Episode 7 – Loving a Widower: A journey through the complicated, challenging and beautiful

Show Notes:

This episode dives explores the complexities, challenges and beauty of dating a widow or widower. We’ll meet Megan Steen and hear her story of finding love  with a widower she met at work. We explore the foundation of building a new relationship while acknowledging and honoring the memory of the one who is gone, as well as tackling the sensitive topic of being invited into the family’s grief journey. You’ll hear valuable advice on navigating these dynamics, along with resources like therapy and books to support both partners. The episode wraps up with interesting statistics on widowers and widowers, dispelling the myth that they are “undateable.” Finally, excerpts from a poignant poem on grief add a reflective touch.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on the show – leave your comments and feedback below!

Originally from Northern California, Megan Steen lives in Orange County with her husband and two energetic toddlers. A lifelong sports fan, she roots for the San Francisco teams. Building a successful career in enterprise technology, Megan rose from an office assistant to Director of Growth Marketing at Quest Software, now leading a global marketing team. She values personal connections and enjoys hosting vision board parties and brunches. Finding peace in nature, Megan loves beach walks, the fresh air of Lake Tahoe, and the beauty of Big Sur. To share her wisdom, Megan writes heartfelt letters filled with life lessons to her niece.

In this episode:

  • Intro and background – Megan Steen
  • Foundations – meeting and building a relationship
  • Acknowledging and honoring the one who is gone
  • Being invited to experience grief with the family
  • Accessing help and resources – therapy, books
  • Moving in together
  • Interesting stats on widows and widowers
  • Advice on getting involved with a widow or widower
  • Widowers should not be viewed as “undateable”
  • A poem on grief
  • You are an ‘addition’ not a ‘replacement’ for that person who is gone
  • The game – “You Know You’re Old When….’
  • Send me your comments and feedback on the show!

ThirtyFiveSixtyFour is your weekly dose of inspiration for navigating the exciting, unpredictable, and undeniably transformative journey of midlife. Hosted by Karen Stones, founder of 13 Jacks Marketing Agency, avoids the tired cliches of crisis and stagnation. This podcast celebrates the power of play, discovery, and possibility that comes with this unique chapter in life. Join us every week as we delve into the real stories, challenges, and triumphs of midlife. We’ll explore fresh perspectives, practical tips, and inspiring experiences that will help you thrive, not just survive, during this pivotal time. Ready to rewrite your midlife narrative? Head over to thirtyfivesixtyfour.com and be a part of the adventure!

Resources:

Megan’s Blog: With Love Aunt Megs
Blog Post – Grief From the Perspective of a Widow’s Partner
Brene Brown TED talk
Book: The Gift of Imperfection
Book: It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok
Book: Experiencing Grief

Show Transcript:

[00:00:00] Megan Steen: Over time, I made peace with it, and I realized that I am different. I’m different to him. He’s different with me, and I’m an addition to his life. I’m not the replacement, and I shouldn’t be, because she’s still very much a part of the story. Therefore, she’s not replaced.

[00:00:28] Karen Stones: Welcome to episode number seven.

We’ve got a very special guest today, Megan Steen. Megan has two beautiful children, is married, and is currently running a large team of digital marketing pros across the globe. When I first met Megan five years ago, her warmth, her genuine, authentic self, and her open heart astounded me. Today, she has a special message of courage, vulnerability, and hope. She’s here to tell her unique story of how she fell in love and eventually married a widower. The sensitive journey you’re about to embark on is filled with emotion, hope, and practical advice for those of us who know somebody who has lost a spouse or partner, and those of us who have the great privilege of romantically loving a widow or widower.

[00:01:29] Karen Stones: Today’s episode is dedicated to the memory of Shelby. Welcome to the show, Megan. It’s so good to have you.

[00:01:36] Megan Steen: Thanks for having me.

[00:01:37] Karen Stones: Today we are going to be exploring a very sensitive topic, and that is loving a widower. And by that, I specifically mean in a romantic context, dating, living with, engaged to, or perhaps married to a widow or a widower. So, Megan, you have been married for how long?

[00:02:03] Megan Steen: Coming up on four years.

[00:02:05] Karen Stones: Great, great. And you have been with your husband now for about five years?

