A friend pointed me to your response here asking me to read it - and so I am sending you this message hoping that my own experience can provide some solace for the wounds you are suffering at this time in your life.
On our 11th aniversary in late December many years ago, I stood beside my wife in the hospital's oncology wing and looked into the face I'd loved for over 13 years. My 2year old and 6year old sons, and my 8year old daughter were with me at my side, confused and aprehensive, wondering if mom was coming home for Christmas so they could share their gifts with her....It was heart wrenching - I was in shock - even after 4 years of chemotherapy I couldn't believe it had come to this. Already in liver failure - her color was dark and yellowish, her breathing was approaching agonal stage, and she was a mear shadow of her former self.
Needless to say, life changed for me immediately and dramatically when she passed, as I had no conventional support system other than the Catholic school teachers with whom she taught and their resolve to 'soften' the impact by sending kids over to help with various things - baby sitting, grass mowing, bring food over...etc. All of which evaporated with the end of the school year
I went through much the same grieving cycle complete with emotional swings you mention and experienced the total loneliness - probably the most difficult part. My kids were normal in every way except - no mom now, and an 8 year old daughter is not quite able to even help with babysitting. Conversation was totally non-adult with my chidren - something I yearned for but could not find during those lonely evenings. My wife had been my confidant and filled me in on everything that happened with the kids during the day as she was with them so much more than I was. My role was to play with them and get them to activities (not much sports yet at this age) after school and when I was home from work and not working on a project.
Ive thought about this and how men are perhaps at a disadvantage to handle this kind of loneliness and emotional quagmire. most bread-winner dads really love our children but typically rely on our beloved spouse to handle 80-90% of the hands-on interaction with the kids while we go off to make the bacon. This was true in my case because my wife worked 6 hours a day in class and had summers off. She would often bring the kids to work if she had after-hour meetings or grading to complete, and would bring them to her classroom sometimes even while teaching. When I got home, I was ready to play - to her relief - but even then there were projects and family time was limited. So now that you have no spouse - you are the mom, the dad, the cook, the home educator, home athletic coordination etc etc etc. But you've been the 10-20% contributor and it is not an easy transition to becoming the 100% contributor. This all adds stress to the already big burden your heart is carrying around. I would say this extra duty alone was the limiting factor in my ability to socialize outside the walls of my home.
Here are some useful summary widowhood statistics from: www.widowshope.org
Death of a spouse is ranked as the #1 Stressor: Holmes and Rahe stress scale. and Widowhood increases survivors risk of dying. According to the American Public Health Journal
60% of those who lose a spouse or significant other will experience a serious illness in the 12 months following that loss
On average 75% of the survivors support base is lost following the loss of a spouse
So what happened next with the deck stacked against me? Well the passage of time mitigated this trial somewhat. Over the next 5 years my children matured and learned to help - I became closer to them (both silver linings-hooray there are some!) - I learned to do things more efficiently for example I would let the kids eat while I went for a run - and rely on others to help for example friends taking the kids while I went on a fishing trip. Essentially I became more of a mom in a practical sense - and learned to nurture a bit better as well.
Regarding the socialization side - specifically meeting a woman and dating - this was not easy and I found could not be planned or forced to work - much as my lizard engineering brain wanted it to be so. It was when I finally let the Holy Spirit guide me that I found my next soul-mate and new wife. I had no expectations then and it just happened and was right and she was accepting of me and my children as a 'package' deal. Keep in mind that women love kids so much that they will watch someone elses kids for a job (nanny).
A key aspect to all of this, Bob, is that God is at work and your wife is now by His side helping this action. You should let your boys know (and yourself too of course) that mom is indeed nearby and always able to listen to them and help them - just not physically. It doesn't mean they can't talk to her, in fact they can talk to her more often in their hearts.
"Where there is suffering there is grace". God will bless you abundantly for the suffering both she and you have undergone. Doors will open for you that you never dreamed possible. You will experience joys and of course sadness - that will move you do to things you would not have done in your past life. Believe me - this new life will not be dull - rather it will be rich with the blessings only those who pass through this kind of trial can obtain. For your part all you have to do is be ready to go through that door without hesitation. One thing you will not lack, if your experience is like mine - is the courage to change your life if you see a need to or a worthwhile opportunity. After all - when you've lost the love of your life - any other challenge pales by comparison. When you embrace these new opportunites your new life becomes an adventure and you will find yourself a better and stronger and more complete man - to the benefit of your family, your faith, your community.
God bless you Bob and may the Holy Spirit guide you to the peace your heart needs.*(novena to the Holy Spirit)
* "John-Paul & Annie - PrayMoreNovenas.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>