Thursday, February 7, 2013

Helping = Healing

     Some of the best opportunities in life are found when you can look outside of yourself and help someone else around you who is in need. While Vee and I have both gone through our fair share of heartache, we have learned to use our hurts for good and help others rather than remain bitter and beaten.

     One way we get to do this is through our blogs.  We get to share our experiences, challenges, and joys with those who are walking similar paths.

     Another way that we get to help others is through various opportunities to speak and share our story.   We are very excited to get another opportunity to share our story and help others coming up April 19-21.  Vee and I have been scheduled to speak at Camp Widow East (CLICK HERE).  Camp Widow is a great resource for those who have lost a spouse and are looking for hope, healing, and community.

     Vee and I will be leading several different workshops and roundtable discussions, including: Love in the Aftermath (finding love after tragedy), Mad at God (working through feelings of anger, spirituality, and loss), Loving the Pieces (a roundtable discussion on loving a widow), and a table discussion for widows of sudden loss.

     Our goal is to reach out to anyone who has lost a spouse.  In addition, we also want to reach out to those who are dating or married to a widow.  If you know of someone who falls into either of those two categories, we encourage you to look into attending Camp Widow.  We would love to see you there and look forward to sharing, growing, and healing with you there!

     Ps - I will be leading a special roundtable discussion for those who are dating or married to a widow.  So, if that's you, please come!  I look forward to having a big group to share with and learn from!

     Also, if you have been to Camp Widow or are going to be going to Camp Widow East this year... lets hear from you! How did you like it?  What did you find helpful?


Friday, February 1, 2013

A Safe Place

I remember the first time it happened.

"Jeremy and I went there last week."

I was taken back for a second.  A little hurt.  A little surprised.

Vee and I were sitting around talking with friends that she has had since college.  Then it happened.  She called me by the wrong name.  She was telling her friends about something that she and I did together just a week ago, but instead of saying "Steve and I..." she said "Jeremy and I..."

She never caught it... and by the reaction of those around no one else did either.  But I did.

It has happened a few more times since then.  Mostly around Jeremy's family or friends that Vee and Jeremy shared together.  At first it was unsettling.  I try to be as empathetic as I can but nobody wants to be called by the wrong name, especially if it's your spouse calling you by the wrong name.

Calling Vee by the wrong name has never been something I have ever feared.  Maybe it's because mine and Vee's relationship looks and feels very different than the relationship I had with my ex-spouse.  Maybe it's because long before I was divorced I realized that my first marriage could not be salvaged and had come to a place where my ex-wifes name wasn't associated with my everyday living or happiness.  Maybe it's because I have a peace about letting the past go and moving ahead into the future.  Regardless, I have never found myself accidentally calling Vee by the wrong name... and that might be why I found it surprising the first time she referred to me as Jeremy.

One of the last times that Vee had called me by Jeremy's name she caught herself right afterward and apologized for her mistake.  She didn't have to apologize, but it gave us a chance to talk about our feelings on the subject and a learning moment for the both of us.  She asked me if I was hurt when she called me Jeremy's name.  I told her the truth... while I was't upset, I also wasn't crazy about it.

At the same time, I understood.  As Vee began to share and we talked about the couple of times she had called me by Jeremy's name before I understood more of Vee's heart.  Jeremy and Vee had a close bond, close enough for Vee to feel safe to share her vulnerable hurt and fears with him.  While there are friends and family who know bits and pieces of her life, there was only one person who knew all of her and loved her for who she was anyway... that was Jeremy.

Now there are two men in that role. There are two men that she can associate with proving her a safe place to let down her guard and still feel as loved, valued, and beautiful as ever before.  Vee's accidental name slip is not a inner reflection of a greater love for Jeremy over me.  It has no basis for a idea that she has a reflected love for Jeremy casted onto me.  Rather, it is an natural, impulse reaction to feeling safe and loved.  Every time she had felt that sense of committed, safe, and overwhelming love in the past it had always come from Jeremy.

While I will never be thrilled when Vee accidentally calls me Jeremy... I get it.  When it happens now (which is very rare) I'm not angry or upset.  I recognize that it is not only a melding of Vee's two worlds in her heart and mind, but it is also a expanding of her safe place in this world.

So, the question might be for those of you who are dating a widow "What do I do when my widowed partner calls me by the wrong name?"  Here are a few things I am learning to do...

