Love After Loss: Part 1

by Audrey Miller on February 11, 2013

in Articles & Blogs by Audrey, Baby Boomers, Caregiving, Elder Care

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Originally published in allaboutestates.ca February 13, 2013

As we head into the month of February, I think of snow (25 cm” outside my front door), our beating hearts, chocolate and love; and not necessarily in that order. As we are living longer, I was also wondering about those who find themselves loving again.
The topic of today’s blog is love after loss. Specifically, older individuals enjoying another meaningful, satisfying and loving relationship, after the death of a significant other.
The grieving process is different for everyone. I know some who say they will never love again after losing a spouse. For many older individuals, I have been told that their spouse was their one and only love. The thought of loving again, they feel, is a dishonour or disgrace to the deceased and would in same way, diminish the love they felt.
Others say that loving again is the best way to honour someone’s memory; it acknowledges and celebrates the joy once experienced. They want to feel that way again.
In his article, Love After Death: The Widows’ Romantic Predicaments by Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., Dr. Ben-Zeév concludes:

“Widows (and widowers) are confronted with a particular form of romantic breakup, but while this involves a terminal physical breakup, it is not a psychological one. The breakup caused by the death of the spouse is unwelcome and irreversible, and the widow might be still in love with her late spouse. There are various paths one can take in this situation, and any of them may be right in different circumstances.

Two major paths are those of either finding a new lover or giving up the search for such a lover. The first path is more desirable, but as in other circumstances, it is not always available.
Widows can profoundly fall in love, but their loving relationship might be complex as it is typically a three-hearts relationship. Just as such a relationship is possible when all three hearts are still beating, it is possible in this case as well. In both cases, being selfless and gracious is required more than in other circumstances. Comparisons between the dead and living lovers will be inevitable-and in many cases they will not be in favor of the living one, but one can reduce their relative weight by realizing that different circumstances cannot generate identical emotions and attitudes.
The second path leads to a more comfortable life, in which freedom is greater and the widow accepts, at least for the time being, the lack of a profound lover. This does not exclude becoming involved in a profound loving relationship if it happens to come along.
The romantic paths of widows are typically more complex, since widows are associated with a certain stigma, and people are more critical of them. A major issue in this regard is how soon they “should” fall in love with another person. For some widows this takes a lot of time, for others is much briefer as it offers them a meaningful way to get back to full life.
The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a widow might express: “Darling, my new lover, you may always be second in my heart, but not a far second; and in any case, I am also merely a second-hand woman.”

It’s complicated.
Loving after loss is the topic of this blog. I am not discussing any further complications that may follow such as cohabitation or marriage. These are topics to be covered at a later date and I am sure my estate colleagues have much to add on this subject as well.

It is hard enough to find true love, and to find it for a second time, is a wonderful thing.

The Washington Post printed the article ‘10 ways to build a long, healthy, loving relationship’. In his short clip, Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed nearly 1,000 of elder Americans for their advice. Do you know what they are? Answers Here.
-Audrey Miller

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