Thursday, November 29, 2012

Measuring Up

     The topic this week is a very sensitive one.  The question was posed "How do you handle thoughts of comparing yourself and Jeremy in your mind?"  The "right" answer might be to say that I don't ever compare myself to Jeremy or wonder how I measure up... but thats not the honest answer.

    I think in every romantic relationship there is a desire to be the "one-and-only."  If at some point along the way you feel like your position as the "one-and-only" is threatened then you might ask yourself questions like, "What am I doing wrong or not doing right?" or "What does the other person do or have that I don't?"  Unless you are highly self-confident you may find yourself thinking about some of those very questions... or others like it.

     While some people may tell you that it's ridiculous to feel like you are "competing" with someone who is deceased, the truth is that those feelings are normal.  Don't beat yourself up for having those feelings.  At the same time, don't allow those feelings to beat you up either.

     There are definitely times where I feel insecure and compare myself with Jeremy.  There have been times in the past when I wondered if I made Vee as happy as Jeremy did, or I questioned whether she found me as attractive, or fun to be with, or if our intimate relationship looked different in comparison.  I think there were times that these thoughts were fostered by hearing Vee talk fondly about past experiences she had with Vee and wondering then how I measured up to those memories.

     It is at this point where I had to ask myself an honest question... was Vee making me feel second best, or was I doing that to myself?

     The answer was simple.  Vee has always been great at never comparing me to Jeremy.   We share some similarities, but she is careful never to compare us. In addition Vee is great about making me and our relationship feel special.  The problem lies in my own thinking.  My own insecurities cause me to question how I measure up and its normal to have those questions from time to time. However, if those questions are left unbridled they can eat you alive.

     While I can't answer for everyone, I have found a few things that keep those questions at bay and give me peace about my relationship with Vee while giving her freedom to share and discuss her feelings and memories about Jeremy.

1) Vee loved and still loves Jeremy.
I know this sounds simple (and maybe contradictory when dealing with this subject) but its true.  The love that they shared was genuine and did not die with Jeremy's physical presence.  Once you fully understand that love and know that it is ongoing, the need to compete will diminish.

2) Vee chose me.
Vee didn't have to choose me.  There were several guys that pursued Vee after Jeremy died.  She could have chosen any one of them or someone else, but she chose me instead.  She cherishes me and the qualities that I posses.  While I don't always understand exactly why she finds me so great, I have to trust her love for me.

3) Vee is not the same person with me as she was with Jeremy.
To try to compare if Jeremy made Vee more happy than I do is really comparing apples to oranges, because there is more than one thing that changed in the equation.  Vee is a different person, she thinks differently, sees the world differently, and has a different outlook on life.  I trust that Jeremy was the right person to be with her then, and I am the right person to be with her now.

4) I don't make Vee responsible for the way I feel.
If there are times when I feel insecure then I take ownership of those.  The truth is that it's normal to feel insecure from time to time when dating a widow(er) - just be honest about it and even more importantly don't blame the other person.  When I come across those times I make sure to let Vee know its about how I feel and not about how she is treating me.

     All of this being said, you might find yourself in a relationship where it's not you who compares you to the deceased spouse but your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend.  If you feel like this is the case then the best answer is open and honest communication.  Allow them to see how they compare you and be willing to let them see how it makes you feel when they do.  They simply may be unaware that they are comparing you or unaware of its affects on how you feel.  Either way, it is up to you and your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend to set boundaries in the relationship and figure out what works best and fits comfortably for the both of you.

     I have adressed this question a little more in my blog post "It's Ok" (CLICK HERE for the link) or on my guest post for Widow's Voice "Second Best" (CLICK HERE for the link)   I encourage you to check both of those out for more information about this topic.

     By the way, keep the questions coming!  I am open to trying to answer any questions you may have about Vee and I and our relationship together.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Heaven knows...

     Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be addressing some of the questions that have been submitted to me about dating a widow.  I always welcome more questions so if you have any that arise over the next few weeks feel free to ask away.