1) I understand that my feelings are valid too.  It's ok to feel awkward or surprised if thats the way it makes you feel.  You are entitled to have feelings - it's what you do with those feelings that can cause problems.  Own your feelings and learn to express them in a meaningful and helpful way.  I understand that Vee's name slips are not intentional or intended to make me feel bad or a reflection of a lesser love for me, so I don't accuse her of those things.  Instead, I try to let her know that while that makes me uncomfortable, I can understand why that happens from time to time.

2) I take the opportunity to give grace.  Vee isn't malicious and never tries to compare me and Jeremy.  She makes me feel loved and valued and would never want to hurt me in any way.  Therefore, when she makes a mistake, I do my best to give her grace and be as empathetic as possible.  I try not to bring up old times when she might have slipped up and called me the wrong name, but let her know that we all make mistakes from time to time and it doesn't affect the way I feel about her or love her.

3) I try not to point out the name slips unless she happens to catch them.  With 5 kids in our house everyone gets called the wrong name from time to time. I am always calling the kids by the wrong name, but it doesn't mean I love any of them more or less... it just means that I am getting old and in my mind things sometimes get jumbled!  To point out every time Vee might slip up (which again is very, very rare) seems a bit pointless.  I know when she is talking about me and when she is talking about Jeremy.  Sometimes she catches her mistake and other times she doesn't. Regardless, I try to let those moments pass without "making her pay" for an honest mistake.

4) I embrace the knowledge that I get to make her feel as safe and loved as she has ever known before.  As I mentioned before, I am only the second person in Vee's life to give her a safe place where she can fully let her guard down and still be loved.  I now get the opportunity to make her feel just and safe and loved.  It may come with bumps in the road, or mistakes along the way, or challenges that arise, but at the end of the day Vee knows that I am the person in her life who she can count on and who will love her no matter what.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

(Re)Married with Children

     Dating in your thirties can be difficult.  Dating in your thirties with 2 young daughters can be very difficult.  Dating in your thirties with 2 young daughters while the person you are dating has 3 young children of her own... now thats just crazy!

     From the very first phone call when I had asked Vee on a date we knew that our relationship would not be just between us.  Like most people who date and also have young children, we needed time alone to spend with each other (and we still do) but we also realized the importance of seeing how well our two distinct families blended together as one.  It wasn't just Vee and I who were entering into a relationship, but our decisions would impact our children as well.  Vee and I made a lot of special dates for just the two of us to go out and have fun together but we also spent a lot of time where both of our families got together and "learned" each other too. 

     Our children had known each other for a couple of years already.  They were friends, but hanging out and playing together a couple of times a year verses becoming family... these were two very different things indeed.  Not only did our children need time to adjust to what a family of seven might look like, but Vee and I both needed the opportunity to explore those questions ourselves. 

     From the moment that Vee and I knew we wanted to get married we agreed that we also wanted our family to feel like a "real" family.  We weren't blind or niave enough to think that the blending of our families would happen over night or that it would come without challenges, but we set the idea in our minds that we wanted our family to act, feel, and look like any other "normal" family you might meet.  That may not sound like a lot to some, but when your world has been tossed upside down like our children had experinced, "normal" sounds pretty darn good!

    Vee and I consciously looked at how we wanted our family to function and feel and decided on a few major ideas that we felt were most important.  These were our "sticking points":

1) We wanted to be conscious about the language we used. Even though it may seem small, language can be very telling.  We wanted the words we used, especially about our family, to bring about unity.  We steered away from saying things like "my girls" or "your kids" and instead use phrases like "our children" or "the kids."  Vee and I also agreed that the titles "step-parent" or "step-child" were not something we wanted to use in our family.  We were committing to our family with everything we had and we did not want even something as small as the word "step" to show less love, involvement, or meaning.  We have done our best to use a very inclusive language that shows our family and those around us that we love and care about each other.

2) We share our frustrations:  Listen, parenting is challenging... but parenting a child who is already several years old and is not used to your personality and parenting style can bring even more and unique challenges.  Vee and I committed to having a very open and honest communication about all of our frustrations, including our children.  We recognized that although our parenting styles are similar, they were not exactly the same, so we needed some time to adjust, time for the kids to adjust, and an opportunity for each other to share frustrations along the way.  If there is something that is bothering Vee about the way that Zada or Reagan is acting, then she shares it with me freely.  The same is true if I have a concern with Faith, Caleb, or Carter.  There is rarely an issue, but when one arises you can be sure that we feel safe enough to discuss it with the other person and are willing to come up with solutions to whatever challenges we face.

