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By Valeria Tipton

When you get married it’s because you have met the man you feel is supposed to be your last first kiss, but what happens when he is not? What happens when your plans change?

My husband’s death came as an unexpected blow to “my plans”. At first, I didn’t think I’d ever want to move on, but time changes things and with time came interest in the possibility of someone else. The problem is how do I grieve my husband and like someone else? How can I consider my next first kiss when my husband was supposed to be my last?

Suddenly I feel pulled in two directions. One part of me is excited for the possibility of someone to love me and my son. We miss having someone who wakes up with us on his mind. We miss having that male role in our home. We miss having someone who makes us smile and laugh, especially considering we’ve cried a whole lot.

But then there is the part of me that feels like a cheater. I know it’s been 16 months. I know he is not coming back. I know I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of someone else while he was alive. I know he would want me to move on. Regardless of all I know, I still feel like I’m unfaithful even just to a memory.

How do I move on when I know my husband doesn’t? Does his memory fade more if I’m no longer Rick’s wife but also ______’s girlfriend? Am I allowed to still talk about him, still mourn him, still wish he was here if I am dating someone else?

What if it becomes serious? Is there a man that exists that can be fully devoted to my son but still recognize he is not his only father? Is there a man willing to have another man’s name discussed around the table as friends and family continue to share my husband’s memory? Is there a man confident enough in who he is and our love without becoming jealous that I will always love someone else?

Here is the truth. I never want to forget I was Rick’s wife. I never want Zander to forget his dad. But more and more I am recognizing that our lives didn’t stop when his did. So now we are tasked with moving on, but I am compelled to take my husband’s memory on with us. Trying to figure out how moving on but not forgetting work together is a hard line. One I am not sure I am skilled enough to walk. There are days I am totally overwhelmed trying to walk this line that feels like a tight rope especially given there is no net and I’ve never done it before.

I am confident of two things. Whoever gets me and Z (if anyone does) is getting something special. I say that not with arrogance or boasting. I say it with assurance. We have loved hard and lost big and with a loss that great comes an absolute appreciation for your loved ones and the time you have with them. 

So whoever gets us will be loved big because we know that time is too precious to sweat the small stuff. I actually once thought being a widow would probably be a deterrent to a potential mate especially considering I write all about my feelings and maybe for some it is; however, I now believe that I proved I lived my vows and I love with a sincerity that even death cannot sever.

I also have complete and total confidence in the fact that Rick won’t be forgotten because who I am is forever changed because of the life we lived together. 

He made such an impact on me and instilled values and opinions that I now hold as my own. So in a way, anyone who loves me, will in a small way love him because he made me the me I am today. Nora McInerny said, “We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it.” So I won’t move on from Rick, I’ll move on with him in my heart which is where he has been from the day we met and where he will stay forever.

I hate that Rick isn’t my last first kiss. I hate that we lived the vows till death, but that it came to an end way too soon. 

What I love though is that while he may not be my last first kiss, he taught me how to love deeply and in a dating world that is hard to navigate he taught me to know my worth and wait for someone who knows it too. 

He taught me that relationships take work and sometimes you want to quit but things that are really valuable are worth the effort. He taught me to be better and bring the best parts of myself to any relationship and always find the best parts of my partner. I am lucky for the years we had and I am blessed to carry the lessons from my past into the future. Whether that future will include someone new or not, only God knows at this point.

What I do know is I have been blessed to love and be loved. I will approach the rest of my life with the intent to always love big with the knowledge that maybe one of my next first kisses could be the one that is my last.

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