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Our Story Begins: And Where Do We Go From Here?



I am going to both vent some frustration and ask for your advice this week.  My hope is actually twofold: that you’ll have some insight that I can either absorb or perhaps a philosophical answer or two I can dwell on; and I hope to educate you a little so that the next time you deal with someone like me – someone who hasn’t just suffered a loss but suffered the loss of their partner – the person who matters most and is truly half of a whole.

You see, even just a couple weeks after my wife, Andrea, passed away, there was a contingent of people – let’s call them the “Sleepless in Seattlers” – who were insistent, nay, obsessed with telling me that I will date again, find someone else and find happiness and love again.  Two phrases are consistently uttered by the “Seattlers”: “Those who have loved and lost are twice as likely to find love again,” and my personal favorite, just mere weeks after saying goodbye to my wife: “Andrea would want you to!”

(First, if you ever met Andrea and knew her, really knew her, I’m not sure the “she’d want you to” idea is a good one.  Prepare to be haunted, severely, snowy TV, head twisting around haunted. Just saying.)

The problem with all this is the fact that they’re not trying to make me feel better, they’re trying to make themselves feel better by making me fit into a box. It’s funny, because some of the best lines in that movie really do speak, in utter perfection, the way I felt then and still feel now (though not quite as brutally).  In one of the opening scenes, a colleague tries to get Tom Hanks to go visit his therapist and Hanks picks up his jacket and pulls out a literal stack of cards: love again, partners without partners, love yourself, hug yourself . . . he ends the scene with the line “don’t mind him, he’s just the guy who lost his wife!” While this may feel a bit harsh to you, you have no idea how absolutely true the statement is.  It became very clear to me that people were obsessed with trying to get me to move on, mere weeks after losing the love of my life.


Because THEY’RE uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to act and as a result they try to get you back to being what you were, to get you to be what they say is normal.  Again, though, to quote the movie, “it’s OK, I’ll just grow a new heart  . . . I’m sorry, but lightning just doesn’t strike twice.”

Do I believe that?  Do I think that? I really don’t know. I mean it, I don’t know. You see, as much as the movie gets SO much of the experience right, it still tells the world that Tom Hanks has to get “back in the saddle” and move on with his life.  His son thinks he needs a new wife, the world tells him he has to move on, so he does.  He meets Meg Ryan on top of the Empire State Building, they hold hands, it’s magic . . . and the story ends. It doesn’t address what happens next, it’s left to your imagination.  They don’t think about what happens after they leave that building.  Does Meg Ryan leave her job at the freaking Baltimore Sun to move to Seattle?  What if the Post Intelligencer didn’t have an opening?  What about all those pictures on the wall of the Jonah and his mother?  What about the fact that Meg Ryan’s character doesn’t have any kids of her own?  Maybe she wants them, how do they handle that?

Don’t take this as a hate-fest of Norah Ephron.  This movie, of all things, was Andrea’s absolute favorite.  She loved the whole love-at-first sight thing, and while on first look we didn’t fall in love with each other, we started dating and were engaged a mere couple months later.  I was amazed by her at first sight just not confident enough to ask her out.  When I finally go over the fear, we were made for each other immediately. My litmus test, you see, and I used this line when I asked Andrea to marry me, was the fact that I looked at my life and asked myself, truly, whether I could see it without her.

I couldn’t.

My life, my personality, my whole existence was different.  I had to imagine my life without her and even after just dating her for a few short months, I couldn’t imagine going back.  I had become a far better man, a far better person for knowing her.  Only a damn fool would have let that go and I decided, then and there, that I couldn’t.  Imagine my horror, then, when on March 26th, the 18th anniversary of our marriage, at 8:30 in the morning, I didn’t have to imagine it.  She was gone and I watched her go in violent, horrible reality.

Now I struggle, daily, with what it should be like.  We make those wedding vows and I honestly don’t think most people even think about them, don’t listen very intently to what is being said.  Divorce is too prevalent, life too short. In a world where a woman can make a sex tape, get married then divorced before most people leave the honeymoon phase makes us take those words as so much script-writing, so little reality.  But I took them seriously.

I know this goes into a deep philosophy, the question of faith and spirituality, but what happens if you DO move on?  Andrea has passed away, and as much as the “Seattlers” want me to find love again, there are just as many who want to comfort me by telling me that I will see her again, that we’ll be together when this is all over for me.  The idea that you are soul mates, that there’s a magic that happens and bonds you together is something I really do believe in.  But what happens if I do find someone else? I am not asking for the answer to the problems of the heart, I want the discussion.  I want you all to think, long and hard, not just the bar game of “OK, your wife dies, do you marry again?” but an actual, thoughtful, tear-jerking soul-searching discussion.