3) We are 1000% in it... when they are ready:  With children there is only two options: all in, or all out.  If you are not completely up to the task of being a parent, then the kids can see it a mile away.  From the very start Vee and I decided that we were going to let our children know that we were more than ready to be involved in their lives and fulfill the role of "mom" and "dad" for them.  At the same time, this takes grace and patience.  We offered our roles, but allowed them to latch on to them as they were ready.  Zada and Reagan began to call Vee "Mom" almost instantly and Carter began to call me "Dadda" pretty quickly as well.  Faith and Caleb were somewhat hesitant to refer to me as "Dad" until the past few months.  It wasn't something we pushed, but rather we let them get comfortable with it and let it happen on their own timetable.  There are times when Zada or Reagan will still want me to do something for them over having Vee do it, or likewise, Faith and Caleb will want Vee to help them with something over asking me, but we have seen a significant shift over the last several months as they have slowly allowed us to take on the roles that we have committed to be for them.

4) They know we are a team:  This may be basic to any parents, but in order to not let your kids take over the parents have to be unified.  Vee and I seek each other out about everything before presenting anything to the children or making any major decisions... and the kids know it!  If you ask our children they will tell you, mom doesn't make any decisions without dad, and dad doesn't make any decisions without mom.  We let them know regularly that we are a team and that we handle things as a team.  When they know it upfront it seems to thwart any attempts to play one parent against each other and allows Vee and I to gain trust and respect for each other too!

5) Sanity nights are a MUST:  Don't get me wrong... we love our kids, but every so often we need a little break from the noise, the messes, and the questions and demands that 5 children can bring.  Enter "Sanity Nights."  Usually about every other week Vee and I go out and have time together just the two of us.  It keeps us grounded and refreshes us and our relationship.  It's time where we get to spend just with each other and no distractions.  Sure, it can be costly with babysitters, and dinners out, etc.. but we feel like it is essential to our relationship and to our roles as Mom and Dad.

     Being (re)married with children can bring some challenges.  There are times you feel like your hair might turn gray overnight.  There are times you feel like you are banging your head against a wall.  There are times where you feel like you are getting nowhere.....but just when you feel that way you are reminded that the rewards are worth it all.  Just the other night Caleb came out of his room after we tucked them all in for the night and exclaimed "Dad, you forgot to kiss me goodnight!"  It's true, sometimes in trying to kiss 5 little heads as you tuck them in to bed you might just miss one... but this one was ultra special!  For the first couple of months Vee and I were married Caleb did not want me to kiss him goodnight... it was really more of a game than anything, but honestly he couldn't have cared less if I kissed him goodnight.  But time and love has changed all that.  Now he wants it... he seeks it out... and if I forget, he is right there to remind me!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

If You Really Want To Know...

A week or so ago I recieved a comment on my blog from "Ben" who asked:
"How do you see blogging about Jeremy and Vee's relationship for the last several months different from "a creepy 'marriage of 3'"? Because, as an outside observer, it seems pretty creepy.
Also, I've been reading Vee's blog. She writes about Jeremy constantly. It's basically Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy, and oh-yeah-here's-Steve-honoring-Jeremy's-memory. Even your own blog is pretty much equal parts Vee/Jeremy and Steve/Jeremy. Just based on what I've read, and Vee's comment above notwithstanding, your own personal identity is being subsumed by the specter of her ex-husband. You even went to the Jeremy King Memorial Pheasant Hunt. It's like you are basking in the reflected love from her memories of him.

You are definitely a bigger person than I, Steve. Were I you, a little piece of me would die everytime I heard Jeremy's name. At what point does being supportive of the grief Vee is going through become indistinct from being buried beneath the weight of Jeremy's memory?

How is your relationship different from any other rebound? From what I read, and obviously I don't know the whole story, your romance rapidly escalated from dating to engagement to marriage. Isn't it a bit premature to be thinking about writing a book about loving in the aftermath of tragedy? It's like you two survived the shipwreck and just washed up on the shore of a deserted island a few days ago. If you're still alive in ten years that's a story I'd like to hear about. But if you are fighting this hard for survival right now, what are you going to do when the coconuts run out?"

