Dabbling in dating again

My husband took his own life one year, one month, and 4 days ago.

About 6 weeks ago, I signed up for a couple of dating apps, just to test the waters and see how this stuff worked.

My husband and I met through friends. At a party. Seriously, is that ever anyone’s story anymore? We had friends back then who met online, but then lied about how they met because that was so new and awkward at the time.

But now? Swipe left, swipe right, swipe up, down, and around. And all I have is a picture, plus maybe 1-2 lines.

I’m supposed to date through apps this way? This sucks!

I met someone I did connect with. He wrote way more than 1-2 lines on his profile. (So did I.) I found him very attractive. I think we are not out of each other’s leagues.

We are taking it incredibly slow. We have been in contact for 3 weeks. We talked on the phone once recently. Maybe we’ll talk again. He’s nice and flirty and accomplished and smart. He has a little boy the same age as my little girl.

If this turns into something, cool. If not, that’s OK, too. It will have been a fantastic foray into online dating for a novice.

If I never find someone else to partner with, if I never fall in love ever again, if I never remarry…

If I never remarry, I see my life stretching out in front of me… in such awesome glory. I just started my own business after working to make someone else rich for 15+ years. Maybe I’ll do this new thing for 15 years. If so, that would put me at age 57. Our generation will probably live to about 100. That means I could start a third career at 57 and do that for yet another 15 years. Probably something in art. Selling my own, or opening a gallery.

I could start a non-profit arm of my existing business. I could travel anywhere I wanted to. If my daughter settled in another country or another state, I could visit her there often. I could get a PhD in something frivolous… or something not-frivolous, but that’s not as much fun.

I could go into space.

Hey, don’t laugh! I’m serious! It’s commercially available now, though cost-prohibitive for me at a quarter of a million. But it won’t always be cost-prohibitive, either because I’ll make the money or the costs will come down in the next generation – a combination of both, even better. I want to feel weightlessness and see the earth from beyond its atmosphere.

So no sweat. This guy seems nice. But if it goes anywhere, he’s going to have to make room – a lot of room, maybe! – for me.

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Gift-giving: thoughtful but inconsiderate

The holiday season was interesting. It was the first without my husband, so of course, there was emotional baggage that needed to be unpacked, sorted, and put away to some degree. But the most fascinating thing I learned about this past holiday season was about the gift-giving.

I’ll admit, I was looking forward to the gift-giving! This was my young daughter’s first Christmas without her dad, and I wanted to make it special! I was looking forward to my friends and family helping me take care of her during a potentially trying time of year.

Instead, it was… well, not what I expected.

People are so wrapped up in their own lives, I realize. People are struggling with how to take care of themselves, so they have limited capacity to take care of others. This makes me a little sad. But it also confuses me: when people are presented with simplicity, they actively choose a harder route. I can’t figure this out.

My kid is really into games and space exploration and monster trucks right now. She prefers her National Geographic book about the solar system over a storybook for bedtime reading. I put together an Amazon wish list of gift ideas for her, and sent it out to friends and family.

All those friends and family were so very generous this past Christmas! Yet only one person bought something off the list. My kid got a TON of Christmas gifts, but only a few she actually enjoyed. I felt a little badly for her. To her credit, my daughter got over the disappointment at unwrapping dolls, and quickly pivoted to playing enthusiastically with the few gifts she liked. She was perfectly fine with my donating all the rest to charity.

All those friends and family were so very thoughtful – their gifts showed they loved and cared for my daughter tremendously. The gifts just weren’t very considerate. The gifts were obviously what THEY wanted her to have and enjoy, what THEY wanted to give, what THEY envisioned her playing with, despite evidence (and explicit direction) to the contrary.

One family member always waits until the last minute to Christmas shop, even though he got the list weeks prior. Why not just do a few mouse clicks to ensure my kid loves what she gets? No… instead there were a lot of text messages with photos of toys at the store in the days leading up to Christmas. “What about this?” I reply no. “What about this instead?” I reply no. “How about this?” I say, oh, she would love that! And then later, another text, “What about this instead?”

What the holy hell! Why are you making your life HARDER right now? I already said YES. Just buy and GO!

In that case, my daughter didn’t actually get a gift from him in time for Christmas. She got it about a week later. Something I approved of, that I knew she would enjoy. And it was something she is playing with LIKE CRAZY.

In another case, a very close friend and “auntie” got the list but made an excuse about not buying off the list, even though she said she LOVED the gifts on the list and would have loved to get one of those for her.

And you bought her something else not even remotely related to anything on the list because … why?


My thoughtful (and considerate!) daughter brought me tears by asking what I wanted for Christmas. Do you know that not one other person asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Not one. Not the family member who insists that she loves me and wants to know me better. Not the friends who insisted they would be there for me no matter what. Instead I got extremely thoughtful gifts that didn’t really serve me or help me.

I just wanted someone to get my car washed and detailed. There are a lot of crumbs I can’t get to from the kiddo eating crackers on long car rides, spiders in the side view mirrors constantly building webs even though I clean them off, and I can’t get the windshield truly streak-free. I was so prepared to provide that answer to the question of what I wanted for Christmas… until I realized I never got the question.


Eh. No time for a pity party. Thoughtful yet inconsiderate gifts don’t make or break anything. We love those friends and family as much as they love us – with abundance and abandon. But I learned an important distinction in gift giving that I hope to take forward into my own practices, and a little something to teach my daughter as well.