Andrea truly was part of me; she was attached to my soul.  I felt it tear and rip away when she left me, I can tell you with absolute clarity.  It was a pain I have never felt and hope none of you ever feel in your lifetime.

I don’t just miss her laugh, her smile, the warm fuzzy feeling I got pulling into the driveway every day. I miss that companion, the person who gets all the good news, who you call first when you hear things like “I’m writing for Rene Syler’s Website!” or “I got our music on the radio!”  I miss the lift in my spirit when that person calls you and says they won an award or even simply wanted to tell me what amazing bargain she found at Target today. The part of me with the short fuse gets good news and reaches for the phone and realizes that Andrea’s not there to tell and it makes me mad.  And that I’m alone, mad that she left me, and mad that I can’t figure it all out.  But I’m so happy that she’s no longer struggling in pain, struggling with depression or struggling with her family issues that I can’t stay mad. I hope she’s OK.

It’s a philosophical struggle I face nearly daily.  So how do I face it?  How do I deal with the fact that, by the vow and covenant that held for nearly two decades – from age 23 to 41, is over?  Sure, the paperwork says it’s now a broken union, but I can feel the tear in my soul.  I can see the hole left where she used to be.  If she’s up there, happy, heavenly, angelic, but waiting, what happens when I find someone else?  What happens when it IS all over and we’re together again and I’ve shared my heart with someone else?

There, you know my struggle.  Now discuss.  Give me ideas, give me philosophy.  Just don’t give me absolutes, and DON’T, for the love of God, say Andrea would want me to unless you’re prepared to have Steven Spielberg write a movie about you.

Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.


  1. Tracey G.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this “put a band-aid on it” phenomena. This happens when people feel a compelling (oftentimes not requested) need to offer a “band-aid” to cover up whatever it is that is making them feel strange around your tragic and life-altering event(s). Band-aids heal, but they also cover up the ugly and painful truth of reality. Have you ever noticed that band-aids have a tendency to fall off shortly after you have put them on? Guess what’s still there? Reality in all of its beauty and pain.
    After a series of situations starting back in 2010 left me incredibly disconnected with the human race and their cheap band-aids, I began doing exactly what I thought would be most helpful for me in my journey of being angry, sad, and alone. Sometimes that meant cutting people out of my life or only letting them in on the surface. This is a work in progreass as is any kind of healing and the best healer is yourself.
    What I wanted was freedom from doing what was expected of me and freedom to do what I wanted or needed to do. Here is the kind of daily refelctions card that I would pull out of my coat pocket:

    “If you need someone to talk to, shoot the breeze with, stare at the walls, or drive around town with, then give me a call. If I’m around, I will try to stop by, of course calling you first, or leave a post-it note taped to your door or mailbox, letting you know that I’m thinking of you. Take all the time you want or need. You are the only one who knows what will work best for you. Do not let anyone force themselves on you or in your activities. They are yours and this is your time to heal the way you see fit.”

  2. Auntie Lisa

    January 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Wow. That’s an awful lot of pain. I’m so sorry for your loss. I saw my dad go through the same thing. He was 45 when my mom died. He remarried much too quickly, in my opinion. Take your time. Only YOU (and God) know when you are healed enough to move on… and if you even want to.

    Don’t remarry just to fill an empty space in your life. God wants to fill that space Himself. Do what you can to get closer to Him. I didn’t see my dad (and his new marriage) really healed until he became a Christian and sought an ever-deepening relationship with his Maker. The closer you are to God the more easily you can recognize his promptings and restraints, which are how He lets you know what’s best for you.

    Blessings and comfort to you…

  3. m.e. johnson

    January 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    It is strange how people have these steps of grieving that you are supposed to go thru. And in X amount of time. They write books about it. No, do it your way. And IMO there is no such thing as “closure”. Where did that come from?. My Love has been gone almost 40 years and I still miss him but without the hurt. Oh, I’ve had other… experiences, involvements but no one ever measured up (I didn’t have small children).

    Thankfully I had his mom. When no one wanted to hear about it anymore, she and I spent hours talking about him – the good, the bad, the funny and the sad. For years. At some point we could laugh as much as we cried.

