What’s a lonely widower to do?

Sometimes I think I need a girlfriend; not a new wife, just a companion, a friend with whom to share the lonely hours. At other times, I think that would be disloyal. It would suggest that someone could replace my late wife. I don’t want to convey the wrong impression, yet I don’t want to remain alone.

Such is the dilemma faced by those who lose a spouse. In a way, I welcome the grief. It provides a connection, an expression of love too late that makes up for the times that opportunity was overlooked. I now know how fragile and brief life is and regret the times I could have done more to strengthen our relationship. It was good, but it could have been better had I made the effort.

That regret, mixed with loss and the joy of times remembered, are grief’s components. Sometimes I actually enjoy the grieving process as I reflect on how fortunate I have been. Can I live a lonely life to preserve the bond we shared? Should I risk diluting that bond by turning to someone else for companionship? Can I preserve the one, yet have the other? What would my children and grandchildren think if I showed up with another woman? Those are the questions I ask myself.

How would I adjust to another woman’s peculiarities and how would she adjust to mine? I am stuck in my ways and long out of practice of adjusting my routine. Having been married so long, I am afraid of the new accommodations involved in a relationship. And just what does a relationship entail in this day and age? Where does one look? And is it worth the effort?

Women tend to be much more independent after the loss of a spouse. They get along better without us than we without them. That’s why most men think they should die first. They know their wives have better survival skills. My father lived a lonely life in the years after my mother died. I so wished he had found a companion.

A companion does not replace a deceased spouse. Nobody does. But she can fill that basic need for sharing time, thoughts, hopes, and fears that is so much a part of human nature. Some can be alone without being lonely, but others cannot. Most crave attachments of various kinds that provide happiness, meaning, and fulfillment.

At this stage of life, how does one establish a relationship? Time is running out. Do you simply go on in the hope that someone will pop up? Or do you actively engage in trying to identify a suitable companion? Dating services may work, but they’re not for me. Nor is hanging out at a local cocktail lounge. So, I guess I’ll just wait to see who, if anyone, comes along. Probably not the most efficient way, but more dignified.

If it’s meant to be, it will happen; otherwise I will adjust to being just another lonely widower. I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the years and, by and large, am content with who I am. I like myself enough to remain alone so long as I have the joy of my family and books and memories to fill my lonely hours. I would prefer the right girlfriend. But if not, I can handle it.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.