In the past year I have had to make some serious adjustments in many areas of my life. I mean, with a new family (blended family), new house and new job; big changes are expected right? Of course, each one of them has come with different opportunities to adjust, but so far, I feel I have anticipated and adapted pretty well to each new challenge. But as astute as I have been, one challenge did hit me with a nice left hook, knocking me on my butt. This heavy hitter has stretched me mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Who, you may ask is this world champion in the ring with me, that blind sided me with a left hook? My answer, “My beautiful wife of course!” Well, not my wife exactly but all the things that come with my wife. Because… I married a widow.
Unlike most relationships, being married to a widow is super complex! It takes a special kind of patience and understanding. Not only are we learning all the things about each other and our new life. We both are working diligently to make sure we start our new life out on the right track. Through our new marriage we quickly came to discover there are some pieces of the past that still needed attention. Don’t get me wrong, most of the pieces were picked up and worked out well before me. But as you can imagine, when you lose a spouse, it’s like a bomb explodes. The one left on earth is trying to pick up all the pieces of their broken life. Some pieces are evident and some pieces are gone forever, sucked in the abyss of widowhood. But what about the pieces that were lost, forgotten or just unexpected? Each showing up at different times for many different reasons. A birthday, a child’s milestone, a familiar restaurant, even our wedding day was a sharp painful reminder of what was and is no more. These are the pieces hiding in the shadows of our new life, waiting to be discovered.
I often asked myself and God if I am the right one for this! “This” being, “Am I that guy who can graciously care for, selflessly love, and patiently attend to the needs of my beautiful, yet sometimes broken bride?” The answer? “HECK, YES!” Although I will not and have not always navigated this perfectly, there are many things that I am learning. Below, I have listed just a few things I have experienced in this past year. Although sometimes painful, each present an opportunity for personal growth and it allows me to understand and love my wife on a much deeper level.
With great joy comes great sadness:
Many of the holidays, birthdays and milestones come with a side of grief. A time of remembering. Yes, we still have lots of fun during holidays but there will always be the memories of the holidays before me. Things like buying and moving into a new home should be one of the most exciting times. But in a widow’s world, it is a reminder of a home that was left behind. If you find yourself in this place try to understand that there is still joy to be had on those days. You can still make great memories along side of the sadness. I have discovered that new experiences help these moments become more joyful and meaningful in lieu of the mundane (if possible). So get creative!!!!!!
She loves another man:
Unlike divorce, most widows had great marriages and were madly in love with their late spouses. That is one big reason why they get married again! So it is important to know that they do and will always love their late spouse. It doesn’t mean they have less love for you. Just like a mother with multiple children who can love them all greatly, so can a widow love you. So don’t be surprised if you see pictures or hear stories about their once high school sweetheart. I would recommend and encourage them to display pictures of their past life, even ones with just the two of them (especially if there are children in the home). Allow them to talk about and remember their past relationship. This will help open your communication, deepen your understanding and love your spouse better. Remember, you are not in a competition. You are in support!
Be prepared to be compared:
At some point in time it will happen. At a family reunion, church or just catching up with old friends. You WILL be compared. Especially if your spouse was married to wonderful man (or woman for the widower). In my case Clint was an amazing man! So everywhere I go it seems like everyone who knew him, loved him. In the first part of our dating I was always worried that I “wouldn’t be as good” as he was. It felt as though everyone would always look at me as being second best. Including my wife! But time has proved me wrong. The majority of the people who love Clint also love me (majority= you always have haters). So my best advice is be yourself, love your wife, and let the whole world see an amazing love story!
Getting kind of awkward:
Nothing like going to a dinner full of your wife’s in-laws for the first time. I can remember meeting Clint’s whole family. They graciously invited us to a dinner so they could see Michelle and meet her new husband (that’s me). Talk about being nervous! And did I mention he has FOUR BROTHERS!!!!!! The first 30 minutes seemed like an eternity. I felt extremely awkward and very intimidated. I mean, I was in the seat of a son, brother, and husband that everyone missed dearly. I was the “replacement” so to say. But can I tell you, they were awesome! What I thought was going to be a night of weird looks and me sitting by myself, turned into a time of togetherness and unconditional welcoming. The acceptance I have been shown is proof that God can work in the hearts of all. I know that Clint would be proud! I’m aware not all past relationships will be as welcoming and understanding as this, but there is hope! People grieve in many different ways and at different lengths of times. Be patient, be understanding and be kind.
She sits in sadness:
There will be dark days ahead. In my opinion these are the hardest days. From time to time your spouse WILL struggle just to get out of bed. The grief will be crippling. Maybe it’s the day of their anniversary or maybe it’s just a Tuesday, but grief will come. As a man (or woman for the widower) I want to do everything I can just to fix my love. I would do anything just to take her grief away! But the reality of it is, I can’t. But, I can sit with her in her grief. Just being close to her is enough. Just letting her know that I am there for her is enough (DO NOT try to fix it). Just be present.
Bear the burden:
The title says it all! You didn’t make the mess but be prepared to help clean it up. When death happens it typically isn’t planned and it is always messy. There are many things that will likely be left undone. Anything from finances, home repairs, grieving children, unresolved marital issues, etc. may need your attention. At times it may feel overwhelming and unfair but remember your spouse didn’t ask for this either. Whatever the burden, just remember it won’t last forever. Focus on being selfless and understanding because you are working for the betterment of your relationship. The work you do now will be paving the way of your future.
So, let’s ask the final question. Is it worth it?
Easy… a thousand times, “YES!!!!!!!!!” I have never felt so loved, respected and appreciated in my life. When you marry someone who has lost their everything, they seem to have a better understanding and perspective on what is truly important in life. They don’t sweat the little things and life is now their adventure. They play hard and love harder. Is it always easy? No. But it is always worth it.
1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.