I'm at a strange and new phase in my grief. My third wedding anniversary is looming on Thursday (all of which I've had to mark without Dan, because he died before we had the chance to celebrate one together).
This is a time that is usually difficult and emotional. However... my whole compass for what is 'normal' in this world without him has been thrown off its axis due to a new relationship. My first real relationship in the 'after'.
When Dan died, I thought that was it. I couldn't imagine reaching a point where I would be able to even consider giving my heart to anyone else. It was tattered, bruised and broken. For a start, I didn't think anyone else would even want it, let alone that I'd have the ability to still feel anything for someone.
So to experience the kind of happiness and security that being in a relationship brings has been nothing short of breath-taking. I don't mean security as in financial or in a safety sense. But the security that comes when someone really sees you, in all your vulnerability, and doesn't run away. This man has slowly and steadily helped me bring down the walls I've built to protect myself and rather than been repelled by what he's found within, he's instead helped me believe that there is still value and beauty in what I have to offer someone.
It's been wonderful but also pretty scary. The relationship is still blossoming and growing but I'm excited about what is happened and the direction we're heading in. And this is where the fear creeps in.
As with any new relationship, we've been exploring each other's dreams and hopes for the future. Despite feeling like this really could be something special and long-term, I realised that when I talk about my future, I still find it hard to assume I may not be alone. The concept of relying on someone, or expecting to grow old with someone, sends me into a cold sweat.
It's not a notion that comes easy to a widow. We know all too well that nothing is a given and our whole word can be taken from us in a split second. The last time I fell in love and felt like my life was sorted out and I'd never have to be alone or make a big decision by myself, it was all taken from me in a really tragic and horrible way (only six weeks after saying 'I do').Therefore I am so reluctant to let myself ease into a place of thinking I could have that all again. I know how great that risk is and the incredible pain of having it all taken away.
During the past week it crept up on me, this fear. We were hanging out at my house, enjoying a nice evening together, when I got this overwhelming feeling that I needed to run. Or cry. Or both. It was like a siren started going off in my head and I felt the panic rising. Luckily I was able to stop and take stock and realised what was going on.
I'd found this wonderful man - who is making me really happy; who makes me laugh and smile and gives me butterflies when I think about him; who treats me like a queen; who I respect and admire and find inspirational; who is the kind of guy I really believe Dan would have liked and been friends with. This man that I didn't want to lose. So what was I doing?!
I didn't want to push him away. I didn't wan't to run. I knew I'd regret it so I had only one option. I had to tell him what was happening inside my head and hope that he didn't find the mess too confronting.
So I did. I sat down and told him what was going on and that I was really, really scared. He held me while I cried and we talked it out. He was patient and sensitive and open in a way that made me care about him even more. He made it ok and my panic passed. But I know I have to keep working against the fear.
Love is precious. No one knows that more than a widow. But I'm yet to find anyone who would be willing to forgo the love they shared with their partner even if it had of saved them the agony that came with losing them.
I want to love again and I know that might mean I could lose again. But what choice is there? Life is short and I will not spend the rest of mine waiting on the shore, too scared to cross another ocean, in case of stormy waters.