Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just The Way You Are

     A couple of years ago I went to a conference for ministers and heard a very powerful and ultimately life-changing statement.  One of the speakers stated that church leaders often love the congregation for who they want the congregation to be instead of loving the congregation for who they are.  Ministers and pastors often fall into the trap of only loving the church for the hopes and dreams they have for the church instead of loving the church with all the good parts and challenges combined.  As I sat in my seat I was convicted - not just about my views about church life, but about my views of life in general.

     When Veronica and I started dating there were literally hundreds of things that attracted me to her - everything from her beautiful smile to her loyalty - but if I am honest, there were some challenges too. Veronica's heart was still broken.  She was still in love with another man.  And whether I liked it or not, none of that was going to change.  Vee had found love in Jeremy.  She and Jeremy had built a life together, raised children together, laughed together, and grown together.  So after Jeremy's death, Vee grieved. She grieved her friend, her partner, her lover, and the father of their children. While Vee and I shared many fun time together as we were dating, our new relationship caused her to grieve Jeremy at each new turn. This is not to say that there weren't "grief free moments." In fact, the largest part of our relationship has not been centered around grief but has been focused on what we have found in each other. Yet each new and exciting benchmark in our relationship brought bittersweet moments for her.

     From the moment Vee and I began to talk I knew that grief would be something that would not just be a part of her journey, but a part of our journey.  If I wanted to have open, honest, and lasting relationship with Vee then I needed to love her for who she was rather than what I hoped she might become.  I know the last sentence may sound quite simple and basic, but I believe its the best foundation for any relationship, especially when dating or marrying someone who has lost a spouse.

     It may be tempting to go into a relationship with a widow in hopes that the love for their deceased spouse will fade away, or that eventually they will cease to talk about them, or that one day their grief will pass - but in my opinion that is a false hope that is doomed to fail.  Their past formed them into their present.  Jeremy's life, actions, attitudes, love, and even death helped to mold Vee into the beautiful person that she is today.  There is no way for me to understand Vee, who she is, and how she came to be that way without understanding and accepting the various ways she came to me.  Therefore, I couldn't go into our relationship without fully embracing all of Vee, including her grief.

     It was then I realized that there is a very small but very important distinction between being "ok" with the grief journey and "embracing" grief with the woman that you love.  Being "ok" with another person's grief means that it doesn't bother you when they are sad, reminiscing, or broken-hearted because of the loss of their love - but it fails to show the commitment that you will walk beside them in their grief journey. "Embracing" grief means that you'll walk that path with them.  I don't feel the depths of Vee's pain.  I don't understand what its like to lose a spouse.  This does not stop me, however, from listening to stories about Jeremy, asking questions about him and their relationship, talking to Faith, Caleb, and Carter about their daddy, helping plan special celebrations and memorial ideas for Jeremy with Vee and our kids, and holding Vee as she cries and misses Jeremy.  I choose each day to walk with Vee in her grief.  Somedays it can be an relatively normal path and other days it is painful.  But I am committed to always walking it with her.

     Is it always easy?


     Is it always comfortable?


     Is it always convenient?

     You guessed it.... No, again!

      But at the end of the day I walk away knowing that I have something more valuable than I could ever dream of, I have the love of a beautiful woman who is willing show her heart to me even when its painful and allow me to be the person she leans on, looks to for support, and loves unconditionally.  And that, my friends, is far more valuable than just being "ok" with her grief and far more realistic than hoping that one day her grief will pass.

     I distinctly remember one of the first times I drove four hours from Indiana to see Vee and just as I passed Detroit traffic I heard the song, "Just The Way You Are" by Bruno Mars come on the radio.  I quickly called Vee and told her to turn on her radio and listen to the song.  It was the words I wanted to convey to her.  I loved her just the way she was.  She didn't have to change a thing.  She didn't have to leave her past behind.  She didn't have to hide her tears.  She didn't have to put any pictures of Jeremy away.  She didn't have to stop talking about Jeremy.  She didn't have to "move on" in order to be with me. She didn't have to do anything! I wanted her to know that I loved her for who she was and how she got their, and despite the challenges that may come our way, I wanted to embrace the journey with her.


     Ps - I want to make an open invitation for any and all questions you might have, especially those of you who are dating or getting ready to marry a widow... or widows who are dating or looking at getting re-married.  I don't have all the answers, but I am willing to be transparent and hopefully our story can be of some assurance for you!



  1. Weeping in joy for your great love. So wished that had been my story after I lost my husband suddenly and later remarried.

  2. Steve: You're my hero. ;) Did Vee show you this? :)

  3. ...grief would be something that would not just be a part of her journey, but a part of our journey...

    You are awesome. Thank you steve. And vee too. <3

  4. Beautiful post... thank you for setting an example to others who might not know how to deal with such special situation... Not an easy thing to do but when there's true love is doable :) and enjoyable!

  5. You guys are both SO special! Thank you for sharing. Much love to you Steve and Veronica. Come back and visit soon!

  6. Where can I get me a Steve? Love you guys......

  7. I am loving that you started this blog! My boyfriend and I are in almost the same exact position as you and's almost eerily strange how similar our stories are. I lost my husband, and my boyfriend divorced a woman who sounds like she had almost all of the same issues as your ex...We are starting our journey together now and can relate so much to what you and Vee talk about in your respective blogs. Thanks for sharing...we too looked for info on "how to date a widow" and had your same luck. I'm glad you're taking the reins on this and putting info out there for others! Kudos to you!

  8. How mature and loving to accept her journey as if it were yours too. It is of course, and not everyone gets the richness of a relationship that comes from being a lover and a friend to a spouse. So many precious times are wasted on pettiness and jelousy of someones history. Embrace it for what it is and make the most of your time together. We all need this kind of empathy and understanding in our relationships.


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