Last January 16, I exchanged emails with one Richard Antonio Walls, via match.com, for crying out loud. In retrospect, I probably had no business putting up a profile, even as vague and guarded as it was, with it’s three, very stand-off-ish sentences. But what can I say? I really like guys! I knew I wasn’t even close to being through the brunt of the grief process, but I still dipped my toe in the waters. Most replies came with a brutish, “Hey beautiful, whatcha doin’ tonight,” which made my skin crawl, but Tony’s email was different. Much different. It was witty, it was thoughtful and it was intelligent. So, I replied and he replied and off this relationship went.
In the initial stages, it was still a given that I wasn’t “done” grieving and I felt pretty free to express all of that to Tony. As our relationship became more serious, it became harder for me to express my feelings of missing Dave. Simultaneously, it became harder for Tony to receive those same feelings of me missing Dave. So, without communicating about any of this in any meaningful, beneficial way, I began to tuck that part of my world away from him. I knowingly thought that I would save that part of my life for my friends and those who knew Dave and knew Dave and I together. This worked for a while, (although I think it had a part in a break up we went through), but I didn’t really like it. I wanted to be able to bare it all, whenever I felt the need, but I did exactly the opposite.
When I was with Tony and would tell stories of my last ten years, I would use, “I” and “me,” instead of “we” and “us.” Every word about Dave was measured. I would downplay stories of Dave and even decide if it was too soon between the last story I mentioned his name. Every quiver of sadness was wrapped up for alone time or time with my friends. I increasingly became pretty good at compartmentalizing my life with Dave and my life with Tony.
In the first days of December, all of this became apparent that our method of operating as it pertained to grief and Dave, was not working very well. There was a certain barrier between us, and what we each wanted was at odds. I simply didn’t feel free to let Tony into the depths of my pain, knowing that it caused him pain. And I don’t blame the guy. I think his position is a decent amount trickier than mine. I mean, I know that I am the one who lost someone that I deeply loved, but he is the one feeling out his place in all of this.
Obviously, my kids and I will always be talking about Dave and Tony is 100% fine with that, but for the passionate Sicilian, Latin-like lover that he is, it is hard for him to know that I will always love Dave. Not more than him, not less than him, just completely different than him. And really, I don’t even know with any certainty, that that last sentence will hold true for future years? There is MUCH I do not know about this category of life . . . grieving a love and falling in love, at the same time. Who could know how to do this well? So, to Jesus we went, to offer our frail attempts and prayers at doing this right. Offering for Jesus to change our hearts. To help us figure this out.
So, with hearts open to change, (at least Tony’s), we weathered Dave’s 2nd anniversary of his death and Christmas, together. Before Christmas, I was just overwhelmed with gratefulness that Jesus came to earth to save us and make all the difficult temporary. After Christmas, I was just agitated. Nothing seemed right. I couldn’t make a decision and I just wanted to get back into the rhythm of school days and schedules.
Then, on New Years Day, I went to a friend’s birthday party. This same party, two years prior, was the last social event Dave and I ever attended together. This year, I was quite teary at the party and deeply sad when I returned home. So, I did what any healthy grieving spouse would do and worked furiously on a puzzle. Then Tony called, and the floodgates opened. He began to ask me for every ounce of what I was thinking, probing into places I was unwilling to even admit. I claimed that I would do pretty much anything for Dave to walk through that door at this very moment to return life to simple and to bring happiness to all who knew him . . . all while weeping.
The strange thing is, I would have never surrendered to this wave of grief without Tony drawing it out of me. The person who I had been sheltering from the splash, was the very one encouraging me to drag him under with me for a bit. I’m not exactly sure why he needed to feel the waters, but it was important to him and to me.
It couldn’t have been easy for Tony to hear. That is what I wanted, though. I want to be able to share these waves (and that was a short, but GIANT one) with Tony and for Tony to want to hear them. I don’t want to give Tony only a portion of me. After that New Year’s wave of “greath,” I feel relief, I feel gratefulness for Tony, I feel loved, I feel known, I feel so in love with Tony, and pretty much all good stuff. I feel much lighter, now that I threw off my 10,000 pound burden of emotion, but I’m afraid I threw it right on top of Tony. See! This is all easier for me. I think Tony is still in mid process with all I unleashed on Thursday night, but we have given this relationship over to Jesus, because again, who could do all this without God?
