I fully concur with your position that being a widow is nothing like being divorced (which is a kind of breakup).
I listened to your audio "standup" and would have laughed more if it wasn't for the fact that it didn't seem like comedy so much as a documentary.
I think your main point of focus should be that you still love your husband (just as I still love my wife) and that should form the basis of all your decisions. I believe that even in their absence your knowing what they would have wanted can help guide you.
You need to take your time and be cautious about your desire to "step out" (laudable) or "listen to friends" who tell you about what you need (when they barely understand your situation). Of course you need socialization, but as you've found out the "dating game" is actually a horror show with the potential to strike deeper wounds into an already hurting heart.
Back in 2013 I wrote this blog post, where I compared the situation I was in (similar to that you are in) to being cast into a pit. Just as I too was climbing out of my pit others around me were also climbing. While we may or may not have the same destination in mind one needs to be mindful that they don't see you as a disposable handhold on "their way up" and not mind if you get knocked back.
While I'm not saying to "withdraw and not take risks" I am saying to be wary of the risks. A good climber knows to take their time (and use a safety line).
You've already seen that the "dating game" isn't far from the "gladitorial game" and it seems that players are in it to "win" not form partnerships (and I seriously doubt many even know what that means).
To my mind people in that "game" are like serially abused victims. People who have been in and out of "love" and been hurt so many times that they have both barriers and baggage.
Of course we all come with baggage ... recognition of that is important. But (without knowing) I'd say that 2 years is still "early" and that while you may have desires you need to also temper them with your capacity and your fragility.
Having joined a forum or two on grief when I first found myself this way (a widower) I read of enough cautionary tales about people (with kids) moving into relationships and (for instance) having the new partner resent the partner who had passed on and even tried to re-establish themselves as the "new mummy" for the kids. Dreadful stuff.
Myself I feel that the bond between myself and Anita was special and I remain unwilling to allow that to be destroyed or injured by an uncaring person.
Give yourself time and be reflective. You had a love and a life and you need to probably spend time in grocking that more. I've put great emphasis in the last years into learning everything I could from the many lessons that Anita was teaching me (well, that we were teaching each other). I've wanted to do that because
- I liked the person I was becoming with her influence
- I respected and cared deeply for her, in her absence all I had was that
I have a number of posts on my blog about my approach to reconciliation with her loss. I have put a "tag" in the topic cloud on Grief which mainly deals with my feelings and my observations. It is unfortunately presented in "newest first" order (so looking backwards from my time perspective) but there may be something of benefit for you in there (link), who knows.
One of the strong "mother figures" in my life lost her husband with two girls (of high school age) back when I was in primary school. I've known her my entire life more or less. She eventually remarried to a fine (migrant German) man who I am also very fond of. We were neighbours when I was a child and again neighbours when Anita and I moved back into my childhood home.
The importance of that relationship is that she was (after many dark years) able to allow someone into her life and he was (being divorced) able to accept that she loved both him and her deceased husband. Equally and with no favourites. Just like it is with the children you have - love is love and it is unconditional
Lastly we are of different ages and so perhaps we have entirely different goals. As a man who is 53 I am too young to just die (like my grandfather did) at the loss of my wife and old enough to recognise that the sort of relationships I had as a younger man are just that ... the sort of things done in youth.
I know that the road will be long, and I know that there will be more dark nights and tears shed, but that's not something to be afraid of.(see "the crying"). You have lost something which was a part of you, not unlike losing your legs. You will always feel phantom pains from lost limbs (so I'm told by many who have lost them) and so your loss is not just "some one" it is indeed part of yourself that has died too.
... I can only wish you strength.
... I can only wish you strength.