Thursday, December 27, 2012

Memories vs Monuments

     Over the past couple of weeks I have been answering some questions from various readers about mine and Vee's relationship.  I hope they have been helpful and eye-opening.  Recently in a comment I was asked the question "Do you ever fear that your continual talk about your past will prevent you and Vee from making memories of your own?"

     I want to start by saying I think that this question may be a common fear for people who are dating a widow(er).  There was definately a time when I wondered if Vee would have the desire to make new memories with me because of her desire to hold on to her memories with Jeremy.  While it is a nice idea to think that one can meld the past and present together while looking towards the future, Vee will agree that she struggles sometimes exactly how to put that into practice.  I am not saying it can't be done, in fact I would argue that it can.  What I am saying is that it's a balancing act that requires grace and open communication from both people. 

     Simply stated, I don't think talking about the past is something I fear will hinder mine and Vee's future.   In fact, I think that talking about the past is one of the best ways to gain understanding for the non-widowed person and can give healing and acceptance for the widow(er).  Talking gives our soul an outlet.  Sharing memories, stories, and hurts is a great way to build trust, show support, and practice unconditional love towards your widowed partner.  I believe the trickiest part in making new memories is not in the talking about the past, but feeling free to move into and accept the future. 

     As I have said before in different blog posts there are many different reminders thoughtout our house of Jeremy's life.  There are pictures hanging up, a few articles of clothing still around, some tools in the garage, a few guns and some electronics in the basement.  These items don't make me feel insecure or threatened.  There are pieces of Jeremy and Vee's life together.  They tell a story.  They share an experience.  They bring meaning.  The stir precious memories....but they are not monuments.

     It may be a fine line but I think there is a difference between memories and monuments. Memories can be shared.  While the deceased is not physically here, memories are living.  Memories are special and valuable but they are also a gift and can be passed on.  Memories may make us cry but they can also make us smile and laugh.  Memories live on through stories, sharing, and special everyday moments.

     Monuments, however, are not living. They stand as solemn, fixed, and ominous pieces. They may remind us of the past but only in somber tones. Monuments can't exist as everyday pieces in a life because they are no pliable to fit into the context of a daily routine.  They rarely bring about a smile or laughter. Monuments can be visited, but cannot be "shared" like memories. And, unlike memories which are free for others to experience and be a part of, monuments are "untouchable."

     In our house there are many things that stir memories of Jeremy... but there are no monuments.  While some may choose to place in their home a monument (something fixed and untouchable) this is not the route that feels comfortable to us.  There is nothing so fixed in Vee's life or grief that I feel like I must walk on eggshells.  There is nothing so looming from Jeremy's life that I feel my own existence in our home is diminished.  There is nothing that Vee has set up in our life, relationship, or home that would make me think or feel for one second that our memories together are less important or not equal to her life and relationship with Jeremy.  Instead, the memory pieces that exist are there to provide opportunities for Vee, me, and the kids to touch, hold, and remember Jeremy's life and - at the same time - allow us to grow into who we are as a couple and a family.

     So, while this blog (and Vee's blog) deals a lot with memories of Jeremy its important to recognize that we have chosen these outlets to reach out to others who are in similar situations as ours.  We don't talk about our normal, everyday lives, or our children, or much of anything else because these blogs are a tool for us to help others in a very specific area.  Outside of these blogs, if all Vee and I talked about was her memories of Jeremy then that would be a different story.  But as it stands, Vee's memories of Jeremy are just one part of our life.  Its an accepted piece of our relationship.  Its how I came to know Vee and how she came to be the person she is today... but it does not define us and who we are as a couple together.




Friday, December 7, 2012

50 Shades Of Grief

     Tonight I wanted to address the question posed a few weeks ago: "Do you ever feel the need to talk about your past marriage when Vee talks about Jeremy? Or do you avoid discussion of your previous marriage?"

     I have worked in grief counseling for many years and have come to one realization: Grief comes in many shades, many forms, and many different costumes.

     In our lives Vee and I have both went through a grieving process...but our grief has taken different forms and looks very different.  I grieved the loss of a marriage to a woman who had not been faithful, honest, or loyal.  I grieved the marriage I wanted, but could not obtain.  I grieved the idea that I couldn't make things work even though I wanted too.  I grieved the loss that my daughters would not grow up in a household that was untarnished by divorce.  I grieve the fact that my daughters would never be truly close to their mom because she did not have the capability to have that kind of relationship with them.  I grieved... and then I left the past behind me and moved forward.

