This month, I heard an inspiring story about a woman who lost her husband to illness, yet managed to continue on with her life and find new love and happiness. Because I know so many people who are either widowed, divorced, or on their way to a break-up—and feel their prospects for happiness are bleak—I wanted to share her story as an inspiration to others. Her name is Barbara White, and what follows is my interview with her. But first, I’ll let Barbara tell you a bit about her emotional odyssey:
My late husband Rich and I were happily married for 23 years. In 1982, we met at work, became friends, went on a date and got married six weeks later! We just knew it was right for us despite the 21-year age difference. I was 22 and he was 43. Our marriage was a great one, however, it was shadowed by a myriad of health issues for Rich. He had a heart attack in 1991 and was hospitalized thirteen times in that first year alone. He was subject to many angina attacks over the years. So, despite the doctors, hospitals and numerous tests, we always kept our sense of humor front and center. It’s how we dealt with everything. Ironically, in 2002, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, cirrhosis and liver cancer. It was a terminal diagnosis, but we were given a 2-3 year timeframe. We were blessed with having another two years with quality before he started to deteriorate, and then six months later he was gone. We made every single day count when we got the news and considered ourselves very fortunate to deal with all of it together. Rich passed away eight years ago.
Q: Welcome to In Search of Happy Ending, Barbara! Your story starts out as a sad one, but ultimately ends well. Did you have hopes that it would?
A: Thank you and yes I did. Because of our age difference, there was always a good chance that Rich would go before me and we talked about a lot of things on a deep level over 23 years. We were and always will be soul mates. When he was diagnosed, his worries shifted from himself to me, and he wanted to make sure that I understood how important it was for him to know that I would go on with my life after he was gone. He made me promise that I wouldn’t sit around and mourn, and that I would find someone else. I made that promise to him and am proud to say that I kept it.
Q: What helped get you through the mourning period?
A: This may sound strange but I always felt that Rich and I both mourned together while he was still here. We cried together, we shared our fears and concerns, and when we felt sad, we consoled each other. One of his fears was dying in a hospital, so I promised not to let that happen. I’m happy to say that he was at home, in our bed, surrounded by his family and lots of love when he passed. Knowing I honored his wishes made getting through the days/weeks after his passing so much easier for me.
Q: Did you have a support system? If so, how did they help?
A: One thing I have always done my whole life is work hard, giving 110% of myself. My work always kept me busy, which was a really great thing when Rich was sick. Aside from working, having great, close friends and family around was a godsend.
Q: How soon after your husband’s passing did you get yourself out the door and dating?
A: I think it was about nine months or so when I decided I needed to get out there. Mostly because I was bored being alone, but also to see what was happening in the dating world. After all, I hadn’t been on a date in 23 years!
Q: How did it feel to be “out there” again? Was it daunting?
A: It was pretty strange to say the least. I went to bars with single co-workers after work on occasion, but I wasn’t into the bar scene. I went to parks with my dogs, spent time in libraries and near the water in tourist areas. I worked so much that I really didn’t have much free time for myself. Plus I really wasn’t looking for a relationship, but to just “date”. I figured that I already had the best and couldn’t get that lucky again.
Q: What did you find were the best ways to meet people?
A: Since my other ideas weren’t working, I decided to try Internet dating. That seemed to be the best route for someone who worked a lot, and it was popular, so, I threw an ad together and hit the send button. Boy, was that an eye-opener! I met a few strange characters, but a couple of nice guys too. At least I had funny stories to share on Monday mornings!
Q: How did you meet the man you are with today?
A: Bruce and I met online. Yahoo used to have a Personals section and that’s where we crossed paths. I’d seen his picture a bunch of times in searches that I performed, but I never did anything. Then one day I got a “hi” message from him, so we started chatting.
Q: Can you share a little bit about why you fell in love with him?
A: Laughter!! Sounds funny I’m sure, but as I stated earlier, I was only looking to date. Whenever Bruce and I were together, he made me laugh so hard. Even during online chats he made me laugh. It was pretty clear that we had the same sense of humor and that was huge. Another big plus for Bruce was that he showed interest in me. He liked hearing about my life and enjoyed hearing stories from my past. He listened to me when I spoke and that showed me he liked me. After a year of dating, we packed up and moved down south together. It’s been six years now.
Q: Do you have any advice for others who may find themselves on their own whether due to death or divorce?
A: I would have to say be confident in yourself. If you’ve survived either, you’re a strong person. When you’re ready to start dating again, just have fun and be yourself. If the right one comes along—great! If not, at least you’re living your life and not sitting around moping. That’s the worst thing you can do. Be happy. Life is too short!
Q: Thanks so much for sharing, Barbara! I’m so happy for you and hope you and Bruce have many, many more years of happiness together!
A: Thank you for having me Bonnie and for your sentiments. None of us know what the future will bring, but I intend to enjoy what Bruce and I have and all of the laughter we share. It truly has been a fun ride so far!
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