7 years after the death of her beloved husband my friend D was ready. She gave herself a mission. She wanted to kiss a man. So, she assembled her gal pals for moral support (missions like these take tremendous courage) and to help her reconnect with her feminine power. Armed with red lipstick and an open heart her mission was a success. She kissed a man. And that kiss held the promise that it would be possible to love again. It held the reassurance that she deserved to love again. And the surprising truth that love had always been right there, within her reach the whole time, waiting patiently for her to take the first step.
Learning to love again after a loss is a tricky thing. It takes courage to be vulnerable and open your heart. Often, we feel guilty – as if finding someone new diminishes our relationship with (or love for) the person we lost. Nothing could be further from the truth. And there’s fear, of course, whispering, “what if you get hurt again?” After all, nothing in life is guaranteed.
We also have to contend with the reactions and judgements of friends and family. If you wait too long people begin to worry about you. They start to play matchmaker. They cite studies on the effects of loneliness.
Find love again too quickly though, and people will criticize. They’ll question your devotion to the deceased. They’ll wonder if you’re somehow replacing the one you lost. Attempting to fill that uncomfortable void in your life with someone new instead of taking the time they believe is required to heal.
So, it becomes this delicate balancing act. Not too soon. But not too long. Walking a line you didn’t create.
Here’s the thing…
We all grieve and heal at our own pace. Grief is as individual and unique as the relationship that was lost.
No one gets to tell you when you should love again – it’s your choice. Only you know when you’re ready.
Which brings me to my friend H, whose wife died suddenly. He remarried soon after. People gave him a lot of flack for that. They decided it was too soon. They decided he wasn’t living up to their expectations of honouring his wife’s memory. But H chose to follow his heart. He admitted that he didn’t expect to find love again so quickly either but once love showed up – it was wonderful. And it felt absurd to ignore that.
My friends both deeply loved their spouses. And they both found the courage to love again. They said goodbye to the guilt, walked through the “what ifs” and fears and chose to open their hearts anyway. And each did it in their own unique time.
I love what Elizabeth Gilbert said on social media when she announced her new love after the death of her wife, Rayya.
“I will always share anything personal about my life if it could help someone else feel more normal about their life. SO…if you have lost a loved one to death, and you thought you’d never love again, but you’re feeling a pull of attraction toward someone new, and you’re not sure if that’s OK? Let me normalize it for you. Let me say: It’s OK. Your heart is a giant cathedral. Let it open. Let it love. Do not let your beautiful loyalty to the deceased stop you from experiencing the marvels and terrors of your short, mortal, precious life. It’s OK to live and to love…Love who you love. It’s all OK and it’s all impossible to control and it’s all an adventure that I will not miss.”
Heart Opening Exercises
If you’re still wading through your fear and guilt and grief but you’d like your heart to feel open again, to begin moving forward, as Liz Gilbert says, “to live and to love” and not miss your next adventure I have a few tools you can begin to use today.
Follow this link to find 13 yoga poses that will help you open your chest. My personal faves are the cobra, upward facing dog, sphinx, and fish pose.
• Sit comfortably, spine tall, shoulders back so your chest is open, and begin by noticing your natural breath.
• Notice how the air feels crossing your nostrils. How your chest moves and how your ribs expand and receive with each breath..
• Now notice how many beats/seconds your breath naturally cycles at (i.e. 3 beats in, 3 beats out).
• Try and deepen both the inhalation and the exhalation by one beat. So if you were at 3, lengthen it to 4. Try and get the breath down into the belly, then up into the shoulders. Keep repeating this by adding a beat until you’re 8 beats in and 8 beats out (or whatever number works for you where you feel you have a FULL inhalation and exhalation.)
• Repeat these deep breaths for a few rounds, and when you’ve got the rhythm, bring your attention to your chest. Visualize the colour green swirling and expanding across your chest and around your heart. Breathe deeply with this green visual knowing it’s a healing colour for your heart. Compassionately look for any heaviness in your heart and on the exhale you can release it powerfully through your mouth. Inhale green healing light, and exhale the darkness out the mouth. Once you feel you’ve cleared your chest, return to your normal breathing.
How do you feel after doing that? Are you calmer? Clearer? Lighter? More grounded? Or perhaps you don’t feel different at all? There’s no right answer – just take note. Make a point of doing deep breaths every day and notice how you feel each time.
Do Death Differently
Module 4 of my Do Death Differently course is dedicated to the heart. Opening it. Healing it. Allowing love back into your life. It’s full of compassionate coaching guidance, journaling prompts and more breathing exercises. And it’s just one part of the bigger journey towards healing your grief.
You can read more about Do Death Differently and start the course today right here.
Remember: “Your heart is a giant cathedral. Let it open. Let it love.” And do it all at your own damn pace.
PS Want more stories about how people discovered love after loss? Read this.