dancing, but without your dance partner. "Don't make any major decisions", words I have heard over dinner tables, across phone lines, in emails and texts ... but I have to admit that the cautionary phrase absolutely never made sense to me.

All of these pearls of wisdom come from many, many people of all backgrounds, all well-meaning and likely with sincere concern for my well being. And I appreciate the advice and the people giving it. But I'm not really paying any attention to most of it.

I didn't "quit" my job, but I am retiring. But I was already planning on that before Bunny died. I have been very lucky to be in a position to be able to stop working a high-stress job that shortens my life span every day, so why would I keep on doing it? By Thanksgiving, I will be in the ranks of retired people, although it's likely that I will continue to consult for my company over at least the next two years, but on my schedule, when I feel like it, no pressure. Is it a The Rules no-no if you are doing what you and your spouse decided to do before she died? I'm not sure, I need an official ruling here ...

I started clearing stuff out of the house within days of Bunny's death. It gave me focus, made me accept the reality that she was not coming back.I'm not destroying pictures or loved belongings, but I am getting rid of clutter, junk, clothes that just never quite made it to the recycling center after she decided she didn't want them any longer. And her art work related equipment and supplies are truly just "stuff", I have no need for them, I'll never use them, most of it has no value to anyone other than Bunny and it takes up a bunch of space. But her finished work I'm keeping. So I started clearing right away ... I know, a major violation of The Rules ...

I have been in a developing relationship since about a month after Bunny passed away. I didn't expect it to happen, but it did. And I'm happy, actually happy, as compared to sorrowful and scared and lonely. My girlfriend (I can't believe that, at the age of 65, I'm calling someone my "girlfriend" ... isn't that for high school kids???) has also had more than her fair share of sorrow and scared and lonely, and she, too, is breaking The Rules. But we just don't care ... isn't that the joy of aging, to be able to do things that you wouldn't do when you were younger and supposedly "more responsible?"  And we're happy together and in love. I can't imagine how "happy" and "in love" can be construed as bad things to be held aside until The Rules say it's okay to proceed ahead.

Naturally, being happy and in love, we want to be together (we live a fair distance apart, what is known as an LDR ... long distance relationship ... in today's new acronym-intensive world). Circumstances being what they are (too much detail to get into here and not necessary, either), it simply makes sense for me to go where my girlfriend (I'm starting to like using "my girlfriend", makes me feel good to say it and people will probably think it's cute that some old guy from Jersey is calling someone his "girlfriend) ... sorry, sometimes I get off on a tangent ... where my girlfriend lives. And yes, for all of The Rules people, we're each making sure the other person isn't a nut job or criminal. And actually, I might be willing to put up with some nuttiness or criminality, because she's darn attractive.

And finally, some good news for The Rules adherents out there: no major financial decisions are being made. Nothing getting sold, nothing getting purchased, no housing on the market, no joint bank accounts, no crazy stock transactions or 401K tomfoolery. Everybody in this new The Rules-breaking scenario is staying in their own corner when it comes to finances.

Does all of this mean that I'm done grieving? Hell, no, I still miss Bunny every single day, you don't spend 35 wonderful years with someone and just forget about that. But my new relationship includes our departed spouses, who we love and respect and talk about freely every day. It's one of the many things that brings us closer to each other without forgetting our past.

So I'm thinking that sticking to 1 out of 5 of The Rules at least shows some responsibility, right? Yeah, yeah, I know that 4 out of 5 is a little hard for The Rules lovers to swallow, but I am making a concession with #5. I'm going to load up my Rules-violating self and drive south with my dog ... I hear there is a happy woman there waiting for a The Rules breaking Jersey guy to move in, relax and ease his butt into retirement. 

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Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on August 29, 2016 at 7:11pm

You have to do, what you have to do...

Comment by barbee on August 23, 2016 at 9:11am

Next to B/8, Thank you for your kind, affirming words. It meant a lot to read them.

None of us wants to be widowed. When we are dealt those cards, it is important to make the most of what we have left in life. ("He died; I didn't") I never believed that my happiness was dependent upon being with someone else or that a man in my life made me a whole person. However, after being alone for almost two years I knew what was missing in my life was a male point of view, a man to share things with, someone who would enjoy my cooking. So I actively--carefully--and prayerfully--and scared to death--entered the online dating world and we found each other!  

We live 30 miles apart, own our homes, and are financially independent. He  hates the city where I live and it's noise and busyness; I dislike the country and being six miles from the nearest anything. When we aren't traveling together we take turns staying at each other's house and still have 2-3 days a week apart to pursue our individual lives. Getting legally married means messing up his trust and I would loose my husband's retirement, which is much of my income. For now it's working and all our children approve--a HUGE blessing!

