It was not in my plan or my dreams to ever be dating again.
Ten years ago, I was committed to my marriage and to creating a family. I never imagined that in my early 40s I would be dating as a widow with two young children under five years of age.
How does that work?
I learnt that for it to work, I needed to show up to each date with courage and an open heart. Then I learnt that for our relationship to grow, I had to be willing to be vulnerable and to trust. Thank goodness my boyfriend is patient.
I lost my husband to brain cancer. In the first few years after he died, I had opportunities to date but I knew I was not ready. My priorities were caring for my children, being present for grief, and reconnecting with myself.
After three years of healing, I felt ready to laugh and play again. I was ready to date.
I reached out to an attractive acquaintance who I knew from the beach and suggested that we meet up for a coffee. We instantly clicked and established that there were lots of fun things that we enjoyed doing together. We kayaked, surfed, dined, and enjoyed nights at the theatre. Our dates were wonderful, light relief, full of laughter and joy—a welcome contrast to being a widow, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, and bereaved friend.
Over time, my boyfriend became frustrated. He was keen to learn more about me, yet I was reluctant to let him see the grief and related emotions that I was feeling day to day. Did he really want to know? Wouldn’t he prefer light-hearted company? When he visited my home, I tried to hide the clutter that had built up from the busyness of parenting, the chaos of caring, and the inertia of grief.
I felt shaken and stirred up. I knew that for clarity and insight, I needed to write. It would help me to explore my emotions and understand my actions. As I journaled, I realised that showing and sharing my home with my boyfriend was a metaphorical mirror to many aspects of our relationship. It was time to allow more chinks in the armour protecting my heart.
This poem came to be:
Please Don’t Open my Cupboard Doors
Come into my home. Hug me. Hold me. Kiss Me.
Have a cup of tea.
Yes, these are my pictures and my trinkets,
hints of my passions and my past.
Those photos—my late husband—I will tell you about.
Not today, maybe tomorrow.
Please don’t open that cupboard and look inside.
Or behind that desk.
Or in that drawer!
Please, not yet.
But you glance in through a door.
You see disarray.
Every cupboard, every shelf holds fragments
of broken dreams, signs of grief,
mementos from times past,
stories and moments
chaotically crammed away
to be hidden from sight.
I try to explain.
“I have no energy.
Well, no energy to clear through that.”
“I’m focusing on living. Look away. Let’s play.”
So you are patient. You wait.
You watch me grieve.
You watch me heal.
As I heal, and as we play,
I slowly open my heart to your love.
One day, I share stories of each framed photo—
our family braving cancer.
I laugh and I cry.
You hug me.
You listen. You try to understand.
I say, “I loved and I lost. I am okay.”
You look at my cupboards
and see that they are emptier,
but each one is still laden
with crumpled bits and pieces.
“Are you sure there is room for me in your heart?”
”Are you ready to make space?”
“Are you ready to grow?”
I sigh as I survey my home.
A sense of knowing drifts through me.
It is time.
I am no longer just a young widow scrambling to hold on.
My soul is starting to shine.
My mind is buzzing with possibilities and dreams.
Liberation and excitement slowly starts to pulse through every cell.
“Can you help me?” I ask. “As you can see, there is a lot to declutter.”
“Yes,” you say. “Let’s start right here. Right now.”
With a flourish and a laugh, I throw open a cupboard door.
Boxes, clothes, and bric-a-brac tumble to the floor.
I am ready.
Author: Clare Smart
Editor: Nicole Cameron