[00:02:09] Megan Steen: Yeah, five, six years. I mean, give or take. COVID, who knows how long things were actually happening.

[00:02:17] Karen Stones: And tell me about how you met Troy.

[00:02:19] Megan Steen: We met at work.

[00:02:22] Megan Steen: We’ve been working together for probably ten years. I would say again, time is a flat circle. Yeah, we’re working together for ten years. In fact, we actually were cube mates very, very early on. I am naturally an extrovert. He’s naturally an introvert. And for an introvert to have to share a cube with an extrovert probably was a lot for him. But little did I know at that point in his life, you know, we were just coworkers, so we didn’t know too deep of anything about each other. Yeah, but I didn’t know that he had a wife at home who was ill. I might have known to some extent, right. But I didn’t know to a certain extent where he’d be sleeping at the hospital for a week, and then he’d come into the office. So one Friday after I left, he got up and moved all of his stuff and moved it to a different cubicle because I talked to him too much. No kidding.

[00:03:27] Megan Steen: And I came in Monday morning, I’m like, what the heck? And I felt a little like, you know, why would he move away from me? And it’s funny now, right? But then here was this 30 something year old guy who had a lot of the world on his shoulders.

[00:03:46] Megan Steen: Right. And he was so serious about his work and coming into the office and not really making friends. I loved making friends. And so, you know, I was like, where are you going? And really, he’s just like, I need my space. I need my physical space from anyone. Which is fascinating now, in hindsight.

[00:04:08] Megan Steen: You know, years later, we’d end up getting married, but at that point, he was going through that. And then a couple years after that, his wife had passed, all while I was going through a separation from my husband, who I married my college sweetheart when I was 22, ultimately dealing with some infertility issues, as well as just realizing he wasn’t my person, as wonderful as he was, you know? So I had my own journey, personal journey I was going through, and he had his, and we just. Our friendship grew along the way as we were going through our own things.

[00:04:52] Karen Stones: You know, both of you experiencing different traumas.

[00:04:56] Megan Steen: Right, right.

[00:04:57] Karen Stones: And you were both friends, so the depth of knowledge of this trauma was definitely not there at this point.

[00:05:05] Megan Steen: No. Yeah.

[00:05:07] Megan Steen: And I think, you know, again, hindsight’s my favorite thing about life. So looking back, it’s just our stories that we were having separately and then being able to come into the office as a way of, you know, coping and kind of leaning on each other really grew deeper and deeper over time. And little did we know, right, that it would end up the way that it did.

[00:05:31] Karen Stones: So your friendship slowly started morphing into a romantic relationship. Tell me about that.

[00:05:40] Megan Steen: Well, ours, you know, because of where we were coming from, you know, like, I had lost. I had just lost everything in terms of friends and husband and house and. And all of that, and so. And that I was 30 at that point, so I was just getting to middle age. This was, you know, just prior to that. Felt a little early and unexpected in some ways, but also, I was very accountable for my own divorce. And while he was going through his grief, he took a lot of time to himself. Did things like go to burning man. He took a solo trip to Iceland. He did all these things that he hadn’t been able to do as a caretaker and as a husband earlier on to really expand himself.

[00:06:31] Megan Steen: So he was doing that. And I also went on a solo trip myself, and we just kind of were living these parallel lives, you know, and then they just started to kind of morph together and then it, you know, eventually turned romantic.

[00:06:49] Karen Stones: So you knew who you were starting to date. And did you ever pause and wonder, can I date this person, given what has happened?

[00:07:01] Megan Steen: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say a couple months, probably six months again, times a flat circle. We were out to lunch one day while working, and he had told me very vulnerably and kind of off the cuff, you know, I’m worried about my next relationship, being able to give my full heart to that person. And little did I know that next person was going to be me. And I found that profound. I found that to be a beautiful awareness, you know, that he was worried about the next thing and he didn’t think that he’d be able to give himself. He didn’t think he wanted to get remarried at that point. He didn’t want kids at that point. I wanted to be remarried. I loved being married. I just wasn’t married to the right.

[00:07:51] Megan Steen: I wanted children. I desperately wanted children. So I knew what I wanted. He didn’t want those things.

