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.