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As I have today hit the 14 month mark, I reflect on a trend I notice happening.  I notice, time and again, that even though I typically have no clue what day of the month it is, that when the 11th rolls up, I am sent into an odd stupor.  A silent ever present beast takes over my will and my abilities.  I typically only get about 3 hours of sleep the night before, and often I am in bed trying to figure out why the heck it is that I can not get to sleep.  When I finally look at the calendar date, invariably it is the 11th of the month.  

As I entered this month I had decided that me alone was a recipe for disaster.  I would slowly get to the point where the mess that is my house at the moment would simply be accepted, the daily pattern of getting up going to work and coming home to watch hours of TV would become my norm.  I would slowly pack back on the pounds that I had worked so hard several years ago to shed.  Thus I signed up for Match and eHarmony and paid for a subscription in the course of about 15 minutes.  Strike while the iron is hot and then I had no choice but to try to do something with what I had done.  My wife would never have accepted spending money and then throwing it away, I had to try to make the best with that investment.  My impulsive side driving me to get out of the funk.  Yet, every time I consider actually meeting with someone who has messaged me, the beast rears its ugly head.  This time comes the comparisons to what I had and therefore what I clearly must want.  This person doesn't meet this quality, or that quality.  Unfairly judging people in comparison to who my wife was in my mind.  See I even recognize that I am not comparing them to a real person, but to the person who is now the image of her in my head.  Gone are many of the blemishes of her true form replaced by the ideal of what I hold onto.  

Now this beast in my head never gets out, he doesn't walk around saying things others hear, he doesn't share his evil agenda with those around me, instead he just drags me backward, sapping my strength and exhausting my will.  If I must constantly fight against this barrier that is of my own creation, who will win? I am determined to drive through, but honestly the daily struggle to drive myself 3 steps forward before being pushed 2 steps back is draining.  When I first went on to Match, the only one of the two that really has a method of picking people by marital status, I tried looking at other widows in my age group.  Honestly there aren't many who have decided to place themselves in the pool, and so far I am getting very little interaction back from them.  I don't blame them, I suspect in many cases I am not their type (young and dashing you know isn't for everyone :D ), in others, they are like me, they really are struggling with how much they want to do this and so let things slide by if it seems like it is a little too real.  So I expanded the pool to include all marital status, this increased connections but also has me concerned with if I am really going into this with knowledge of what I am doing. 

And so cometh the beast again.  I haven't dated a person for 27 years.  I don't consider a committed relationship so much dating, I stopped exploring the field 27 years ago, and honestly I only ever dated 1 person.  My breadth of knowledge in this area is so narrow that I am going to dive into something and find out that I am either going too fast or too slow.  The beast is telling me that I should just run now, don't even open the door.  Tell someone you already know that you want to date them and hope for the best even though they are hours away by plane and really you two aren't a good match at all.  Imagine dating yourself with all your short comings, not having someone who challenges you from time to time, boring.  Fun for a day or so adventure and to hang out with, but really not great for a long term give or take.  I have to tamp the beast back down into his corner, say this is what is best for me, what I need to grow rather than wilt. 

There are so many other areas as well that the beast continues to rule my life, such as the bag of meatballs in the freezer and me being a vegetarian who will never consume them, but they represent one of the last things my wife made for herself.  The bookshelf full of her books that I will never read.  The closet full of her clothing that clearly I can't wear.  The side table with her reading glasses and tablet sitting on it untouched and unused.  My house is a museum to a life that is no more, and I need to return it to a home again.  I remind myself that things aren't memories, they are perhaps reminders of memories, symbols but they do not hold the memory itself.  But as much as I tell myself, and even believe it, as soon as I move one thing aside to find another special little thing, my brain just blanks out and I find myself 30 minutes later having done absolutely nothing.  

So I come to the part of this, where I wonder, how have others taken that step past their own beast? How have you stamped down the shear desire to just stop moving to take that next step, and then when you took that step to not let the beast pull you back again?  How have you quieted your inner voice that sings to you that you are betraying someone when really you are honoring who they were by being the loving and caring person they were, but just sharing it with potentially one more person or maybe even a few more people?

