Part of the guilt of grief is simply moving forward with life.
The more forceful aspect involves the other gender.
I had not looked twice at other men for twelve years out of respect for my husband. I didn’t want to. And yet here I was, with an inner battle brewing as I no longer carried the title of wife. I felt guilty for so quickly wondering how I would feel loved and important as life tumbled forward. Would I ever have sex again? How should widowed moms handle dating? Is that guy hot or what?! What is wrong with me?! I scolded my selfish and embarrassing thoughts one minute and the next minute I wondered if I looked like an old unwantable widow. The man of my dreams, the father of my children, has become dust and I am concerned about this nonsense?!
I shared with close friends my turmoil and they reassured me I was a normal person. I was accustomed to being with someone, attached, dependent, comfortable. Divine separation was a lot to process. I pressed in close to God, asking Him to be my all in all. I knew God designed us for relationship, but surely He wanted more time to pass before I considered love. Years, decades even. Yes, that was logical.
But God won’t allow us to box Him in. He’s a rule breaker. I like that about Him. He decided to get crazy and, get this, answer the prayers of many. I knew in my heart that dozens of loved ones had surely whispered to God to deliver a new man into my life. It’s what people do as they lick the envelope of a sympathy card. And I’m so thankful they do.
God is never in a hurry when we want Him to be. But when we least expect it, He moves swiftly and mightily. And in my case, with a man named Jason.
Jason was no rebound that I picked up in a bar. He was not a pacifier for my loneliness. I believe that God brought us together.
I pursued Jason, despite his jokes of getting a restraining order on me. We enjoyed talking and spending time together. I was so drawn to him in 81 ways.
As wonderful as Jason was, I kept him a secret for a long time. I didn’t want the judgments. I didn’t want the questions. I let very few friends know. I was a new widow whose life felt like it was being lived under a magnifying glass.
I already knew the character and integrity of Jason. This man who brought us dinner and made me laugh. I try not to cry as I go back to the moment he first looked at me and sweetly said, “You are so beautiful.”
Yet guilt was unyielding. My husband just died. I really like Jason. Widows don’t date. My wedding vows were not broken. Can Aaron see down from heaven? Where is the pause button in life?
One night, Jason and I sat in his car and I cried. I told Jason that I loved two men. I felt so guilty as I had one foot in the past and one foot in the future. My marriage was over. Permanently, and not by choice. I had married the right man for me and we had created a family.
But I could not deny my growing feelings for the wonderful man sitting next to me. “Isn’t this awful, aren’t I awful?” I asked. “And does it hurt your feelings when I share this truth, that I still love Aaron and always will?”
Tenderly, softly, he replied, “It would be weird if you didn’t.” He understood the emotional blender of my mind. He gave me permission to feel all those jumbled up feelings. He didn’t think less of me or judge me or tell me to call him when I “got over” Aaron. He simply sat very quietly and listened.
Inch by inch, guilt has released some of its grip over the years. Matthew West sings it best:
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
I want grace to win. Because I’ve done nothing wrong. I did not divorce my husband or leave my husband or cheat on my husband. I would have stayed married to him for a hundred years. Knowing all this, God allowed divine separation. Until death do us part. I do not believe God wanted me emotionally paralyzed for the rest of my days. And while He understood my reasoning for guilt, He is teaching me to stop carrying that burden.