A widowed millenial’s reflections on love – four years out

“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt.”

In one of my Spanish classes, we had to discuss our views about love: what it means, what is most important, what is permissible in a relationship etc.   The majority of my classmates are Generation Z and most of them, together with our teacher, said that they don’t believe in love.  

Tinder, Bumble etc have a lot to answer for it would seem… and I feel like an ancient Granny writing that hahaha.

However, what that discussion made me realise is that even after surviving my husband’s suicide, I still believe in love with all of my heart.  I am not bitter about love and I never will be.  Loving Karl did not hurt me, losing Karl hurt me.

Losing the person, I loved best and who loved me more than anyone in the world hurt me more than words will ever be able to express.  But it hurt so much BECAUSE of how much I loved him and how much I was loved by him.

Sometimes a pictures says more than a thousand words. I adored him.

I still remember that at Karl’s funeral I had friends and relatives come up to me and tell me that I was lucky to have experienced a love like that and that some people don’t get to experience a love like that their whole lives.  I remember trying my best to be polite but screaming inside. 

As if being told that would make me feel better, that I had an amazing love but I had lost it so young and I would have to live the rest of my life without it.  I couldn’t even process that and it is fair to say that it was hard to feel lucky on the day of my 31-year-old husband’s funeral.

But four years later, I look back and realise that they were right and that I was lucky to find a love like that.   An exceptional love.  It is still the only love I have ever known. 

Bursting with pride (and clearly very tired) on the day Karl became a doctor.

I was with Karl for nearly 12 years – more than a third of my life and he adored me and I felt that.  I never ever questioned whether he loved me until the day that he died.  Karl and I were best friends, that was the foundation of everything.  I genuinely was so happy to come from work every day and see him – even after more than 10 years of being with him. He was funny and smiley and kind and I loved talking to him because he was also smart and interesting.  I felt like that my capacity to love him was infinite and I would just keep loving him more and more every day and every year that passed.  I told him that many times.

I genuinely think I got lost in the moment and properly kissed Karl and the photographer captured that.

I stayed “in love” with a dead person for 2.5 years after Karl died.  Being “in love” with a dead person is a horrendous thing, in my opinion.  You still have intense feelings for the person but those feelings are not returned so it is a species of unrequited love but more toxic because the feelings are stronger because you know that those feelings, that you still have, were reciprocated by the dead person (so it isn’t just some fantasy in your own mind).

I stayed in love with Karl much longer than I wanted to.  I tried to force myself to fall out of love with him by telling myself I was over it and dating new guys but I was not remotely in the right place to be doing that.  Initially, every time I even kissed a new guy, I would feel such extreme guilt afterwards… as if I had just been cheating on my husband.  It took me a long time to stop feeling that.

It says a lot, that out of the guys I dated at that time, the one I felt most chemistry with, was so similar to Karl in his attributes that when he asked me to be his girlfriend, on our first date, on the basis that “he felt like he had known me all his life” I genuinely felt that maybe reincarnation was a real thing after all and maybe this guy was Karl come back for me… Oh dear…

Surprisingly enough, that little romance was short lived.

It wasn’t until September 2019 that I realised that I wasn’t in love with Karl any longer.  That I didn’t think of him 24/7 every single day.   To be honest, I felt nothing but relief when I realised that.  Being “in love” with a dead person felt awful to me.  It is an inevitable side effect of loving someone intensely when they are alive and losing them suddenly.  But is entirely incompatible with moving forward.  At least for me.  I am someone who puts 100% into everything and I love with all my heart so staying in love with Karl was keeping me in the grave with him.

Karl will always be the first person I loved and he will always be the person who owns all of my firsts. But I don’t expect him to be the only one.  At least I hope not.  He is the person who showed me how to love someone, how to be in a relationship.  I will ALWAYS be grateful for the way he loved me.  I know what it is to be adored and to never ever question whether the person you are with loves you. 

As a consequence, I will never be able to settle for a relationship or a marriage that is average or mediocre.  I know what it is to have something exceptional and I don’t want anything less than that.  I know he would want that for me too.

It is really hard being a young widow.  We are still so rare that society’s expectations of us are still really messed up.  We live in a society where it is entirely acceptable to throw divorce parties but if a widow dates within the first year she gets judged.  I had multiple people ask me if, given how much I loved Karl, I was now going to be single all of my life…  that they would understand if that was my decision…

I am a millennial so that would be a really long time to be single…

In fact, Karl and I randomly had a conversation about this about a year before he died and I told him that: I was sorry but if he died, I would remarry because I didn’t want to be on my own forever.  I’m a sociable extrovert who hates being on my own, so I like to hope that being Miss Haversham: sitting alone in my wedding dress (well I have three so I could rotate them) when I am 60 years old is not my destiny…

2 thoughts on “A widowed millenial’s reflections on love – four years out

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve been experiencing. I knew Karl (I was the year below him at medical school) and met you a few times. You were so bubbly and confident – sociable extrovert seems about right. Reading through your posts has given me so much to reflect on. Despite some incredibly difficult life events, you’ve found the inner resolve to nurture a growth mindset and are trying to focus on future love and opportunities whilst dealing with the added challenges of being a young widow in today’s society. I have so much respect for you. My thoughts are with you.

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    1. Apologies for the delay in responding Dr Crunch. It means so much to me to hear from people who actually knew Karl… and therefore can appreciate how astonishing his suicide was. I have been trying to work out who you could be 🙂 ! Thank you so much for the comment and the kind words.

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