While my guess is that "Ben" is not as much concerned about 'how to love a widow,' I do think some of these questions may be valid to answer for readers who might be sceptical that a healthy relationship can not only be fostered but can also thrive in the aftermath of death and divorce.  So, Ben, this one is for you.

"How do you see blogging about Jeremy and Vee's relationship for the last several months different from "a creepy 'marriage of 3'"? Because, as an outside observer, it seems pretty creepy."

First, I must say you are correct... you are an "outside observer."  While Vee and I try to be transparent about the things we both write on our blogs, grief is a very, very small percent of what our actual relationship looks like.  Our life looks very similar to many newlywed couples... well, newlyweds that have 5 kids, of course.  We love to spend time together, laugh with one another, go on dates, watch movies, have friends over, relax together on the couch at night, play games with each other, be romatic, read books together, try new restraunts, go to new places, and travel.... oh yeah, raise our 5 children.  You don't see us writing about those pieces of our relationship because that is not the purpose of either of our blogs. 

While Vee and I were dating we noticed that there were not really any resources for people who were dating or marrying a widow.  This blog is designed for a very specific purpose, to be a resource for people who are dating or married to a widow(er).  If you want to know about how many times Vee and I go on dates, cuddle up on the couch, or laugh together... this blog is not for you (and, I may have to call the cops because at that point YOU might be the creepy one).  However if you want a honest look at a specific topic of loving a widow, well then, I have a blog for you!

In addition, Vee's blog reaches out to another very specific community: those who are widowed.  She has a ministry opportunity to serve those people by helping them understand that the ways they think and feel are normal.  She doesn't write on her blog about our love life, or how we raise our children, or how we spend our free time because her audience is specific to grief and her mission is specific to helping those in grief.

I am sure that it can seem as though all we talk about is grief if all you do is read our blogs (which are geared toward those in grief) but if you knew us, which you don't, then you would know that nothing is further from the truth... therefore the comment about a "creepy marraige of three" is nothing but laughable to both Vee and I.  Is our relationship influenced by our past... absolutely! Is our life and relationship rooted in grief... not even close.

"Also, I've been reading Vee's blog. She writes about Jeremy constantly. It's basically Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy, and oh-yeah-here's-Steve-honoring-Jeremy's-memory. Even your own blog is pretty much equal parts Vee/Jeremy and Steve/Jeremy. Just based on what I've read, and Vee's comment above notwithstanding, your own personal identity is being subsumed by the specter of her ex-husband. You even went to the Jeremy King Memorial Pheasant Hunt. It's like you are basking in the reflected love from her memories of him."

You get a "gold-star" for being observant! You're right, Vee's blog is about grief and so is mine... its pretty much all we talk about on these two blogs and kinda why we targeted it towards widow(er)s and those dating or married to a widow(er).  If your looking for blogs about home repairs, DIY, baking, or sex... well...  I don't know how to tell you this, but you have come to the wrong spot. 

As far as going to the Jeremy King Memorial Hunt, you're right... I did go.  I went not only to support my wife but to support my kids (Faith, Caleb, and Carter) in remembering their daddy.  I will never apologize or back away from supporting my family, ever!  This does not mean that I 'bask in the reflected love of Jeremy.'  It does mean that I: 1) have a heart, 2) love my family, 3) am willing to walk beside them throughout all of lifes journeys... not just the ones that make me feel good.  In addition, Jeremy was a friend of mine.  We weren't best friends but I knew him well enough to know the kind of guy he was and think that getting together with other people who respected and knew him as a person is a great opportunity.

I can assure you that there is no "basking in love" when it comes to grief.  It's painful.  It sucks.  And its very difficult to watch someone you love hurt.  Getting pleasure or love out of someone else's pain is sick, and I take serious offense that anyone would think that I revel in Vee's grief. However, I do love her in and through those moments.  When I married Vee I promised to love her in good and bad times, and I do!

"You are definitely a bigger person than I, Steve. Were I you, a little piece of me would die everytime I heard Jeremy's name. At what point does being supportive of the grief Vee is going through become indistinct from being buried beneath the weight of Jeremy's memory?" 

