Time is Measurable, Love and Grief are Not
In March, Julie openly wrote about her grief hero, comedian Patton Oswalt, and how his honest and ‘unpretty’ truth gave her hope. His candid and very public grief journey continued recently when he announced his engagement to actress, Meredith Salenger, “only” 15 months after his wife died.
As usual, some people had strong opinions about this news.
And, boy oh boy, some of those nasty opinions pretty much blew up the widow-verse.
The prickles came when reading venomous remarks condemning Oswalt’s engagement–everything from “Nope, too soon” to suggesting his grief wasn’t genuine. After all, he’d just taken his wedding ring off a few weeks prior to his engagement announcement.
Now consider this:
Imagine Patton is a widowed woman living in Victorian times. If she adhered to full rather than half mourning, she would wear a black mourning dress for twelve months. This mourning dress, the visible expression of her grief, would be shed at the end of that year and she would be expected to remarry. Despite what she may feel inside, the visible mourning period dictated at that time would be over. Done. No controversy.
But today we have prickles and condemnation.
Enter the Widow-verse.
Erica Roman, a widowed writer, eloquently schooled those who think they know how love works after being widowed. Her defense of Patton’s new love caught his attention and Erica’s blog went viral. I highly suggest reading her post. It obviously resonates with many widows, but it also serves as education for those seeking insight on supporting someone who has lost a spouse. https://ericaroman.me/2017/07/07/a-widows-rage-defense-of-patton-oswalts-engagement/
In my mind, the naysayers were not aware of two widowhood concepts.
- Time has no effect on love and grief, and
- Widows have the capacity and ability to love both their departed love and a new love at the same time.
Love and time became strangers after Brad died. My heart did not recognize time any more while my mind still checked off the days, months and now years that pass. Eventually, I’ve learned that love and grief are neither linear nor quantifiable.
They are not straight lines and there is no unit of measure that can compare my loss to, say, those of Patton’s or Erica’s.
It is near impossible for widows to wake up every my-spouse-is-still-gone day without triggers slamming us to the ground. The passing of time does nothing to stop the often-deemed inappropriate waves of sorrow. For me, what time does is take me further away from Brad and the life we had. Yet time also taught me to carry my grief in a more accepting way to the outside world. I may not break down as much as I used to, but that does not mean I’m no longer loving and grieving him. It means I have developed resilience and have learned to brace myself better for the crashing waves. I’m slowly adapting to this new existence without my Brad.
Paraphrasing Erica’s blog, a widowed heart can expand to include new love. Now to be clear, when the opportunity and blessedness of a widow finding love again occurs, it does not mean the love for the late spouse has been set aside. It does not mean grief suddenly disappears or she is “over him” and he is then replaced with the new person.
That is impossible because, I’ll say it again; love and grief are not linear. There is no exchanging; there is adding and expanding and likely overlap. The expansion of a widowed heart creates more space for a new love alongside the love for a departed spouse. And here is the sad beauty. This restructured heart is acutely aware of its own fragility as well as the delicate mortality of all those it lets in. It loves abundantly and wholly because it is recognizing time again and knows it’s too precious to waste.
Time, whether long or short, does not know when a heart expands to fit more love, nor does it realize if a heart will forever grieve a spouse. Time simply does not care about those sentiments.
For more guidance on helping others with loss, see https://grievingtogether.ca/grieving-library/grief-words/helping-others/