     One question that Vee and I have been asked over the last several months has been about our thoughts/views about heaven.  This question has been asked in various ways but last week one anonymous comment asked "Do you worry about what will happen when you, Vee and Jeremy are all in heaven at the same time?" (I guess this is presuming I make it there :))

     This can be a tough question for all involved and since it falls under the topic of "religion" (a sensitive topic for most people) it can be even more complex.  Let me first start out with how Vee has described this question in the past.  Although I have not lost a spouse and I certainly don't want to try to put words in the mouths of others, I have found that most widow(er)s find a great sense of peace in thinking about seeing their late spouse in heaven at some point in the future.  Vee has spoken and written about this topic several times in the past.  Her hope is that when she dies and enters into heaven she will be reunited with Jeremy and that they will be able to spend some time there together.  This thought brings her hope.  It allows her to find some comfort in knowing that she will one day get to see Jeremy again face to face.  Her belief allows her to, in some small way, cope with her loss.

     Before I share my thoughts on heaven I should probably preface a few things.  First, while I have a Master's in Theology I am not expert in this subject.  I have my own thoughts and opinions but it doesn't mean I am right.... nor do I think I have the answers to everything.  Second, while Vee and I have talked about this subject before I am usually very brief about this subject because I know my thoughts about heaven are not a popular opinion in most circles - especially in the widow(er) community.  Third, heaven is a subject that Vee and I have talked extensively about.  We respect each others opinions but don't always agree on what heaven may look like.  Last of all, I have noticed that most of our societal views on what heaven will look like come less from what the bible describes and more from our desires and hopes for what heaven will look/be like.  Having thoroughly scared you and primed the pump for you to be completely angry at me... here are my thoughts about what will happen when Vee, Jeremy and I are all in heaven together...

     I do believe that we will see our loved ones again in heaven.  I believe that one day Vee will get to see Jeremy again.  I believe that if I enter into heaven Vee and I will see each other as well.  Where my beliefs differ from most is that I do not believe that my relationship with Vee or Jeremy's relationship with Vee will be of primary importance when we get there.  On earth we are incomplete - we are distant from God who is the Only Being who can fulfill us.  Without getting too much into theology, I believe that while we experience God's presence here on earth we will experience it to the full in heaven.  We will finally be complete.  There will be no more aches and pains.  There will be no more sin or hurts.  There will be no more death.  And, there will be no more distractions that keep us from living fully in the presence of God ... things such as: Facebook, or tv, or money, or stress... or even spouses.

     Now, obviously I don't mean to suggest that spouses are a bad thing or keep us from living for God - on the contrary - I believe that Vee helps me have a deeper relationship with God... but I also know there are times where I  place Vee on a level that distracts me from God.  In heaven I don't believe we will feel the need and longing for our spouse in heaven like we do here on earth - our attention and desire will be for God.  Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven - I believe so! Will we be happy to see our loved one in heaven - I can't imagine it another way!  I am not sure, however, that we will have spouses in heaven.

     Having said all of this, I think the underlying question might be "Who will get Vee's loyalty in heaven?" or "Who is really Vee's true spouse?"  To answer the first question I would say that when we get to heaven Vee's loyalty will be to God.  To answer the second,  I think that Jeremy and I are equally her truest spouses.  I think that there is a tendency for some to think (and for those who date widows to feel) that the second marriage is "second best."  While I think its normal and natural to have times you might feel "second best" it's probably best and most helpful to allow your widowed girlfriend/spouse to speak into that feeling for you.  Vee continually reminds me that I am her choice, that she loves me, and that my presence in her life is as meaningful and purposeful as her marriage with Jeremy.  Another way of saying it is this: Veronica's love for Jeremy is no more diminished by my presence then is her love for me diminished by her past with Jeremy. Once you learn to trust that the widow(er) you are dating truly loves and cares for you - the answer to who they "love the most" is easy for you to answer (even if others want to debate it).


