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.