Recently I read a letter in a daily newspaper from a widower voicing his distress since being widowed of how lonely he felt. His daughter had been furious with him because he had mentioned becoming friends with a widow. This married daughter had told him in no uncertain terms that he must not take another woman back to her mother’s house. His house! I in turn was incensed by this and it prompted me to write this week’s column.
During my work as a psychotherapist I am of the age where I meet a lot of people who have lost loved ones. Only the other day I found myself chatting to a lady in her late sixties and within minutes I knew that she had nursed her sick husband until his death a few years before. She had never met anyone else or indeed thought about doing so. Another friend of mine has been widowed for over seven years hadn’t even considered another relationship. I could understand it if they had been through some kind of marital hell but in both cases it seems they had not. There are many widowed and sometimes lonely people out there who would not consider finding a new love and are not interested which is fair enough. In truth for most of us over sixty there are very few places to meet someone anyway. Where does one go to meet these days, even the young have that problem? When you experience the loss of a loved one, it can seem unreal, the ups and downs of grief are impossible to control and all you can do is go with it, there’s little choice in the matter. Many of those who are widowed say they could not go through it again. The most crass thing anyone one can say is ‘you might meet someone else one day’. The very idea of having another partner can seem horrifying and insulting. Having experienced a loss one might make a decision to never love again. That is more to do with fear of having to go through the pain.
In 2001 I was widowed after thirty years of marriage; my husband was given a terminal diagnosis and died within two years. I spent three years on my own and I felt lonely but before I got to that stage I struggled in grief, dragged through great waves of it, feeling out of control. As those years past I had my dogs, my work and my friends, my daughter was finding happiness with her own life expecting her first baby, but my weekends seemed long and bleak. Whilst away at a conference for my work I met up with a widowed friend who was the same age ‘I am in love’ she sighed enthusiastically. ‘I met someone through a dating agency’!
Whow! Who falls in love at sixty I thought dubiously? Who is daft enough to go to a dating agency at our age? We’d be laughed off their books. However it got me thinking, why was I alone? Why not find someone to go out with occasionally for a meal, theatre, even a holiday, only as friends of course, where was the harm? There must be some man out there who felt as I did?
It took weeks to pluck up the courage but I eventually went on line with a safe dating agency in the vague hope of finding someone to go out with. Oh I can hear you groaning. “I couldn’t do that” There were a few hiccups I admit, a couple of guys with whom I just chatted on email, one with a decidedly suspicious comb over, the other who wanted someone to take up where his deceased wife had left off with the cooking and washing. A couple of others were obviously seeking a mother figure or perhaps a rich widow; fat chance! Some of the photographs on the agency’s listings made me smile, a seventy plus man in cycle helmet wearing pale blue Lycra gear looking for an ‘outdoor girl’, then there was medallion man leaning over his very shinny opened topped Mercedes, with gold bangle sparkling in the sun, I wasn’t impressed, they were easy to reject. Thank you it was very nice chatting but… was the kindest let down by email.
I hasten to say here that internet dating is safe because you are protected by the agency in terms of your privacy. You do not need to reveal anything which makes you vulnerable, indeed you’re best not to until you are completely sure. If you are going to venture into the world of blind dating then be sure to be open minded and protected in which ever system you chose, newspaper couples ads can be a bit shocking ‘twenty nine year old female with very large bust size seeks much older male up to seventy years for naughty friendship’ and ‘Good looking male seeks female twenty one to sixty for discrete no strings fun.’ Be sure to avoid. All joking aside I have many friends who have met their life partners through dating agencies the secret is be careful and have a good sense of humour.
Happily I did agree to meet the man I had chatted to on email and phone and seven years later I am married to this lovely man, a widower and we moved here to Llandudno three years ago. Now I am in another life very different from the one before, we have two lots of grown up children to consider but we also have two lots of grandchildren which is wonderful. OK I admit it was weird at first, we both felt, after that first date that we were doing something wrong, betraying our deceased partners. I literally ran away half way through the first date, because I felt as guilty as if having an affair behind my husbands back. Needless to say we overcame that and here we are.
I know that having found someone else to love means either one of us will have to experience loss again. We took a chance for an unknown quantity of time together but finding love and companionship for the years ahead will be worth it.