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guilty as Charged

     I cannot begin to tell you how much Vee means to me.  At the risk of sounding too "mushy" I have to admit that often times I find myself thinking throughout the day about how wonderful of a person and spouse she is for me.  You see, I came from a long relationship where there was no communication, no trust, no desire to be a "team", no support or encouragement, no intimacy, and no hope.  I had tried for many years to get marital counseling, to build trust and communication, to be a "team"... but what I eventually discovered is that no matter how hard I tried, or how many times I tried, it took two people to make things work.  The end result was always the same - I was alone in my efforts, in my marriage, and in raising my daughters.

     On the other side, Vee was in a healthy and strong marriage with Jeremy.  Sure, they had issues like any other married couple but overall they were happy, content, and epitomized the statement of "the perfect couple."  They knew what it meant to be a "team", have honest and open communication, and were both dedicated to their marriage.  They had mutual likes, friends, and interests.  They enjoyed singing together, raising their family together, and living life together.  They had every intention of growing old together...

     ...then Jeremy died.

     After Jeremy's death Vee's focus changed.  It took some time, but it changed.  She began to realize the importance in life.  She began to separate out the "small things" in life from the issues that really matter.  She learned how to love deeper, to love freer, and to look for opportunities where she might have only seen the normal everyday occurrences before...

     ...this is where I came in.

     For me, beyond the emotions of grief and loss of Jeremy's death lay other emotions attached to the relationship I have with Vee...


     You see, the only reason I get to experience this amazing love, the only way I get to spend my life with Vee, the only way we get to have this amazing family is because Jeremy died and because Vee had to lose her husband.  And then it hits me... I benefitted from someone else's loss. The thought of that still cuts me to the core.

     To this day I still don't know how to cope with knowing that the only way I got to this point with such an amazing woman is because Jeremy died too early and Vee lost her love.  When I think about it too much the feeling of guilt overcomes me.  I know I didn't cause Jeremy's death.  I know I didn't cause Vee to grieve.  At the same time I know without those events my life would look entirely different.

     I don't have any hard and fast answers to helping deal with the feelings of guilt that come from feeling like you have benefited from someone else's pain, but here are a few things that I have tried to remember when those feelings of guilt become strong...    

1) I love Vee from this point forward.
When I fell in love with Vee she had already lost Jeremy.  Her life with Jeremy present was no longer an option.  She will never get the opportunity to live out her days with Jeremy which means she will be living them out some other way.... that means I get the opportunity to love her for who she is.  Sure, there are parts that are broken but there are also parts that are uniquely healing, strong, and impossible to obtain without going through such a traumatic event.  This is where I found her and this is where I fell in love with her... and I can' imagine her any other way.

2) I dismiss hypotheticals and "what if's".
Vee and I are often asked hypothetical questions about our situation, such as "If you would have known how Jeremy were going to die would you have been with him... or taken him to the doctor when he had a severe headache...etc?" or "Comparing the life you had with Jeremy as to the one with Steve, which one seems to fit you better?"  These are all hypothetical questions and could drive a person crazy! I sometimes find myself here thinking "Where would I be if Jeremy was still living?" These questions only lead to me feeling guilty about the love I have found and the truth is... I cant go back and change a thing.  I can only move forward.  So, whenever my mind begins to ask the hypothetical questions I try my best to dismiss them and live in the present situation.

3) I accept reality.
Vee and I both came from really traumatic life events.  Those events are true and real and whether we like it or not, life is not always fair.  My reality prior to Vee was that I had been in a relationship where the other person was not in love with me and that out in various ways... as hard as it was, that was reality.  Prior to me, Jeremy and Vee were in a great relationship... then Jeremy died... and as hard as it was, that was Vee's reality.  We can't go back and change things, so we are forced to accept the reality of our circumstances and go forward from there.

