Coping with Loss/dating a widower
I have been seeing a widower. this is someone I knew in my past and we were re connected on a dating site. It has been 6 months and he has said that he loves me as much as he ever loved his wife who died 2 years ago. However, her ashes, its like a shrine are still in the entry way of the home. When i needed to move he said maybe you should move in with me. I knew it was too early and said when it gets closer we will talk. When that time came he said he had to talk to his daughters first and see what they thought. They didn't approve. They are in their 40's with homes and family of their own. I have met many family members I am not a secret to his family and friends. He still says we a lot (meaning he and his late wife) we haven't been there, I don't remember the last time we did that. I am divorsed and have been waiting for the love of my life for ever. I am having issues with that. They were married over 40 years and she must of been the love of his life. How do I overcome my issues with that and the fact that she is still in the entry way, their bath robes hang side by side in the closet. He needs to have the approval of both of his daughter's. I belive him when he says he loves me but it seems he really isn't ready. She pass in Septemeber 3 days before their anniversay, her birthday is in December. I don't know what I am suppose to do while he and the girls are out on those dates. As he has made it a condition that his daughters approve I feel like I need to be very respectful of them and I understand but I will never know what they are going through and I to have feelings. I have never been anywhere with him when family and friends are around that she does not come up in conversations. I have been called her. I think I am just venting and hoping that I am not setting myself up for a heartbreak that I will not over come. Thanks k
Thank you for taking the time to write with your story and questions. My heart goes out to you because I know how very much it takes to blend a family -- regardless of whether that blending is happening after divorce or death. Having grief in the mix makes everything amplify a million fold, and in our fast moving society, the grief stuff often just take much longer -- not to mention, much more consistent, vulnerable communication -- than most people are used to allowing for along the way.
While I definitely could not have any solutions for you from this one simple email exchange, I can tell you that you are not alone. Many people go through these kinds of hurdles and come out stronger for it. But it does take a lot of time and really honest communications between everyone involved for the integration to happen. I would encourage you to consider a few ideas as you ponder how to move forward:
1) Grief takes time and the relationships, though no longer physically manifested, do continue in many ways. While his wife and his children's mother is physically gone, the love and relationship role she played in their lives continues. It gets redefined over time, but it continues. Think of this as a different kind of person in a family tree. Say, a beloved grandmother, maybe? When your grandmother dies, though she is physically no longer present, your love for her continues, she remains a part of your family tree, her photos are cherished and shared with later generations of grand and great grandchildren who are part of her lineage. That is just the way things are with families -- even as they expand and blend to include new loved ones and new partners -- it really is going to be a blend, not a replacement. Can you live with that? Can you sit with how that will feel? Even 10 Christmases from now, when his children share photos and stories with their kids about who their grandmother is/was to the family? Can you sit with that kind of space?
2) Blending take time. There is always room for new love, but it can take time to make room for the change. In fact, that makes me think of Susan Reynold's book "Room For Change" where she talks about physically changing the make up of a room or house, in order to shift the energy after a loved one has died. Would it be possible, if you and your partner decided to live together one day, that you *and he* could make "Room for Change" by creating a new feel and space together. That space may still include his wife's ashes, but maybe in a way and place that you all set up together? For instance, in our home, we have a butsudan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butsudan
to honor our sons who have died. It can be closed and just look like a cabinet. Or it can be opened and lit to show and honor the contents. The shelves provide space for our grandchildren to make art for their uncles who have died and place that art on the butsudan on holidays and such. Maybe there is a meeting space that feels equanimous to you both and to his children?
3) For those days when he and his children want to honor his wife but do not want others to be present, can you live with that? Can you honor their wishes *AND* maybe do something special beforehand to share with them as they head into their rituals later? Like could you have trees planted in her name or light a candle in your home for her and share that with them. Let them know that you know they need private space to honor their mother *AND* you feel for them and honor her, too, and so this candle or those trees were lit or planted in her name? Once they see you honor this space, even as they are excluding you, they may begin to trust your sensitivity to their experiences and begin to shift themselves into space for including you in the rituals they do. Can you live happily giving this process a few years to see what happens? To be actually sincere in honoring their process? And on the days when you are excluded, can you really, really take care of yourself and tend yourself gently in some way? Do your own silent retreat on those days? Do a spa day? Something?
4) Can you really, really take care of you throughout all of this, regardless of outcome in the end? Can you set yourself up with good therapy or coaching support individually? Can you ask your partner to do couples therapy or coaching with you? Can you open your heart -- not only to him, but to the whole family -- living and dead members of that family -- and be compassionate, *even when they seem to not be choosing compassion toward you*??? That is a very difficult space to put yourself into without having very, very good selfcare. Can you commit to very good selfcare??
Okay, that's everything I can think of off the top of my head. I know that some of this may ring for you, and some of it may not be on the mark at all. Please just take whatever feels right to you, and ignore the rest. Seek as many opinions and supports for you and this process as possible. Stay as curious as you can about everything. When you feel the tension of judgment or all/nothing, try very hard to breathe through that and let it go. Come back to your curiosity about what is happening? Why are you hurting? What is the meaning you are attributing to whatever is happening? Is it possible to communicate in some other way with the people you love? How can you *both* honor yourself and the others? Staying with the questions until you can find a place of equanimity.
I hope this is a spark of a starting place for you. If you have follow up questions to this, please feel free to write again.
Miracles to you,