I’ve had to adapt to life changes at lightning speed over the past year and a half. I know better than most how quickly and abruptly everything can change, whether you want it to or not.

You hear people talk all the time about how short life is and how you should always live for today, but until you’ve gone through something truly traumatic… something that rocks you to your very core, you don’t really get just how short it is. You always think you have more time than you do. You don’t just think it, but rather, you expect that you do. Because why wouldn’t you, right?

I’m here to tell you that happiness is a beautiful, fleeting thing in this world. When you find it, hold it tight, and love it for all that it’s worth while you have it. Everything could change in an instant, and I promise you, you will regret not soaking in the little moments of joy just a bit longer.

Recently, I got engaged to my Chapter 2 (widow speak for the new partner or spouse). Like my late husband, our dating relationship wasn’t horribly long before popping the big question. I guess you could say that I am one of those people who just “knows when she knows.” I’ve always been that way. Makes decision making a little easier, I suppose.

But even within surety of a beautiful, newfound love, I was still riddled with hesitation and widow guilt and shame. What would my family think? What would our friends say? How will I tell my in-laws? Won’t everyone think it’s “too soon?”

It then occurred to me that I needed to remind myself of what widowhood has taught me thus far: life is so very short, and happiness is fleeting. Why wouldn’t I embrace this? How could I possibly rob myself of the very thing that was already taken from me once? Wouldn’t Luke want this for me?!

Widow guilt is hands-down my least favorite side effect of this whole journey. We somehow convince ourselves that we don’t deserve to be happy again because how could we be when our person is dead?

We have to actively choose happiness. We have to choose to say yes.

I didn’t ever think it could be possible to love as deeply and wholly as I do with this wonderful new man. The love I have for him is different than the love I have for Luke. Different is okay… different is still just as good. I had to choose to allow myself to love them both. My grief for Luke and my gratitude for Chapter 2 exist side-by-side. They are each other’s counterpart, and they compliment each other beautifully. I never imagined feeling this way, but I am so glad that I do. What better way to honor my late husband than carrying the love we share and loving again?

I don’t have all the answers. Gosh, I wish I did. I do know, however, that people will always find a reason to judge the lives of other people. Nobody likes to take the time to sit and wear someone else’s shoes for the day. Empathy is becoming a lost art in our society.

If you find yourself in a place of allowance for love and happiness (in any form), I encourage you to choose it. If you are reading this as a supporter for a widow(er) in your life, please encourage your person to choose happiness and joy. Choose love. It always wins.