The bottom line is, we are limited. Just by the nature of being different people, coming from different circumstances, we can come close to understanding each other, but not in the way that Jesus understands us and knows us. Fortunately, God’s grace is not limited and the grace we can offer each other is not limited, either. This arena feels like it will take a lot of grace and a lot of Jesus. I’m so thankful for both. I sure hope and pray I can practice what I preach as I am a slow deliverer of grace sometimes.
If you have been in this situation, I would love to hear from your experience, all you widows and grace-givers. I know I have much to learn.
Tomorrow, we will hear from Tony’s point of view. I haven’t read it, or heard it, or seen it, but I think I kinda know most of what he will say . . . .maybe. Maybe grace will come into play, yet again, as we read each other’s thoughts???
11 thoughts on “Falling in Love, While Grieving a Love”
I’m completely awestruck…overwhelmed having walked some of this with you guys …my heart hurts with a new kind of pain even as I read this post and remember. The memories rush back of the journey that has been two years (in some ways seems like 20) and I so deeply admire your honesty, Holly.
The vulnerability that is demonstrated in these words is truly an inspiration—the journey with Jesus even more so. Thank you so much for putting into words these deep feelings and struggles. It means the world to me to be a witness of how Jesus is working this out.
Thank you again Holly, Christina, and Megan. I believe how your writings in pencil will have an even greater impact than any of you ever thought.
Holly, your writing is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart like this.
Thank you for being so real. You and your writing is amazing and always points me to Jesus! – kim
Thanks, Marvin, Jill, and Kim for your encouragement. Sometimes, after I press publish, I panic and and think maybe I SOS’d . . . or "super over shared," but it is what I’m processing and it is, what it is.
Absolutely amazing! Every time, Holly…I’m simply awed by your openness, authenticity, and courage in writing so beautifully the REAL that you are walking through with Jesus. Thank you!
Thank YOU, Erin, for always supporting me, us, and WIP:) You, for REALS, have the giant gift of encouragement!
Your words and your life are refreshingly honest and brave. What a privilege to glimpse and glean from this intimate spot. Thank you.
Holly, as always, you are wise beyond your years. It seems to me that you have a much "firmer" grasp on Jesus than many people twice or three times your age. Certainly you humble me and put my little "ups and downs" in perspective. We don’t know Tony well, but we are looking forward to getting to know him better and being onlookers as you go along in your journey. We have been confident that all along God has had a plan and though there are many times I ask Him to let me in on the plan or let me help Him with the execution His plan, He wisely sees fit to not let that happen. You have many adventures ahead of you and we feel confident that you will weather them all with your great faith and your willingness to "bare it all." Keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the path God has planned for you. We can’t wait to read Tony’s "take".
I can’t wait to read Tony’s take, too! Just so you know, my little ups and downs can take me down, quicker than the biggies, I find. I’m with you there, Sharon. I love that you have been in my life since before I can even remember!
Beauty for ashes. I’m so glad you have found love again. It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s been six months since my husband passed, it would had been our ten year anniversary this past July 1st… I believe everything is divinely ordered, as is your journey with Tony and my journey when my husband made his transition and up to and beyond when our Heavenly Father knew I needed flesh and bones, a physical, spiritual soul to hold me. The night of my husband’s passing, one of my husband’s doctor’s came by the house to check on him. Ever since that night, he has kept coming around. Gently, unpresuming, listening and encouraging. We kissed one evening. It just happened. And a closeness, an intimacy is deveolping. He lost his wife two years ago. We went to Grief Share together. He too loves Jesus and has the kindest heart. I don’t look too far into the future I look upon all this with a heart of gratitude…something so deep and profound as is the loss of a spouse, (a beautiful "everything to us" kind of spouse) is shared between the two of us. I am comforted and grateful to have someone hold my hand while navigating this valley. So I googled " Grieving the loss of a loved one while falling in love" and found your site. Thank you for sharing your journey, your experience of what I call a "parallel universe".