[00:07:58] Karen Stones: So you go through this period of friendship that grows into a budding romance.

[00:08:05] Megan Steen: The beginning.

[00:08:07] Karen Stones: I can think of you two walking with butterflies and so excited to just be together.

[00:08:13] Megan Steen: Yeah.

[00:08:14] Karen Stones: You do all the typical things that couples do. I’m sure you went out to dinner and concerts.

[00:08:21] Megan Steen: Yes.

[00:08:22] Karen Stones: And you eventually make your way to his home.

[00:08:26] Karen Stones: And, you know, all women want to see how men live without us. And you walk in and what do you see?

[00:08:35] Megan Steen: Photos of her. I see their great dane that she picked out as a puppy who. He still lives with us now. That was her dog.

[00:08:47] Megan Steen: You know, he still lives with us. He’s twelve years old and a baby in his own right. But she chose him. And the photos on the wall were a very. It’s a very instant reminder of someone else was here. Someone was before you, you know?

[00:09:08] Megan Steen: It’s surreal.

[00:09:09] Karen Stones: I could only imagine. And you start becoming a serious item you’re considering this man could really become a long term partner for me. But as the time continues to pass, there’s landmark dates that you’re also experiencing regarding his wife. And tell me about what it would be like, for instance, to do a Christmas together.

 [00:09:40] Megan Steen: Well, Christmas in this instance. And his story is hard because she passed two days after Christmas. So, you know, Christmas comes with its own set of baggage anyways, for all of us. Anxiety, joy, frustration, family stuff, all of that. Right. This adds a different element to it because there’s grief involved and there’s sadness. And he wasn’t there when she passed. She was in the hospital without him. On one of the very few occasions that he wasn’t with her was the time that she died. So there’s a lot of shame and guilt that came along with that. So all of those really hard and tough emotions are kind of wrapped around Christmas anyways, which is tough. But I would say her birthday and obviously the date that she died are very significant dates to him. And now to me, as the partner, you absorb that anxiety and you. I already have anxiety, so this just adds to it. But, you know, you take that on together. But dates are hard. They’re very hard. At the beginning, I would say the first couple of anniversaries, the first one especially, I remember the first one, he just lied on the couch all day, and we were with his family, and this is the first time me meeting his family, and I was there for Christmas, and it was all hard, you know, and we just kind of tiptoed around him.

[00:11:20] Megan Steen: And let him be sad on the couch. And I just remember that being a really quiet day, but everyone in the family honored it.

[00:11:31] Karen Stones: It’s hard enough to meet a new family, you, tips, you know, you want to put on your best, you want to be the person that they would like, and you want to be agreeable, you don’t want to say the wrong thing.

[00:11:43] Megan Steen: Yeah.

[00:11:44] Karen Stones: And here you are now, navigating deep grief on top of meeting an entirely new family.

[00:11:52] Megan Steen: They lost a daughter in law. My sister in law lost a sister in law. It’s a whole family matter.

[00:11:58] Megan Steen: You know, I think the daughter in law piece was really, was really difficult for my in laws now. Absolutely. But my mother in law has a very great way of talking about hard things. You know, a lot of people stray away from it. She kind of deals with, deals with those conversations head on. She asks questions. She talks about the hard things. It’s one of the things I admire most about her. So entering that, I came from a family where we didn’t really talk about our emotions much. Our love language was quality time, and we’ve got a great family dynamic. It was just different. We didn’t talk about our feelings nearly as much. This family cries all the time. They all cry. They all hug, they all talk about their emotions. They get mad at each other, but then they find their way back, and it’s actually a really beautiful thing. And I think it’s incredible. Healthy, honestly. And so they’ve taught me a lot, but I think this family navigated that, so. And they still do so beautifully. They still talk about her. She’ll come up. She came up a lot for a long time at the beginning, naturally, and I just felt like I couldn’t quite enter the conversation.

[00:13:16] Megan Steen: When they talked about her, but I let them have it, and they let me be a part of it. You know, it’s not like they were talking about her. I’d walk into a room, and then they’d stop.