Whether you find another special someone or not, I wish you peace and happiness in creating your life ahead.

Comment by Next to B/8 on August 22, 2016 at 6:20pm

barbee21...You and your guy are fabulous! You paid your dues (if that's fair to say...for richer or poorer,in sickness and in health) and you did.You truly are deserving of all the happiness that comes your way. The very best to you both.

Comment by barbee on August 22, 2016 at 5:42pm

Well, I broke the rules, too, so you have some company! 

  1. Don't quit your job  I'd already retired from my paid job. With his death I lost  my caregiving "job"
  2. Don't rush into clearing stuff out of your house For my mental health I needed to do this
  3. Don't start a new relationship I waited almost two years, but some people thought that was rushing
  4. Don't move  I bought a house in another city and moved within a month of his death. Best thing I did!
  5. Don't make any financial decisions I extensively remodeled and upgraded the new house to create my space, in my colors, with new furniture.
  6. We had an almost 49 year marriage, but he was seriously ill for the last 16 years of his life. On Hospice for over a full year. I had to get away from it all to find out who I was and how I would spend the rest of my life. I've not forgotten him for even one moment.  The man I met was also widowed after 48 years of marriage. This past winter we traveled 15 southern states over a period of six months. Our mates cremains went with us--housed in a small cupboard over the driver's seat in his motor home. We laughed and joked about how the four of us were seeing the countryside! It can be easy to focus on the grief and loneliness, but it is very possible to instead focus on being positive and looking for the joys in life. I'm 75 and he is 80. Neither of us likes the girlfriend or boyfriend moniker. We say "my guy"  and "my gal" and that works for us.
Comment by lizbeth4 on August 21, 2016 at 3:52pm

I was told the rules many times by good intending people.   I made my own rules after my Husbands death.   I went through his things within 2 weeks of his death.  Within 8 months, I had sold and bought a new home.   I moved 100 miles to a small town from a big city, where I knew only 1 person.    I bought a new car.  I started a new life!!!  I have made new friends and lived new experiences this last 3 years.   You should make your own rules, it's your life!! 

Comment by Pointbass on August 21, 2016 at 10:36am

Thank you, that's a thoughtful compliment. I've said many times here at WV that my specific situation is not the norm and due to the circumstances of Bunny's illness and subsequent passing I've had opportunities for closure that many don't receive, and she was blessed with a relatively peaceful end on her terms. Plus, after 35 great years it's easier for me to appreciate how fortunate I was to be able to have her for that long.

That said, I do think it's easy to focus on the loss and loneliness ... I could have easily been right there if not for Bunny's constant requests for me to promise I wouldn't do that. Because I was able to keep my promise to her and "pay attention" (words she must have said to me 1,000 times while we were married) I found an incredible person very quickly and we both realized that this was something different. If either of us had been close-minded and morose the contact would have been missed ... and I would deeply regret losing another amazing chance at love this late in my own journey.

I write here so that people can realize the the death of a deeply loved spouse doesn't mean the end of the line, we all just need to "pay attention" ...

Comment by Next to B/8 on August 21, 2016 at 8:59am

Well said and apparently a healthy attitude on lifes giving and taking.I think your blog has opened a new window of thinking for those of us who may be stuck on the hand we had been dealt and I will say your actions and philosophy are an eye opener. I wish you continued happiness in your life.

Comment by Mo on August 20, 2016 at 8:09pm

I've broken some of the rules too. Aren't they for breaking anyway? I think your relationship sounds sweet. Beats surround sound silence.

Comment by deaf widow on August 20, 2016 at 2:23pm

I, too, broke some of the "rules".  I removed a lot of my hubby's stuff.  Some sold...some just given away.  I kept his pictures and the shirt and hat he loved to wear so much.  I am so happy for you and your girlfriend.  Nice!  I am alone, but that is OK.  In our hearts and minds we will always remember our mates.  And as Laurajay says..."So go the days of our lives".

Comment by laurajay on August 20, 2016 at 7:51am

It's your decision to judge your own behavior according to the rules as you define them.  Looking for justification from others doesn't  apply here. 

No one widowed is subject to approval or disapproval from another widowed person.  We follow our hearts using wisdom and faith as our compass.  Each individual on his/her own journey.  And if we meet and greet  so be it.   Nod. Wave.  Pause  to chat or listen if we choose to and than continue our journey.  And so go the days in our  lives.

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