     Vee's grief looks very different/  Vee grieved the loss of her husband to an early death.  She grieved Jeremy's presence, his love, and his support.  She grieved the fact that he would never get to see Faith, Caleb, or Carter grow up into adults.  She grieved the dreams they had made together and the plans they shared.  She grieved... and then she took her grief and moved forward.

     Jeremy is not a intimate part of mine and Vee's relationship, but he is an important part.  We speak of him often.  Jeremy's pictures are up in the house.  We tell stories about Jeremy to the kids and visit his memorial stone on occasions.  Vee knows it is OK to move forward in life and continue to grieve Jeremy.  Its the form and shade that is healthy and acceptable to her and to me.

     On the other hand, and maybe not surprisingly, I rarely speak of my ex-spouse.  Its not because I can't, it's more because my grief is different.  I have no need to carry those memories forward. My grief is over - and while I bear some scars from the hurt, I no longer carry the grief with me.  From time to time Vee and I have to discuss how to handle situations with my ex-spouse, how her instabilities may or may not affect the girls, or what obstacles we may face in the future in regards to her, but mostly her name is absent from our house. This doesn't mean that I have totally forgotten my past.  I can and do talk about experiences I had in my previous marriage, but it rarely if ever revolves around my ex-spouse.

     As I have said in previous blog posts, I think the key to any marriage is clear, honest communication.  When you get remarried you come into the relationship with past experiences, memories, and even some baggage.  Sometimes those memories and experiences can make the other person feel a bit insecure. 

     Vee and I have found a lot of comfort and peace in talking through our feelings about how and where to share those memories. We recognize that the other person has a different grief journey and the forms and shades vary from our own experience.  We don't hold each other hostage to how "we would handle it" but show grace and patience as we walk the journey with each other.

     If you are dating a widow(er) I would just like to remand you that each person grieves differently.  Some outsiders will try to tell you that the widow(er) is moving to fast.  Others will insist she/he is moving too slow in their grief journey.  Some people might suggest that they "should or "shouldn't"  do "this" or "that in order to aid in their healing process. I encourage you to take the time to understand their own personal grief. Walk along side of them.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Be observant. Be quick to support and slow to judge... because there are many shades of grief.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Keep Breathing

     When tradgedy strikes it seems to knock all of the air out of you.  One second everything is normal and the next you find yourself in a completely different world.  It's a world that is unfamiliar.  It's a world that is unfair.  It's a world where there are more questions than answers.  It's a world that changes your views, perspectives, and life forever.  It's a world that brings hurt like never before.   

     It's a world where our friend, Amy Lewis, found herself this past Friday night when her husband of almost 11 years, Jim, suddenly and tragically died.  For those of you who have lost a spouse, you know what the coming days, months, and years will bring for Amy... but right now, she is just focused on breathing.  One step at a time.  One moment at a time.  One detail at a time. One breath at a time.

     At the young age of 34, Amy is trying to make sense out of this tradgedy... but luckily she does not have to do this alone.  She has the support of friends and her church who are standing beside her at this very moment.  We don't have any words to take away the pain or make sense out of Jim's death.  The ache that her heart feels and will continue to feel will not be soothed by our presence.  But, we are here and willing to do whatever we can to help.

     One of the ways that Vee and I want to personally support Amy is by raising money to help cover some of the costs of Jim's funeral. On top of tragically losing her husband, Amy just found out that the life insurance policy that she and Jim took out 20 months ago did not meet the required 24 month term period and therefore will not receive any fianancial assistance through Jim's life insurance.

      I encourage you to read more about Jim and Amy Lewis in Vee's blog. Since Vee receives a small amount of revenue from her blog, she has decided to donate whatever she earns from the month of December to Amy to help ease the financial burden that she is facing. All you have to do is click on her blog (CLICK HERE)- that's it! For each page impression, she receives money so make sure the page fully loads but it's really that easy. You are welcome to click on the advertisements on her page to earn even more, but just the click alone to her blog is huge.  So, even if you don't have any money to help... you can help raise money for Amy with just a few clicks on Vee's blog everyday!

Vee and I have also added Paypal donation buttons on our blogs. Click the button to easy and securely donate money to help Amy.