Ben, two words of advice... 1) don't ever marry a widow, and 2) if you ever think about marrying a widow, for the love of God please don't do it!

The truth is all relationships need to be selfless, not just those who are dating a widow(er).  If you can't be supportive of the other persons needs from time to time, then the relationship just won't work.  If the relationship is all about you, how you feel, what you want, and what feels good to you, my guess is that your relationship will be short lived. 

I have no concern with feeling "buried beneath the memories Jeremy" because while Vee wants to keep her memories of Jeremy close to her heart, she also is active in pursuing new memories with me, new traditions with me, new activities with me, new experiences with me, and new life and love with me.  

"How is your relationship different from any other rebound? From what I read, and obviously I don't know the whole story, your romance rapidly escalated from dating to engagement to marriage. Isn't it a bit premature to be thinking about writing a book about loving in the aftermath of tragedy? It's like you two survived the shipwreck and just washed up on the shore of a deserted island a few days ago. If you're still alive in ten years that's a story I'd like to hear about. But if you are fighting this hard for survival right now, what are you going to do when the coconuts run out?"

First, you have to realize that our relationship is far from a "rebound."  If Vee or I pursued the first person who asked us out, showed interest in us, or wanted to date us... that would be one thing, but the truth is both Vee and I had other people who pursued us prior to our relationship.  In the demise of my marriage I had been approached by a few women who wanted to pursue dating, but I had standards that were high and needed to find the right person that who could make me feel safe and loved.  After Jeremy died there were several guys who were trying to pursue Vee but none of them made her feel safe or who she could picture living out the rest of her life with.

It is true that our relationship progressed quickly but that is because neither of us were interested in playing games like the people who had pursued us.  We had already gone through so much, had children of our own, and there was too much a risk to be fake and put on a front.  We were open and honest about our past mistakes, our hurts, our dreams, our flaws, and what we wanted out of life.  Since we had already known each other and were friends prior to dating, the real question was whether we wanted more... and the answer was pretty obvious from the start.

It appears that you think we are "fighting hard for survival" but I am not sure where you get this idea... in fact, I would say just the opposite.  It takes an amazing amount of peace, love, and stability to write the kind of blogs that Vee and I write.  We have probably the most honest, romantic, loving relationship that I have ever witnessed.  Our marriage is not perfect and we disagree from time to time, but the amount of love and contentment that we have allows us to use these blogs as our ministry.  I feel that most marriages may not be strong enough to talk about the issues that we do, or be able to feel peace while being transparent like we can.  Vee and I both feel like it is a ministry and special calling to be able to reach out in this way and we have seen that our story has given people who are in the midst of tragedy a sense of hope, which is why we want to write about our story.  We realize our story does not relate to everyone.  You, Ben, may not want to hear or read our story... so I would encourage you to not read the book (or our blogs if you are bothered by them) ... or wait 10 years to read it if that will make a difference for you.  Either way, it makes no difference to me or Vee.

The truth is, Ben, there are thousands of widow(er)s who need to hear our story, who need to know that their thoughts and feelings of grief are normal, who want to know how to move forward while receiving permission to take with them precious memories from the past. There are thousands of widow(er)s who deserve to know that they can find love in the aftermath and that there is hope out there even when they don't think it's possible.  Additionally, there are going to be thousands more who God is preparing to love these widow(er)s.  They need to know that their feelings are valid and real, their thoughts and opinions matter too, and that being loved by someone who has been through loss can bring about the fullest and most intense love that one can find here on earth.

My guess, Ben, is that you are neither 1) a widower, or 2) dating a widow.  I hope I have answered some of your questions though and have given you insight into a world that you seem to not understand.  My hope for you Ben is that you are not like one of the random -insecure -unhappy -anonymous people that we occasionally get on our blogs who tries to "burst our bubble."  There have been some in the past and will certainly be more in the future.  My guess is that these folks must think that we value or serious take into consideration such attacks by anonymous people who don't really know us.  These people are not only sad... but sadly mistaken!

What they don't understand is that mine and Vee's happiness is rooted in God, nourished with love, secured with commitment,  strengthened through laughter, and blessed by a calling.  For every critical, unkind, and insensitive comment there are many, many more that reaffirm that what we are doing is valid and helpful.  And, as long as God gives us the outlet and ability we will share our love story with pride.



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.