My wife would never have wanted me to shut the world out, she would have wanted me to explore it and everything about it.  To honor her by being the person she was, not by shutting down.  Fighting the desire to be a hermit.  So as I take another shaking step forward, I wonder how the heck have so many others in a similar position moved so far.  The strength so many on here have shown is simply astounding, and to listen and see it, provides at least a little of the fuel I need to hold my own beast down at least for a little while. Here is hoping you all win against yours today. 

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Comment by Starfish5 on Tuesday

Wow, what a wonderful post. I can relate to the silent beast.  I received a Christmas card from a friend who said this would be my year . . . to start dating and fall in love.  Well, I nearly fell off my chair when I read that, since I barely have my head wrapped around all of this. Sure, it would be fun to have someone to DO things with. I just don't think I'm ready for a 'relationship'. I was married for 32 years and we did everything together, were best friends, etc. 

Not sure if you've tried a support group, but I did and it made a big difference. (The one I went to is GriefShare, and it is offered nationwide. Go to: GriefShare.org and 'find a support group near you' by putting your zip code in the search box.) I really would have thought I'd be the last person in the world to do something like a support group, but it did help. It puts things into perspective, and they use videos & workbooks as well. It addresses many of the things you are struggling with right now and offers suggestions so you can move towards not struggling all the time with the weight of the universe on your shoulders. You hit the nail on the head when you state: 'my house is a museum to a life that is no more'. That's a step in the right direction, it's a start. At least you recognize it. As far as dealing with the 'stuff' - maybe just a little bit at a time. Set a goal for one box, one drawer etc. It is super hard to do and it will tear at your heart. But it's a step toward claiming your house to become your home. 

This is not to say you won't be sad, of course you will. I don't think there's any permanent 'cure' for grief. You experience grief to the extent that you experienced love. So if your love was deep and true, it is reflected in the intensity of the grief you feel now. This is by far the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my life. But I refuse to give in to despair as a lifestyle.

I'm not ready for dating, especially via online. I'm of the mind that if someone crosses my path and it's meant to be, then it will be. I may never meet someone else. Or I might meet someone tomorrow. In the meantime, there is always plenty to do. I wish you very good things in the months and years ahead. I liked loveboo's comment: "so when we consider this beast that is trying to push us down, there has to be an angel that can help pull us up."

There are angels trying to help us, we just need to be open to their messages.

Comment by loveboo on Saturday

Tony, thank you for writing this.

I am definitely at a different stage than you; just over four weeks since my beloved passed away, a day after giving birth to our little girl.  I still feel the shock sometimes.

I know what you mean when you refer to the silent beast and unfortunately do not have anything to write that I think can help you but I will remember your writing many months from now when I try to battle with mine.  Right now, I can only acquiesce to the silent beast.  I surrender to it.  But I feel okay with doing so.  The pain of what my wife went through and the time she will miss with our little girl is too great for me to try to fight.  The beast can't drag me down too much deeper than I am doing for myself.  I dare it try me.  Or perhaps, the beast is actually me. I am dragging myself down.  How strange and unconventional is grief?!

It's odd but an idea just popped into my head.  The idea of equal but opposite forces.  The yin and the yang.  When you press on a wall, it actually presses back.  Is the pain we have been feeling and will continue to feel just the exact opposite of the love we felt?  Is the loss we feel now the exact opposite of the presence we felt when our loved ones were with us?  Just as someone pulling you feels different than someone pushing you... death is pushing us away from our loved ones when our loved ones have been pulling us in for those years we were with them.

So when we consider this beast that is trying to push us down, there has to be an angel that can help pull us up.

My wife's last 36 hours of her life... the way I saw it, was tough. I also sometimes think of really dumb things I said to her.  Whenever I think about these things, the beast drags me down.  I can't help it sometimes, it just flashes in my mind.  This is one type of sadness based on regrets and guilt and helplessness.  I also think about the happy times we had together, her radiant smile and the times I made her happy.  This still makes me sad but also happy... sadhappy or happysad should be a word.

Although I know it's difficult to do but as you say, I think both of our wives would want us to try to be happy.  Whatever that may mean to each of us.  But at the same time, I think they would also understand the need for us to grieve for them.  I'm actually thinking now that my wife would be disappointed if I didn't grieve much or at all.

So all that is just me processing my own grieve in my head and typing it out.  Only thing I'll leave you with is something I used to tell my wife... take things one thing at a time.  I think for all of us here, taking baby steps are okay.

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