There is a question that I hear asked within the widowed community, over and over again, time after time, on an endless loop. Widowed people, for whatever reason, seem to like asking one another this question, and seem to enjoy dissecting the meaning of the various answers to the question, when asking another fellow widowed person. The question that is posed, is usually some version of the following:
“If you had to choose between the life you have now, and the life you had with your husband/wife/partner who died, which would you choose? If your person could come back right this minute, but in return, you would have to give up every person and every thing that you have met and know since after their death – would you do it? Would you turn back the clock and choose to have them back – but knowing you would also go back to being that person you were before they died? What would you choose?”
Now, let me first say that I get it. I understand the need that some may have to dissect and answer and discuss this question. I also understand that, for some people, the answer to that question is not only complex, but heartbreaking and very difficult, emotionally. People that have perhaps found love once again after the death of their person, or people who have grown and learned and become something much different than what they were in the days where death didn’t shape everything – those people must struggle with this question in their hearts. Really. I do understand the reason that some people feel the need to ponder this question.
At the same time, I have never felt this same need. And while I understand the emotions and the complexity to this kind of question, for me, there is only one response. My response is this: I would choose my husband, and that life, in a billion ways, endless times, forever and ever, until eternity. Even if my current life was filled with bliss and joy. Even if my current life had found new and amazing love. Even if my current life was being lived with a level of elation that I couldn’t even have imagined. Even if all that were true, I would still choose him. I would still choose us.
In my comedic presentation at Camp Widow, I often tell my widowed audience: “I love each and every one of you people, but I’d throw you all away in a flat second if I could have my husband back.” It always gets a laugh, and lots of understanding nods. As much as I could ever love this life and those I have met in it, it will never be the life I had – the life I knew, that was taken away. I will forever wonder what that life could have been, and so, I will forever long to have it back.
That being said, this is the life I have now. Nobody can change that. Believe me, I wish they could. I wish that for myself, and for all my beautiful widowed friends. I wish all the time for them, that I could bring their partners back. I wish I could bring Don back. But I can’t. Nobody can. It will never happen. Not ever. So, this is the life I have. It will never be the one I wanted, but it’s the one I have.
So, for me, the question of which life would you choose feels like a pointless one. It feels like some form of weird torture, to ask yourself such things, when you know as well as I do, that those things can never happen. The question is an invalid one, because it is not based in any reality. That person is no longer here, and they never will be again. They live inside us, they live on in who we are and who we become and what legacy we make of this life, but they will never physically be here again – and we will never get to know what that life is. So why on earth would I want to sit around asking myself which life I would choose? It’s a fairy-tale question. It’s not real. That choice doesn’t exist, and it never will exist. At no point in your life, going forward, will someone ever ask you to make that choice. Because you can’t. It’s not possible.
So, whatever your personal answer is to that question, try not to let it bother you too much. I know widowed people who feel so guilty because they are happy again, or they wonder if their new partner feels like perhaps they can never “compare” to the one who died. Truth is, they WON’T ever compare, because they are not that person. They are their own person. The love you had and have for that person who died, will always be the most special and beautiful and wondrous thing that it is. And this new love will never be that person, but why would you want them to be? The new love you feel and have will also be it’s own thing, and it will be special and beautiful in all the ways that it flourishes and grows. At the same time, I know many other widowed people who just want nothing more than to have that other life back again. And they feel like maybe they haven’t coped well enough, or they beat themselves up because they have struggled so much, and haven’t yet found a way to embrace or even accept this current life they have now. To them, I say, you will get there. Or, you will get to a place that you cannot currently see, today. It takes as long as it takes, and there is nothing wrong with you. And lastly, I know many widowed people who float somewhere in between the two worlds, never quite knowing which to embrace – or just feeling lost.
Well, guess what? I have good news for you. You don’t have to decide. You never have to choose between this life and that one. Because you can’t. You had a life and a love with someone, and that person died. It’s completely unfair. It’s literally the worst thing ever, and it sucks and it hurts more than anything has ever or will hurt again. But it is what happened. That life is now gone, because they are not here. That love is NEVER gone, because love lives on, and we carry it forward into all that we are. So don’t waste time worrying about a choice that was never really a choice. There is no choice in this. You had that life, now you have this one. The only choice to be made here is this:
How will I choose to live THIS life, the one I have now?
For some, it could take a decade or so to be able to figure out their answer to that question.
But in the end, it really is the only question that is valid, and that makes logical sense.
For me, I almost look at it as two seperate lives, or entities. There was the life I had with my husband, and there is life now. As I said above, I would do anything on earth to have that life back and to have him back again, but that’s never going to happen. So, all I can do is live this life as brightly as possible, and in a way that he would be proud of, and happy for me. All I can do, is keep letting good people into my world, and hold them tightly, as I believe they are gifts from my husband. All I can do is keep finding ways to love and connect and grow, which is what life is all about, really.
And while I cannot ever have my husband back, what I can do is make the choice to live the life that he never had the choice to experience. I can accept the love and the gifts that he is sending me, and try to create something beautiful. I can know, deep in my soul, that love grows from love. I can know without question, that should I be in love again, it is a way to honor our forever love, because that love is the very foundation that all new love stands on. I can know, that while that life we had and the life I have now, are two individual things – they will always find gorgeous and meaningful ways to merge.
And in all of those profound ways, the life we had, is not, in fact, dead.
It is re-born, over and over and over again.