[00:13:27] Megan Steen: It wasn’t that they allowed me to be a part of it. And as hard as it was, I think that’s actually the healthiest thing they all could have done, is kind of to bring me into it and not have me feel like I was this outsider, you know? So it was actually pretty wonderful, now.

[00:13:45] Karen Stones: So you’re navigating these holidays, dates, and each one of them comes with their own rituals, memories, and how do you know what to do during those dates? You know, they come up and your lover is devastated.

[00:14:08] Karen Stones: How are you navigating that during this time?

[00:14:12] Megan Steen: At the very beginning, when it was the hardest for him again, because time is a wonderful thing, and it does heal a lot. So now it’s different now that so many years have passed. But the first couple of years, I would just ask him, where do you need me? What do you want from me on that day?

[00:14:32] Megan Steen: You know, if you don’t want me around, you just tell me that. And you just have to get to that space of honoring that for them. So.

[00:14:41] Karen Stones: So you directly would say, tomorrow is thanksgiving. I know it’s going to be a difficult day for you. How can I support you?

[00:14:50] Megan Steen: And he would tell me, like I said, at the beginning, at the beginning, couple of anniversaries, I would say. He would just say, I just need my space. I need my time.

[00:15:02] Megan Steen: You know, needed my time on the couch, or, I’m going to her gravesite, and I need you to come with me.

[00:15:09] Karen Stones: And did you ever then go with him?

[00:15:12] Megan Steen: Yes, every time I’ve gone. Every year on her birthday.

[00:15:18] Megan Steen: He’s got a really special ritual where he goes, gets in the car, listens to a love song mix, you know, that he made for her or songs that remind him of her goes to a local flower shop that was really important to her family, buys those flowers, and then goes and just spends time at her gravesite. And the first.

Well, I’m sure he did it on his own without me, but the first time he asked me to come with him, I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. I didn’t think that I was worthy enough. I felt really anxious about it. I felt very conflicted. But in hindsight, I’m so glad I did that, because he. That was him asking me to walk in his grief with him. And ultimately, it was helpful for me, too, because when I first started visiting her grave, I would take time and think about her, be sad for her, be sad that she was so young and she really had a hard life with all the illnesses that she had, but I just would be really full of guilt and, you know, all of these really sad emotions at first, because it just was really sad. It really was. It was very unfair. You know, she was 30, 31, I think it’s so young. She had so much, so much ahead of her.

[00:16:54] Megan Steen: So I felt like I was intruding in the space, too, you know, like all those big. All those big kind of conflicting feelings. But as years pass and as our relationship grew and just blossomed and it got more vulnerable and empathetic and beautiful, I would say my frame of mind going there changed.

So now I tell her, thank you for loving him, because I am now the recipient of that love. And I believe that she’s so much a part of our story now, and that frame of mind is just a gift versus being afraid of it.

[00:17:43] Karen Stones: It sounds like you have a beautiful message for her, and that is simply gratitude.

[00:17:48] Megan Steen: I’m very grateful for her.

[00:17:50] Megan Steen: And who he was for her, who she was to him, how she helped mold him into the. Not only the husband that he is, but the father that he is. He amazes me every day as a father, and it just makes being married to him even more special, you know? But again, with someone walking through grief, I think they just live differently. You know, they know that life can be taken away.

[00:18:21] Megan Steen: And I think they just have. They live with a deeper sense of gratitude, a deeper sense of love, a deeper sense of empathy. And I just, again, I get to be a recipient of that.

[00:18:35] Karen Stones: That’s really special. It’s very special. There’s no step by step plan on how to support somebody in this situation. Step one, smile. Step two, write a note.

[00:18:49] Karen Stones: There is a journey that is different for everyone. Did you have any resources or people that were helpful along the way.

[00:18:58] Megan Steen: Yeah, it’s a great question.

[00:19:01] Megan Steen: I saw my therapist for about two and a half years. She helped me prior to my divorce, during, after. And then comes along a grief story, and she really helped me through it. She helped me through drawing boundaries for myself. She helped me keep myself in focus. I would say, to be in part of the relationship, because that’s one thing. When you enter a relationship with a widow or a widower, you feel like it should be all about them. And in some cases, it kind of is. But you can’t not think about yourself in the relationship.