4) I cherish the present.
The truth is, I am really blessed!  I have a wonderful wife who loves me and accepts me the way I am.  She encourages me, supports me, and loves me like I have never known before.  I cannot imagine anyone loving me anywhere close to the way that she does.  Several years ago a woman at my church was trying to help me put things into perspective and shared with me a story about a "good wolf" and a "bad wolf."  She asked me which wolf I thought would grow bigger and stronger than the other.  I knew there was some kind of catch even though I wasn't smart enough to figure it out, so I waited for her answer.  "The strongest one is the one you feed... so don't feed the bad wolf."  I could spend a lifetime feeding the "bad wolf" by thinking about hypotheticals and wondering how things might be different "if"... but then I would only be wasting the time that I could be using to enjoy what God has given me now.  So I try very hard to feed the "good wolf" by soaking up every day and by recognizing the wonderfully amazing life, woman, and family that God has blessed me with.

     In the last blog I mentioned I wanted to share some of the challenges that Vee and I have had go walk through in our relationship.  I want to encourage you (whether you are dating/married to a widow... or a widow looking to date or marry) to ask any questions that you would like and I will do my best to answer them as honestly and openly as I can.   I can't promise I will give any solutions, but I can at least share our journey with you.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

the outsider

   When Vee and I decided to allow God to use our lives as a ministry to help others we did so with the understanding that our lives, including our hurts and struggles, needed to be transparent.  Because God has blessed our relationship and our family so much I fear that sometimes it comes across that there have been no struggles, no challenges, or no hurdles that we have had to overcome.  The truth is- there have been.  Not many and none so treacherous, but there have definitely been things we have had to work through.

    Every relationship has its areas that need refined, and our relationship is no different.  Over the next few weeks I want to walk through some of the obstacles that Vee and I have had to walk through - and some them are common for those who are dating or married to a widow.  So if you have any questions or any topics that you would like for me to address, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address as many as I can over the next few weeks.  I can tell you that I don't have any hard and fast answers to anything... I am NO expert! What I can do is to give you an honest glimpse into our lives and how we have navigated our relationship.  As I already stated, my goal is to be as transparent as possible, so feel free to ask the hard questions.

     Recently Vee and I read the book "The Color of Rain" by Michael and Gine Spehn.  Before I go any further let me say that this book beautifully walks the reader through the painfulness of grief, the hardship of raising children in the midst of loss, and in the end has a beautiful story of redemptive love... so if you haven't read it, you should! One night as our family was making one of our many road-trips and the kids were finally starting settle down and drift off to sleep enough to the point where Vee and I could begin to hear ourselves think, Vee pulled out the Color of Rain and began to read. The chapter she started to read quickly drew my attention and before long I felt the the words on the page were the words that my heart had been trying to speak but my mouth could never quite find the right words to articulate.

    I want to let Michael Spehn's words speak here, but before I do I want to set up the chapter.  Gina Kell and Michael Spehn both lost their spouses at and early age.  As the book continues you begin to see that God has woven their lives together - not to make sense out of death and loss - but to give redemption and love where neither had any hope.  Sometime after both Gina and Michael lost their spouses they began a friendship and soon after a dating relationship.  In chapter 37 Michael shares that Gina's late husband, Matt, had several very close friends who had started a foundation in his name for families who have small children who lost a parent to cancer.  Since Michael's wife also died of cancer and left behind small children, Gina approached her late husband's friends with the idea that she wanted to change the name of the foundation to include Michael's late wife as well - the "New Day Foundation for Families, in honor of Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn."  Matt's friends were visibly and audibly against the change and, although polite, stood their ground that they wanted to support their friend who had died and were not interested in anyone else coming in the picture.  The following is Michael's words from this encounter:

