I met someone.
For some time, I've wondered what it might be like when I said those words, or even if I would. But recently they floated through my mind as indeed I have met someone interesting, someone unexpected.
Of course, this new interaction is shining a light straight into my grief. Much like a flashlight pointed into a cave opening, it bounces around revealing crevasses, mysterious things and faint markings that highlight a significant backstory.
As a returning reader of my journey, you might be caught by surprise at the first part of this post, so let me backtrack slightly.
A couple of months ago, I decided it would be interesting to dip my toe in the water of dating. To take off the wedding ring and see what it might be like to get to know single people. To talk about my story, see what it felt like and answer questions about who I am, etc. And . . . YES . . . it's complicated for many reasons, with a big one being that I haven't dated someone who wasn't my spouse/serious boyfriend for about two decades. A lot has changed. The world of online dating is new and I am much more seasoned in life and heartache.
Another challenge is how to know if it's the right time? I've read many articles* about when to begin dating again, but it really is such an individual decision. For me, I started to feel the sorrow tide shift out, and with a heart still full of hope and love, I thought it was time to at least explore the concept.
It is a new kind of adventure, filled with the same type of unexpected things you might find in the wilderness - beauty, roots to trip on, slick rocks, confusing trails, "wow" moments, joyful and non-so joyful experiences and, of course, much more.
Within this process, I often run straight into the challenge of reconciling my grief emotions, which rest on top of it all, waiting to be triggered. This can happen with a simple comment or the realization of how someone is similar or very different. I, myself, can even be the cause of the emotional trigger as I seek healthy companionship and try to understand what is actually most healthy. All around, it's tricky (a phrase I tend to often use).
So why try it?
Because I still have a lot of life left (hopefully!) I loved Josh greatly for many years. We had an amazing marriage, partnership and friendship. I can't replace our specific relationship and don't want to, but at the same time that relationship can be treasured for what it was and can coexist even as I grieve onward.
Interestingly though, it's because of this beautiful experience that I am even putting my feet back in the water. I've seen the joy that can be found in a loving relationship. Our story, even though it feels unfairly cut short, provided me an opportunity not to simply witness, but participate in a relationship built on true, self-sacrificing, encouraging love. God allowed me to live out the joy of this commitment on the best of days and hardest of days.
And yes, grief over losing a spouse is way complicated. It's a wound that cuts so deep. For some widows or widowers, navigating to the point of even considering what I am talking about seems impossible. And that's okay too. If that is you, find the joy in learning about yourself and what you enjoy doing in this new season.
For me, I want to keep exploring life and the possibility of loving and being cared about again. It all feels quite risky, I admit. Yet all of it inspires new songs, ideas and creativity. This Shakespeare line captures a little bit of this concept to me, "When griping grief the heart doth wound, and doleful dumps the mind opresses, then music, with her silver sound, with speedy help doth lend redress."
As I enter this new scene, I again inch forward in hopes that God has the perfect plan and timing. That even in this, very bizarre situation, I can trust him to guide me with wisdom. I listened to a sermon on Sunday that really resonated. It does't just pertain to my newfound dating adventures but to life itself. Trusting God daily is part of the story, no matter where it weaves.
"If we follow, God will take us on a great adventure. He will be our good shepherd. If we follow him, he will lead us to beauty and truth. It is about following him today, not just what's going to happen in the next year. "**
I, of course, had to write these words down. I need the reminder.
As I navigate the unknown of what's next, the simplicity of taking a breath and striving to follow God in this wild wilderness offers the trail markers that I need along the way.
P.S. Yes, this is all very scary and weird and I also know that as my friends and family soak in this information it also means processing another layer of grief. But we're all in this together now.
Links for more
* Mark Gungor has a really interesting perspective on his process.
** Link to sermon message
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.