[00:19:40] Megan Steen: You can’t take yourself out of that. You have to navigate it together, and you have to draw your own boundaries. So she, I think, was the best tool that I had. Gosh, when I first started going to therapy, I’d cry every single time, and I’m not much of a crier, but I’d cry every time. And then towards the end of it, once we’ve really uncovered some things and worked through some things, and I put on a lot of work into therapy, a lot. I’m a huge fan of it. You know, she eventually told me, okay, now it’s just like two girlfriends coming to chat about what’s going on. I don’t think you need me anymore. And I felt like I graduated from it, but I’m sure I’ll need it again at some point.

[00:20:19] Megan Steen: But, yeah, therapy, absolutely. And then I actually found podcasts to be a huge game changer in my grief journey. And I’m not even talking about just listening to podcasts on grief. I would listen to folks like Brene Brown talk about vulnerability and courage and shame and empathy and all those things that really go hand in hand with grief.

[00:20:46] Karen Stones: Yes.

[00:20:47] Megan Steen: And it started to change my mindset on so much, and I really. And to this day, I still do. And so that’s why this opportunity is like a full circle for me, because of how important, you know, those aha. Moments I would get listening to podcasts, and then I’d be able to just kind of draw that into my own life and figure out how best to navigate. So very long winded answer, but therapy and podcasts. And then the third one was writing. I’m a blogger, and my blog is called with Love, aunt Megs. And I’ve been writing letters to my now 13 year old niece, Avery. So it’s been 13 years I’ve been writing, and little did I know that it was going to turn into this avenue for me to pour out my stream of consciousness, because that’s all my blog is. I just come with a topic, whatever comes to mind. I write it, maybe edit it for grammar and then publish. I don’t think too much on it. I don’t have a content calendar. It just comes straight out. And I found that that was a big outlet for me to really get in touch with what was going on for me.

[00:22:01] Karen Stones: That’s beautiful. That’s with love, Aunt Meg’s. Okay, listeners, you’ll have to check that out. There’s some really beautiful writing on that site. What are some of the really challenging moments that you’ve had to navigate that appear to be fairly normal, but then you come across something and it is quite a barrier. For instance, what would you do with a box of cards? Maybe that she gave Troy?

[00:22:29] Megan Steen: Great question.

We still have her wedding dress in our house. We still have photo albums all in the garage. Now, she used to write him handwritten notes before he’d go to work, which, again, was really beautiful. She was very, very heartfelt. And he kept all of that.

What’s interesting about that, he’s not very, I would say, nostalgic or needs to be very close to items. He doesn’t really get invested in them, but these are, in a way, kind of sacred.

[00:23:06] Megan Steen: Because it’s a piece of her and it’s a part of her. It’s really a part of him. So we still have that in boxes. And if they’re going to stay in our garage because they need to live on, then that’s where they’ll be.

[00:23:21] Karen Stones: As you moved in together, eventually you ended up living at Troy’s house?

[00:23:27] Megan Steen: I did.

[00:23:28] Karen Stones: Which is also was his marital home.

[00:23:31] Karen Stones: And what were you able to do to make that more yours instead of hers?

[00:23:38] Megan Steen: That’s a great question. It really never felt like mine. And I lived there for maybe a year after I was divorced. I moved into a small little apartment in Laguna that was like, basically a closet, but I was on Pacific Coast highway, so I didn’t care. And I lived there for a year and really just focused on myself and.

[00:24:02] Megan Steen: Did all those things. But when we were getting serious and we decided to move in together and move into that house, it was hard. It was really, really hard. But it never really felt like mine. It always felt temporary to me. You know, when you see photos or you see their dog and it just. It was never home to me, but I knew that it was home to him.

[00:24:27] Megan Steen: And I knew that it was very sentimental to him. You know, he had a lot of memories, good and bad, as all marriages have in that house. But again, going back to the boundaries that my therapist kind of helped me draw was, okay, you can live in this house for a period of time that you choose, but what’s your boundary from that? And I said, well, if we get pregnant or if we get married, I need to start that new life in a different home. And he fully respected that. And sure enough, we got pregnant, and we were married a little later after that. Our son was three months when we were married, and he was our best man. And during COVID of all things, it was crazy. But that was the boundary. The place that I stayed in was a place that I stayed. It was his home, but for me, it was a place that I stayed. Our home now is what we built together, and now we have two children, and that’s our home.

