A Positive Decision on Love
We were in a seminar on grief. One man said that if his wife died, he could see no reason to ever remarry. There are valid reasons for turning away from the possibility of a love relationship. But is it possible for a person to reject the possibility of loving deeply again in order to avoid the pain?
John and I had been married for five years. One icy February night, John was on his way home from a meeting when another car slammed broadside into his, and he was killed instantly. In that split second, my life changed forever.
From the time John died, I told everyone, including myself, that I hoped to marry again. I also wanted our son Carl to have brothers and sisters. In retrospect, I realize the main reason I wanted to marry again was that marriage was the style of life I knew and it was comfortable. I had never lived on my own. My desire to marry again was born of fear - the fear of being alone, the fear of being a single parent, the fear of failure when there was no one to blame but myself.
In the initial months I had no time to think of relationships anyway. The funeral and estate decisions took much of my energy. The rest was spent trying to hold myself together. I cried out to God to give me strength or give me death, because I couldn't go on as I was. Carl didn't have a dad anymore. For both of our sakes I had to heal, and I wanted to heal more than I had ever wanted anything in my life.
I was determined to face my grief head-on. I prayed hard, sometimes railing against God, and other times resting my heart in the palm of God's hand. I read everything I could find about grief. I forced myself to go places where John and I used to go. Sometimes I thought I would break, but each time I survived intact it was another victory. I gradually felt a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
I did not “leave John behind”; I took my treasured memories with me, always aware that I would forever be a different person because John loved me. Slowly I began letting go of the future John and I had planned, and began to build a new future for myself.
I dated quite a few people in the years after John died, two of whom wanted to marry me. Although I cared about them a great deal I did not love them as life mates.
I still thought about marrying again, but I was discovering the advantages and freedoms of being single. Solitude was teaching me a great deal about myself. I became increasingly content with my life as single person and single parent. I was healing, and it felt good.
Then came Ken. There was no risk or pressure, just a couple of good friends sharing their thoughts and feelings in complete freedom. We came to realize that we were deeply in love with each other. We decided to marry.
I had worked through much grief, so I was shocked to discover the panic that welled up as I comprehended what marrying Ken meant. I knew in the depths of my being and with a certainty borne of experience that Ken was going to die. Could I freely leave myself open to that kind of hell again? I also convinced myself that there was a part of my heart that would always be John’s. I knew that if I didn't allow myself to dream and plan a future, I would not be so devastated if it never came to be. If I didn’t give my whole heart and commit myself 100%, then even if Ken died a part of me would remain intact and unscathed. Oh God, just tell me that this time it will last forever!
Ken saw and gently confronted me. In light of my fears, we both knew that I had to make a choice. I could be safe and self-reliant, giving no more than I was willing to lose to death. The alternative was to open my heart wide, loving deeply with no reservations. The decision was mine. I decided for Ken. We were married a few months later.
In my heart I know that Ken could die tonight and I could once again be plunged into the abyss of grief. Whenever it comes, Ken's death will bring the absolute depths of sorrow into my life, but that is only because I have experienced the absolute heights of joy with him. I cannot have one without the other.
My choice, be it single, celibate, or married, must reflect the firm belief that to live that lifestyle would call forth the best in me. It must require me to love deeply, to take risks, to grow. I cannot cut myself off from any particular kind of love, living "safely" for the rest of my life, without cutting myself off from joy that springs from the heart of deep love.
A positive decision not to love again? No, that is impossible. But when presented with the opportunity to truly love, a decision to reject that love is not a positive decision. It robs us of the vibrancy and challenge of life.
© 2011, Amy Florian. Used by permission.