He kissed me softly and as he did, I tried to quiet my mind and stop the noise. I tried to live in the moment and embrace this new page in my story without expectation and without concern for what it meant to my past and for my present. I tried to enjoy that split second and linger in the comfort it provided.

I failed miserably at my attempt.

My mind raced with every emotion under the sun from guilt to extreme sadness to profound joy and even longing. I longed for more kissing and feared the next moment more than the last. I remember telling myself to stop, to just enjoy this moment, to take my lessons of grief and apply them to my new life. He must have sensed my internal struggle as he backed away and changed his approach from kissing to a tender hug. We sat by the fire and talked a little longer, shared a few more new kisses, and then like a gentlemen he walked me to my car. We said goodnight and for the first time in a very long time, I felt warmth inside and an ever-so-slight excitement that a new chapter may be possible in this lifetime. Nobody could ever replace my Mitch for me and that’s okay. He was not Mitch, he was his own person, and we potentially had our own story to write.

I think for me personally the idea of dating was difficult because I found it exhausting to think about writing a new set of chapters with someone else. Mitch and I had so much history, such a deep friendship, and so many years to know each other’s emotions, sense each other’s feelings, and learn to read each other’s minds. How would I have the energy or the desire to build all that again? How could I risk putting myself out there to be hurt? How would I trust? How would I feel safe? How would I let down my guard?

As I sat deep in thought my phone text notification went off and I looked down to see his words: “Michelle, you are an incredibly beautiful and special woman, I am so happy to have met you.” I realized as I read his words that we had just met and I was putting the cart before the horse, the ending before the beginning, and the history before the moments it took to create it. All I needed to know today, in this very moment, was that I was open to the possibility of being happy again. I was open to the idea of new love and I was open to the idea of living fully post-loss.

I call it *moving forward* because to me it’s not a matter of *moving on*. I know it’s semantics, I know the phrases are similar, but to me they represent such different moods. I will never move on from my loss. It will always be with me and it will always form who I am as a woman, as a mother, and as a person. I will forever love my late husband and I will forever grieve his loss. For me moving FORWARD means I accept all I have been given in this life and I have made the conscious choice to make positive forward steps with the days I have left. These steps for some time had included finding myself as a single woman, a solo mom, and a person of loss. Now these steps may also include a new and interesting twist to my life’s storyline.

We continued to date, we continued to laugh, and I continued to sort through the emotions of a young widowed woman. The rulebook never came to my doorstep, the template for dealing with dating post-loss never arrived, and I stumbled through encounters unsure of my footing and often ready to fall in a less-than-graceful manner. I walked the parallel universe between a life I had to leave behind and a life I was not sure I was ready to lead. I had to let go of all the factors, fears and emotions beyond my control.

We seemed to click; we seemed to mesh date after date. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. We seemed to find a common ground from different backgrounds and we seemed to want to be on this road together. It all seemed careless, innocent and fun until I found myself caring what came next. That’s when the real work began and that’s when he asked me to go away with him for the weekend.