This is Vee here making a guest appearance on Steve's blog. I probably won't be here often as Steve does an amazing job on his own and this is not really about me - but he asked me to guest post, so here I am!
I first have to say that I am incredibly proud of Steve for stepping up to take on this ginormous role that is not being filled by many and walking others through the life of loving a widow or widower. I know it gets messy - us widow(er)s come with a lot of baggage. It takes a very special person to be able to walk along side of us after the absolute worst has already happened in our lives. I commend anyone who is willing to take on that role. You rock.
The reason I wanted to speak my piece here is to support the other side of this, and validate those that are dating a widow(er), married to one, or loving one. The thing I've found most frustrating about searching out this journey on the web is that there is no real support for those loving a widow(er) - and the information out there is awful saying that widows should forget the past and move on (just so all of you reading here know, that should NEVER happen. Moving forward does not mean moving on or forgetting - but that's a tangent for another day). But, I've noticed that people can also swing completely to the other side of the spectrum and are told that those loving a widow should just accept everything and let the widow(er) grieve and not to get in the way of that. I truly believe there is a way to find a middle. If you are here and you love a widow(er) and perhaps struggle with some of the layers and complexity that comes along with it, please know that your feelings are VALID.
Even though I would have never settled for anything less than someone who would love me and love Jeremy and who I am because of him, I also know I was a lot to take on when Steve came into my life. Sometimes my grief can make him uncomfortable. Sometimes my grief appears at really inconvenient moments. Sometimes grief can get in the way of other things. The key is communication. Steve always allows me to be honest about my grief and asks questions about Jeremy (this is HUGE for me) and he is always honest with me if there is ever anything that makes him insecure, unsure, etc. Most of the time, we just need a platform to be heard and someone to listen who cares. We need to let it out.
I know I've been through a tragedy that most people could only imagine, but I try not to let that experience cloud my sympathy for others' pain and experiences. And while I will always cherish the love I shared with Jeremy, the life we built together, and how it has shaped me so much - I never want to diminish what I share with Steve. My relationship with each of them is different, but both very life-changing and special in their own way. Not only that, but I'm different. That's key. The girl who married Jeremy 10 years ago is not the same girl who married Steve this year.
Here are some of my suggestions for those of you that love a widow(er):
1. Love us for where we are now
- not where you want us to be. Steve talked about this in a post already, but it's crucial. If you want us to be something else, it's not gonna work. This is true for any relationship, really. The person we love and lost has made us the person you love now, so don't try to remove that piece of us. It won't go away if you ignore it. Which leads me to #2
2. Ask us questions about the person we loved
- this is not like asking us about an ex boyfriend or girlfriend. Our loved ones didn't do anything to make us stop loving them. In fact, we didn't get a chance to carry out our love for them on Earth, so it swells in our hearts. Get to know this person through stories and pictures. Not only will it mean the world to us, but it will also give you light and insight into our hearts for you to get to know us better.
3. All things in baby steps
- Any time I experienced something new with Steve, I had to grieve that experience I would never have with Jeremy. And when I thought I had grieved everything, something new would come up. This is a life-long process, grief. Take it one baby step at a time. Understand that it's not something we'll ever get over, but with patience and understanding, we can open our hearts bigger than we ever knew possible.
4. Be honest
- if there is something bugging you and you're too afraid to bring it up, try to find a way to talk about it. If we're not willing to talk about tough issues with you, we might not be ready for another relationship yet. Be sensitive, but be honest. Be understanding, but don't sacrifice your own needs and desires. And if you have something on your heart that you're not sure how to bring up, try it on someone you trust first. I think the great thing about loving a widow(er) is that we can have a very unique take on life and love and tend to grab a hold of good things and savor them while they last. We appreciate what we have when we have it. That's a special quality. But that doesn't mean that it's for everyone. Sacrifices have to be made in any relationship, and you have to decide what's worth fighting for.
5. Be flexible
- Grief comes when you least expect it. And sometimes you can expect it. We all experience it in different ways and we all need different things. Some of us prefer to grieve alone. Some of us just want a comforting arm. Some of us want to share everything. Some of us don't. Sometimes we don't know what we want. Be flexible and willing to give us space when we need it and comfort us when the time is right. I know you're not mind readers, and we'll probably make this part difficult sometimes, but you can never be too available. Just let us know you're there and we'll reach out when we're ready.
The bottom line is there is no rule book for loving a widow(er). There is no right way to do it. What I do know is that love is a powerful thing, and when it's good and right, you work through ups and downs together somehow. I couldn't possibly imagine what a relationship with someone other than Jeremy could look like, or how it would even work - but somehow when I found Steve, it just worked. We hit bumps and obstacles, but we're both committed to sharing life together, no matter how ugly it gets. And when we think there is no compromise, we always find a way. And just because something works for us, doesn't mean it will work for you. As cliche as it sounds, you have to let your heart lead you through this heavy water.
I would love to hear from other widow(er)s here to tell me if there are any other helpful tools for any of these brave souls that are willing to love us. What are you looking for? What has been most helpful in your grief journey? What do you want them to know?
Thanks for loving us. We're fragile, but also some of the strongest people you will ever meet. It can be a tough road, but we're worth it :)