Thursday, October 25, 2012

myths and misconceptions...

     Some things are hard to hear.  Not necessarily because the intent is bad but because the interpretation doesn't match the intent.  This can happen in any relationship but is especially true in relationships when someone has lost a spouse.  Widow(er)s can say things that you may not hear in other relationships and, therefore, it can be interpreted in various ways.  Sometimes the interpretations can seem more "negative" in nature and can be reinforced by outsiders who may be well meaning but do not understand the heart or words of the widow(er). So if you find yourself dating or in love with a widow(er), here are a few things to keep in mind...

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I really miss _______!" (their late spouse's name here)
                                ... it does NOT mean...

"You are ok, but not as great as my late spouse, therefore I am missing them."
     Widow(er)s shared life with their late spouse.  Their lives were intertwined with their love to the point they cannot be separated... even by death.  While there may be tangible reminders left behind, the physical presence of their loved one is gone and leaves them with a deep expression of "I really miss...."
     If you are lucky enough to be with a widow(er) who is ready to move forward and share her/his life with you, know that no matter how much joy and happiness that you will share together there will be times they miss their late spouse.  While it can be a difficult thing for your ego to swallow it has nothing to do with how they feel about you. It has everything to do with the life they were so intertwined with.  Their life was and is ever changed because of that relationship.  You can make them happy.  You can show them love.  You can make them laugh... and all of that is just as genuine and real as the thing they lost.  Its not a competition, its life.

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I love _______!" (their late spouse's name here)
                        does NOT mean...

"I don't love you as much as I loved him/her."

     Whether its "socially kosher" or not, widow(er)s will continue to love their deceased... period! Asking them to "stop" or "not talk" about their love will not change they way they feel inside.  They loved their spouse. Their spouse died.  But the way they felt and still feel about their spouse is unchanged.  Widow(er)s can love again however! And if you are with a widow(er) who is brave enough to share their heart and love you - then you are blessed indeed!  What I have found is that a widow(er)s love is "refined."
     Widow(er)s have gone through the fire of life.  They have been burned in the worst of ways, yet they come out on the other side changed and new.  Priorities are different.  Love is different.  Life is different.  Vee continually tells me that Jeremy's death made her realize the important things in life she took for granted before that she does not now.  We who are loved by widow(er)s may get to experience a love that is in its purest and most raw form... a love that is willing to look loss in the eyes, to risk it all once again, and to soak up the everyday moments while cherishing each day.

If you widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I have been thinking a lot about ________ (their late spouse's name here) lately!"
                         does NOT mean...

"When I compare you and my old life, I would rather have my old life and thats why I think about it all the time."

     Its hard for a non-widowed person to really understand it but there is no comparison between pre-grief and post-grief life.  I have said before that comparisons are tough for me... it makes me feel super inadequate in certain circumstances.  But not only are Jeremy and I different, Vee is different as well.  She is not the same person she was 2 years ago.  There is no comparison between the life that was and the life that is... they are as different as apples and oranges.  So when things come up that remind her of Jeremy I realize its not because I am not measuring up and she is unhappy but it's because she has a lot of fond memories that she wants to treasure.  Instead of being insecure I try my best to be a supportive learner... to encourage Vee to share her heart and memories while learning more about her whole life, Jeremy, and her heart.

If you widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse says "I can't talk about it right now."
                       does NOT mean...

"I don't ever want to talk about it - so leave me alone!"

     Grief is personal.  Its complicated.  And sometimes - grief doesn't make any sense.  One night when Vee and I were on our honeymoon in Jamaica she began to cry out of the blue... then sob... then left the room and began to wail.  I wasn't sure what was going on, what happened, or what I should do.  She was so upset she couldn't talk and it didn't appear that she wanted to talk to me. While she curled up in a ball on the couch of our living room area I knelt beside her on the floor and let her cry.  I gently stroked her hair and got her tissues as she writhed in grief.  It was hard.  I wanted to know what was wrong.  I wanted to fix it.  I wanted to help... but I couldn't.  So I sat in silence so she didn't have to grieve alone.  I let her know that I was there, but that she didn't have to explain anything.  After a couple of hours she was finally ready to talk and I was ready to listen.  I try never to pry (although every once in a while I do) but just allow her to share when she is ready.  Thats the key.  Stick around, be silent, and be ready to listen and support when they are ready.

If your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse has pictures or mementos around the house of their late spouse
                      does NOT mean...

that they are not ready to move forward in life with someone else.

     I have read several blogs about making the widowed person get rid of all things that remind them of their deceased spouse and honestly, that makes me sick! Having pictures or other items around the house does not mean that they are wrapped up in the past but that they appreciated and valued what they had. It shows the depth of their love and loyalty.  It gives them opportunity to move forward while embracing their past.  Vee has several pictures of Jeremy throughout the house.  Some of his clothes are still around.  There are many tangible things of Jer all around and each of these things are a testament to the person Jeremy was and the life that he and Vee shared together.  They aren't a shrine.  They aren't a sign that Vee was not ready for our relationship. They aren't something that comes between Vee and I. They are a part of their story.  They are a part of her story. They are a part of our story.

If I can offer one last word of advice, its this: if you are dating or married to a widow(er), leave your ego at the door.  There are going to be statements and actions that if you are egotistical will upset you and hurt your pride.  True love, however, is not egotistical.  It seeks to uplift and support the other person... to give more than you get... to put your needs and wants aside to seek out the needs and wants of the other.  It is my experience that if you are fortunate enough to love and be loved by a widow(er) that you will not only get the opportunity to love selflessly, but that you will also be loved selflessly!



  1. Well said Steve. You and Vee are truly lucky to have found one another. Your patience and love for her is sweet and the way you help honor and remember her late husband shows how much you truly love her.

  2. Thank you so much for this blog, for taking the time to help others who are on a similar path. I am a recently remarried widow and I printed this post out last night for my husband to read. He said your words helped him understand and see things in a totally new light. He asked "Why didn't you give me this when we first met?" Of course, you hadn't written it yet. Please keep this up, your insights into what works and what doesn't will be such a blessing us and I'm sure to many others.

  3. You write of the "ideal" situation with a widow(er) that is emotionally ready to enter a new relationship. Unfortunately, there are widowers dating out there that strategically use the widower card as if it is a Get Out Of Jail Free. I know, I married one and woke up one day to have him tell me "I married too soon". After a year in marriage counseling he then decided that his marriage to me was "disrespectful to his "wife"". Yep! So, please, address your audience with the * that denotes for mature audiences only!


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