My daughter’s process

My charming, delightful 4 year old is processing her father’s death in very normal and healthy ways. I think.

Mama, will we get a new Dada? Can’t you just buy one?

No, honey. That’s illegal.

But who’s going to shave and make popcorn?

I can do those things, kiddo! But yeah, Dada was the BEST shaver and popcorn maker ever, huh?

I follow you around the house because I don’t want you to die and suddenly I’m in a house of ghosts.

Ghosts can be cool, so if you see one, let me know because I’d like to meet it. But you can certainly follow me around anytime. You’re my mini-me!

I’m sad because Dada’s spirit hasn’t visited me yet, like Moana’s grandma visited her.

Sometimes their visits are just a feeling. Does anything remind you of Dada? Guess what – he’s there when you think of him. It’s MAGIC!

Mama I’m afraid of the dark because of ghosts and monsters. But I can defeat the monsters. Will you take care of any ghosts?

I’ve got your back, kiddo.

Kids are so cool.

Conditional support

One thing I’m learning in the aftermath of my husband’s death and navigating this new life of single motherhood is that friends’ and family members’ grand declarations of, “I’m there for you,” is TOTALLY conditional.

I’m there for you…

  • If I don’t already have plans
  • As long as it’s the same way I’ve already been there for you in the past (this is a big one, it turns out)
  • If you pay me to babysit
  • When I suggest/ offer the interaction in question, like dinner out at a restaurant or something starting at 7pm (but I decline when you make the suggestion, like an hour at the park in the afternoon or just hanging out in our backyard)

Each and every one of these conditions has come up for me. It is beyond painful because it expands the feeling of aloneness that I already have because my husband/ partner/ lover/ roommate is dead.

It is embarrassing, too. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help. I have no problem doing it, since you never know unless you ask, and especially after my husband’s death, I needed a lot of help, and I asked all over the damn place. It still doesn’t mean that asking is easy. So when I go to the people who most emphatically told me that they’re here for us, it’s because I really need it. I’m not going to abuse your offer. I’m not asking in the same way your other friend down the street might ask you to check on their cat while you’re on vacation.

Actually, that might be a good reference point. If you would decline someone who asked you to watch their pet, don’t tell me you’re there for me and my kid, whatever I might need. (And especially don’t add at the end, “And I really mean it!”) I would have been 100% fine with, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Leave it at that.

And whatever, I get it. This is really on me. I misinterpreted the offers of support to mean that these people are willing to have their lives disrupted, when that is absolutely NOT the case at all. My bad. The healthy way to look at this is (1) they are perfectly within their rights to do whatever they want, they do not actually have any obligation to me or my daughter, and (2) disappointment and hurt is what I feel, but I can choose to have different thoughts and feelings about these rejections.

BUT. In case it would ever help anyone reconsider what they tell someone after a tragedy, or how they respond to a single mom who just asked you for something, then this post. I’m going to have to work on the other stuff about resetting my expectations and managing my other emotions on my own.

Moving on

This has been a summer of self-discovery, healing, learning, family and friends, and – let’s be honest! – lots and lots of therapy.

And you know what? It has been FANTASTIC! What a fun summer, full of love and making memories. We’ve traveled, we’ve experienced new milestones, we’ve hosted lots and lots of people from out of town at different times, the list goes on. My daughter is thriving, learning about death and spirit, lasting love, and facing fears. I’ve certainly had my incredibly sad moments after my husband’s death, but I cry my cries, and I wake up the next day and live. He’s dead, but I’m alive!

Now, I’m preparing to go back to work. I met with my bosses, CEO and CFO, in order to plan out my priorities and re-entry to the office and our clients. And that night, I cried from 8pm to midnight.

Full. Stop.

What happened there? Turns out that going back to work triggered an emotional windfall about my husband’s death that I hadn’t experienced in 4 months, and that is the concept of moving on. I thought I was moving on all along. I’m ALIVE, remember?

Nope. Moving on is *actually* going back to regular life, a normal routine, basically the opposite of this summer. And that routine will be without the one person I’ve had a routine with for 14 years. Everyone will go back to their lives, and so will we. So I cried for 5 hours.

In my despair, I reached out to him, and you know what? He sent me a lot of soft green bursts with smatterings of pale pink. And as long as my eyes were closed, I could experience the color. I hung onto it as long as a I needed it, standing there alone in my kitchen at midnight, for I knew what those colors signified. And soon, I was able to breathe through the emotion. I am grateful he would expend the energy for a little something to comfort me. It was enough.

And now I must do the hard work of determining what I want this Fall to be like, how I should define our routine as a family of two instead of three. Others who didn’t have the luxury of taking a few months off of work might be forced into dealing with this issue after a loved one has passed sooner that I had to. But it doesn’t matter. I just need to do it now.

Self recrimination > helplessness

I feel guilt sometimes – did I do enough to keep my husband around? Especially in the last 24 hours of his life. I could have called him, reached out to his friends and family more, forced him to communicate more, said all the things I thought of since then.

But then I learned that guilt – a result of feeling that you actually had the power to do something but didn’t – is *easier* than helplessness – a result of knowing that ultimately, you don’t really have the power to guarantee the health, safety, and life of the people you love most. Allowing ourselves to open up to our own helplessness – that scariest of all things – is supposed to help with the grief.

This concept of helplessness is most uncomfortable when I think of my young daughter. That I can do my very best – that I can even do all the very exact, right things – and still harm can come to her despite my best efforts. What a frightening thought.