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Please don't interpret anything you read here as medical, legal, or otherwise expert advice. Don't disregard any expert's advice or take any action as a result of what you read here.

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

Oh Sheryl Sandberg, what have you done?

So it's apparently "news" that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, may be dating less than a year after her husband's death.  Really?  Why is that any of our business?  And why on earth are people being so judgmental in their comments?  This is her life. She does not need your permission to date nor does she need your ugly comments ... and I'm rather grateful that she's probably not reading them.

But my widowed friends are reading them. You know ... those of us 'regular' folk who have lost our loves and are facing it Our lives may not be covered in the national press, but we do hear those comments, those judgments. And so do our children.  And they are hurtful and just as wrong for us as they are for a 'celebrity'.

I am truly excited, thrilled and grateful - regardless of the time since loss - when:

  • a widowed friend decides she/he is ready to start dating.
  • a widowed friend finds a new love.
  • I can attend or hear of the wedding of a widowed friend who has found their Chapter Two.

I feel these lovely emotions even though that is not something I choose for myself.

So why can't we just let everyone live their best life the way they choose?

I choose to not date or remarry and I've felt this way right from the start. For me. Personally. Not something I push on others. Not something I say is better or the way we must do this widow thing. It's just for me - and I guess to also be a voice for anyone else out there who may feel as I do.

But while responding to the offensive comments made by NOT WIDOWED people to all of these Sheryl Sandberg articles, some of my widowed friends have edged up to a line, too, with comments that could also be offensive to me and others like me if we didn't know and love the people making them.

To paraphrase ...

"my married life made me love being part of a couple so I want that again"

"because we loved so well the first time, we want it a second time"

"loving again honors him instead of wallowing in grief and wasting my life"

 "I want to model resilience by moving forward with a new love" 

These kind of statements - even while said in response to hurtful and ridiculous comments about widows dating 'too soon' - have a subtle implication that those of us who choose not to seek a new partner had a bad marriage. Or that we are wallowing in our grief and wasting our lives. Not true and not fair.

I believe I am modeling resilience ... just for a different audience.

So ... to my friends who are not widowed ... please do not pass judgments on others for things you have not experienced. You do not know what this alone life is like, you do not know how you will feel or how you will want to live your life when that time comes. Trust me on this. Just love your spouse or significant person while they are still with you - and show love and compassion to your widowed friends as they do the best they can to move forward in the way they choose.

And to my widowed friends ... please be cautious with the words you use to defend yourself against those who feel they have a right to comment about how you live your life. You really don't need to defend yourself. How you live your life is And it's ok to just tell them that. Period.

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Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on March 12, 2016 at 2:31pm

Very well stated, Dianne.  It's nobody's business, but the person involved. To date, to not date, to re-marry, to not re-marry.  No one can know the path someone treads but that person alone.  I know through personal experience, that any or all of these options have their own emotional strings attached. But certainly, how DARE anyone NOT widowed feel they have the right to weigh in on such a personal decision. I would say to them "you are now excused and may leave"...or some other possibly not so eloquent phrase...

Comment by katpilot on March 12, 2016 at 4:30am

So true indeed Dianne about not needing to defend ourselves.  We do hear it a lot though and years down the road, we still hear it.  I have a mentor who was seventeen years not dating again and in her opinion, she was a "done deal long ago".  But she is happy. She found ways to make her life have purpose and a little joy once and again. In those first months of my journey I had someone to talk with void of hidden agenda. It gave me hope as I too knew in the bottom of my heart, that I was also "a done deal". Having said that, I enjoy seeing others find new love if it was right for them. When will we humans accept that we are all individuals instead of adopting the attitude..."It's my way or the highway" ?

Comment by SweetMelissa on March 7, 2016 at 5:14pm

I wasn't aware of this, but I also have no interest in televised or tabloid news. No offense, but it just seems more & more like gossip regardless of a professional presentation.

Anyhoo, if she is in fact dating it merely allows for critical thinking, many questions to ask about ones own decisions, behavior & how they are received by others -basically a navigation tool for better or worse. In my first few years of grief I was sensitive to being judged as a widowed, at the same time, I thought it was okay for me to judge others. That's just how it was. I was angry, but not enough to toss my values to defend everyone widowed, most importantly, those who are/were neglectful of their grieving children &/or tempted to kick their teens out of the house for new found love. I, too, lost a spouse -I know the pain & loneliness: it never drove me to date. I also kept the same kids, house, dog, etc. Since childhood, I knew if I became widowed I would not date. It stemmed from witnessing my mother's grief journey & the decisions she made.due to my own mother's decisions. The support I received came from a different widow board in that it continually made me aware of what not to do & to avoid to keep me focused on a self healing. Early dating posts helped me in learning how to better care for myself, maintain my values for my sake & that of my children, kept me keenly aware of the type of people I wanted to expose them to & the friends they chose. There are many lessons I learned, the ones I like the best are the those that made me a better loving compassionate mother. It all starts at home.

People are always challenging laws, commandments, unwritten rules of proper social conduct -its part of life as well as the nature of some humans. No matter the circumstance, not everything is acceptable. We, as a society, are always confronted with new & different issues forced upon us to have to cope with as well as adjust to changes in a seemingly nano second. In my first year I just wanted the whole world to stop just to catch my breath. It was too chaotic - too complicated & contradictory - moved far too fast for my widow brain. While it may not be for others, it certainly was for me a time to convalesce -there was nothing more important than me & with helping my kids through their darkest hour by providing a stable home life. I've caught up to the real world now -there are still people, places & things to learn from or not. A person's perspective can develop during grief -a time when the world looks foreign & the struggle to fit back in creates opportunities to learn, to explore, to rethink past choices & behaviors, to conjure up old learned lessons for coping skills, to redefine ones self. The constant thinking I did went away at the same time as the sensitivity to words in my widow vocabulary to use a discerning eye.

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