     "I was a little insulted, sure, but I got it.  At its root was the fact that these guys weren't ready.  They were not prepared for the concept of Gina and someone else... anyone else, other than their brother Matt. I understood that completely.  I was frustrated by it but I was sympathetic to them at the same time.
     We spend years building the really important relationships of our lives; the guys you meet in school, the ones you play ball with, the few who made it through all of the years and all the experiences.  These are more than your friends; they are your touchstones that keep you grounded through life's ups and downs.  These people, and the collection of memories you share, form the bedrock that gives you the confidence to get married, have children, start new businesses, and so forth.
     When Matt Kell died, these men were shaken to their core.  They looked around and saw that the foundation of their lives had cracks in it.  The grief they felt wasn't simply sadness; it was also fear.  Men in general tend to respond to this feeling by shifting into task mode.  These guys did that by organizing golf outings and taking Matt's sons to ball games and figuring out ways to help Gina.  Which is perfectly well and good, but the core issues remained unresolved.  The result is grief delayed. The opposite of those who slip from grief into despair and hopelessness, these folks seem to consciously defer their grief for the sake of the widow and her kids.
     I was keenly aware of my status in this group from the start.  I was the outsider."

     "That's it" I said to Vee and we drove down the road into the dark of the night... "That's what I feel!"  Since Jer's death in 2010, his "brothers" and people who knew and loved him came to the aid of Vee and the kids.  They didn't know what else to do, so they did whatever they could!  They helped take care of the kids, took them out on special trips like Jer would have done if he were alive.  They helped with odds and ends projects around the house that Jer would have taken care of if he were still there.  They organized the Annual Jeremy King Memorial Hunt and a Jeremy King Memorial Dinner where money was raised to help Faith, Caleb, and Carter as they entered college.  All of these things were, and are, super important.  And these men and women who stepped up to fill a hole after Jeremy's life ended too short were a God-sent in the truest of senses.

     For some (though not all), Vee's status as a widow gave them a tangible outlet to ignore their grief and dive heart first into helping her and the kids.  In fact, it was not just an outlet... it was an important role.  As Vee and I began to talk and started dating it was hard for many of the people that had been close to Jer.  As Michael stated, they were not prepared for the concept of Vee and someone else... anyone else, other than their friend Jeremy.  For some, it threatened their "role" in taking care of Vee and the kids, for others they were not ready to see Vee move forward because they themselves had not yet been able to grieve because they had "delayed" their grief in order to help the family Jeremy left behind.

     Although it was hard, I understood where these folks were coming from.  I had been hurt too.  I had scars, but these were not my friends, these were Jeremy's friends and the bond that they had with Jeremy went deep.  I could not be mad at them for being hesitant, although it was frustrating at times.  As Michael so simply stated, "I was keenly aware of my status in this group from the start.  I was the outside."  I needed to be as patient with them as I wanted them to be with me.

     The good news - by and large, Jeremy had great friends who over time have come to accept me into their circle.  I am not "one of the guys" yet - and I may never be.  I will never be Jeremy's replacement (not for Vee or anyone else). But I have come to be accepted.  And I have come to accept them.  I have learned stories from them and have watched them grieve their friend and brother.  I hurt for them because I know in Jeremy's death their innocence was taken from them and has left them vulnerable.  I stand beside them, as many have stand beside me now.  I appreciate them for their friendship to their brother Jeremy, for the way in which they love and care about his family, and for their ability to look beyond their own grief to accept a new person into Vee's life.

     So, to make a long story just a little shorter, here are a few helpful tips to remember if you are dating or marrying a widow(er) whose late spouses friends are still active in her life:

1) Just because your widowed girlfriend/boyfriend is ready for a relationship with you does not mean everyone else in her/his life will be.  Expect some resistance and be prepared to be an "outsider."

2) Give grace and patience.  If the friends of your girlfriend/boyfriends late spouse are not ready, it doesn't mean that they will never be ready.  It may take some time but if they see that you honestly care about the widow you will gain their trust and respect.

3) Just because it was their friend doesn't mean they have to be yours.  There may be some people you find that you can be friends with, others will just be acquaintances, and others that you may not be close with at all... and that is ok!

4) Remember to be respectful.  Many of the "friends" were there to be helpful in a very tragic time.  Your girlfriend/boyfriend may not be very close with all of her/his late spouses friends, but chances are she may find their presence meaningful as it reminds her/him of their late spouse.  Putting these friends down or trying to remove them from the picture all together may be seen as a threat to remove the memories that your girlfriend/boyfriend has of her/his spouse.