    Dave, you have a handle on what folks are about. Deal with it any way you want to (or have to) on any given day. Be rude, be nice, cut ’em off, cut ’em out. Go ahead and wallow in self-pity every once in a while if you need to. I think you’ll feel better afterwards. The only thing I will wish for you is the strength to carry on.

  4. Irene

    January 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Dave you are such an inspiration. I really knew I needed to visit GEM today—you see I do believe we cross paths with people-AND places for a reason and that we are right where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there.

    My son this week did not suffer a death of his beloved fiancee but he was dumped square on his keister (prob spelled wrong but good enough) and did not see the signs of it coming. Being away from home it was heartbreaking for us his parents/siblings to be there for him…..

    I went overboard with my emotions, doing all the things you described above. One of the siblings was going to visit our son so I wanted to make a care package for him…..well guess what the longer I was in the store….the longer my heart hurt and I wanted to fix him…the more stuff I stuffed in the cart…..

    Thanks for your contributions straight from your heart they speak to me. I really will share this with my heartbroken son.

  5. Irene

    January 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    p.s I don’t remember Tom Hanks in sleepless in seattle I thought it was Billy Crystal.

  6. Juli

    January 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    @ Irene: Billy was in “When Harry Met Sally” with Meg.

    Dave, My dad lost my mom when I was 5 years old and I had 7 year old twin brothers.
    he too was made to “move on” “the children need a mother” by everyone around him. He married a woman he barely knew less than a year later. It lasted idk, several months? I do remember starting 1st grade show-n-telling about my dad’s up coming marriage, and then being talked out of telling about his annulment in the same grade. I remember not quite understanding why, but feeling guilty this was happening. I had not even figured out where my mom had gone yet. I just remembered the party everyone threw for her and she didn’t show up for. That is the way a 5 year old interpets a funeral. Then my dad went AND DID IT AGAIN!!!! HE MARRIED ANOTHER WOMAN!!! I’m not going to waste your time with details, but it wasn’t a smart move. Admitedly that was a different era and men weren’t really given credit for stepping up and parenting outside the father boundries, so the pressure was intense. But I gotta say a grieving man is an easy target for both, the type of woman who is a doormat (is that really the kind of woman you normally would be attracted to?) or a maniplitive bitch. I’m not saying every woman you encounter is going to fit those types, but they will be very present. Only you are going to know when you are ready to share true companionship again, and actually your kids will be a good cue also. My dad didn’t date for a while after wife number 3. But me and my brothers started to encourage it because we could tell he needed the adult companionship that our mom had given him(not just sex). He did find love again. And I love her as well. But it wasn’t a forced union.

  7. Lisa S-W

    January 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    powerful…poignant…thought-provoking but words fail.

  8. Dave M

    January 23, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Great comments, everyone! I hope you keep up the thoughts and continue the discussion. I grapple with this subject nearly every day. The thing I remember is that I spent more than half of my life with this amazing woman. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t what I’d dreamed of when I was growing up, but it was an amazing couple decades with this beautiful woman.
    The thing with that is you cannot just revamp your life and change it overnight, particularly after you’ve spent more time with this person than you did without them. Knowing that, I have grappled with whether I’ll see her again, or if this was it. I do know that having met and fallen in love with Andrea I don’t think about jumping into another relationship just to be in one. I look forward to seeing more of what you all have to think, though! Keep it up!

  9. Irene

    January 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Oh, Juli—- i can’t even keep iconic movies straight…lol

  10. Tracy

    January 24, 2012 at 2:47 am

    First, I am truly sorry for your loss.

    32 years ago, my grandfather passed away in his sleep. There was no warning, he died at home in bed. His kids were older. The 3 oldest were already married with kids, the youngest was in her teens. I was going to say my grandma spent the next 30 years alone, but that’s a lie, she had us, her kids and grandkids. At times some of us lived with her, in the later years she lived alone, though there was alway an invitation to stay with one of us. When she passed away 2 years ago, she spent that last day surrounded by her family, and that last moment surrounded by her kids. Even until the end, she was never alone.

    Whatever you decide to do, whereever life takes you, if one day, you decide to marry again, or you chose not to, it’s your decision. And you’re not alone, I’m sure you have a family that loves you very much!
    Take care!

  11. Blondie

    January 30, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Wow~what a well written story. I, too, am sorry for your loss. I have nothing to add to these previous comments, except to say what a great husband and dad you seem to be. Heal thyself. Blondie

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