     I hope these thoughts are somewhat helpful in your journey.  Again, over the next several week I encourage you to ask any questions, challenges, concerns you have about dating or marrying a widow.  I look forward to hearing from you and walking this journey with you!




Thursday, November 1, 2012



     Every once in a while I get a comment either from a blog, or Facebook, or in person where someone will say something to the effect of, "Vee is such a lucky woman to have you!"  While it never hurts to have your ego stroked... the truth is that I am the lucky one. Since Vee and I first started dating there were a lot of hurdles for me to overcome and Vee was patient with each one, knowing where to encourage me, where to support me, and knowing all the right ways to make a very insecure heart feel safe enough to love again.

     I came out of a very dysfunctional relationship that left some pretty deep scars.  The only things that were higher than the walls that surrounded my heart were the reasons why I shouldn't trust anyone into the very intimate parts of my life again.  Don't get me wrong, the idea of having a healthy relationship sounded good... but the thought of opening up my heart again literally scared the hell out of me!  I had been hurt before, my two girls had been through enough, and even the thought of having someone knock us down again was enough to make me want to lock the doors on my life and never let anyone in... but thats where I found her...

     I think it was easy for some people to peg Vee as a helpless widow who didn't really have much to offer.  In fact, I think for a time Vee saw herself in this way.  But the truth is, what Vee was able to offer me was exactly what would tare down the walls around my heart, heal my brokenness, give me and my daughters security for the first time, and change our lives drastically.  Vee wasn't (and isn't) some kind of charity case.  She is strong.  She has been through hell and back.  She has looked her worst nightmare in the face and lived through it.  And best of all (at least for me) she came out on the other side with a new perspective on life and the ability to love and live deeper. 

     I truly believe its because of what Vee learned through her brokenness that gave her the ability to love me to the point of healing my heart.  I have come to understand that a widow(er) loves different.  Its a focused love.  Its rooted in seeking the most of each moment.  It looks towards the best in the other person.  It skips past the superficial parts of life and is consumed by the truly meaningful and important pieces.  In its effort to find healing it bring about healing.  While it may be fragile it is as endless as an ocean and that is exactly what I needed, an ocean of love and acceptance.

    And that is exactly what I still need!

     Everyday Vee still showers me with the love that is re-writing and re-training my heart.  Its a slow process, but grief has taught her patience for this journey.  She accepts me for my flaws and my insecurities and continually reminds me that she is "in this journey with me for life" which is the salve to this old heart. 

   A few weeks after Vee and I started dating I heard a song on the radio that I hadn't heard in a long time.  The words rang true.  They spoke to exactly how I felt (and still feel) about Vee in my life.
                     "I don't get many things right the first time

                    In fact, I am told that a lot                    Now I know all the wrong turns                    The stumbles and falls brought me here
                   And where was I before the day                   That I first saw your lovely face?                   Now I see it everyday                   And I know that I am                   I am, I am the luckiest
                  What if I'd been born fifty years before you                  In a house on the street where you live?                  Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike                  Would I know?
                  And in a wide sea of eyes                  I see one pair that I recognize                 And I know that I am                 I am, I am the luckiest
                I love you more than I have                Ever found a way to say to you
                Next door, there's an old man who lived to his 90's                And one day, passed away in his sleep                And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days                And passed away
                I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way                To tell you that I know we belong                 That I know that I am                I am, I am the luckiest!"

      I tell Vee all the time that I am SO glad to be the one who gets to love her for life... and that's the truth!  I am convinced that God brought us together for a healing that neither one of us could have ever thought possible but neither one can deny.

    So, thank you babe!  Thanks for tearing down my walls, for helping me find myself again, for loving me unconditionally, for loving Zada and Reagan like your own, for being patient with me, for healing my heart, and for walking this journey with me!   

    I truly am the luckiest!