[00:25:31] Megan Steen: You know, so I had to make that kind of distinction that this was a temporary place that I was just living for a while. And in a way, it was just also kind of honoring her, too. If this was her home, it wasn’t mine.

[00:25:45] Karen Stones: What are some of the ways that you can overcome not comparing yourself to or replacing a partner? It seems like that would be easy to fall into.

[00:25:59] Megan Steen: I mean, regardless of whether you get divorced or they pass away or it’s just a relationship, we all deal with that. Absolutely. I actually knew her before she died. She was lovely, very artistic, great singer, amazing drawer. Oh, my gosh. She and I used to play draw.

[00:26:21] Megan Steen: Whatever that app was called. We send each other drawings.

[00:26:24] Megan Steen: Mine were always terrible, and I always looked forward to hers because they were wonderful and detailed, and I was like, why is she playing with me? But she was. She was so very creative in that way. I am not. You don’t want me drawing anything. You don’t want me singing anything. And just fundamentally, we were very different. So I never really compared myself to her in that way. Maybe the only kind of way that I do is probably, like, with their friends, okay. Because she was a part of that friends group. You know, they all went to college together, and they all have that rich history together that I wasn’t there for. And so maybe it’s the. I wasn’t a part of that period of his life that I’m. I kind of compare myself to. I went to a private Christian school, very buttoned up, like, not crazy. And they were big partiers at Chapman, you know, and that’s just not who I am. And so maybe that. But that was probably the one area that I just didn’t let myself get to because I think we were just apples to oranges.

[00:27:30] Karen Stones: Yeah. That’s fantastic.

[00:27:33] Megan Steen: Yeah.

[00:27:33] Karen Stones: I feel like that would be a struggle of mine. I just identify with that, possibly from the other perspective of thinking about someone else’s spouse or ex girlfriend. So it seems like it would be a common pitfall.

[00:27:47] Megan Steen: I was shocked to learn that the.

[00:27:51] Karen Stones: Average age of a widower is 59.

[00:27:55] Megan Steen: Wow.

[00:27:56] Karen Stones: Yeah, 59. And about 40% of widowers go, or widows as well. I’ll kind of put those two together. Widows and widowers. About 40% to 45% end up remarrying. And I know that a lot of them have been hesitant to get out there and find somebody like you who can do this with them.

[00:28:26] Karen Stones: What would you say to those widows and widowers who are nervous to get back out there and give love another try?

[00:28:34] Megan Steen: Do it. Lean into it. I think you have a unique perspective of so much love that you have to give. You know, grief is just unexpressed love with nowhere to go. Give that love somewhere to go. And you can do that. You can do that in a way of honoring your. Your spouse before. Like I said, bring them in to the next relationship. Work together, be communicative with your new partner, affirm your new partner that you’re different, because they’re gonna. You’re gonna be different. You’re gonna be just, in any relationship, you’re different. Different sides of yourself and different times of your life. You’re different with each person. This was just a situation where it ended earlier than they had expected. But bring that person along. And I think that there’s multiple people out there for us. There’s a reason that they’re in our lives. There’s a reason they leave our lives, you know, and be open to that. And. And also, if you don’t want to move on and you want to stay single, go for it. Every story is different, but if you’re even thinking about it and you’re worried, that means that there’s a part of you that wants to.

[00:29:53] Megan Steen: So jump in. Go for it. Have some new experiences, but just bring that person along your grief with you. But also don’t make that the center of your life either. That’s a part of your story. That’s not who you are.

[00:30:10] Karen Stones: I imagine many women and men and others who have hesitated to perhaps date a widow or widower because they don’t know how to navigate all these sensitive places.

[00:30:24] Megan Steen: Yeah.

[00:30:24] Karen Stones: What would you say to those folks?

[00:30:26] Megan Steen: I never had to get on the apps. You know, from the time I separated to dating Troy, I never. I never went down that route. Nothing against it. I probably would have eventually, but I think without this experience, I may have just looked at a widower and thought, oh, boy, that’s kind of a lot. But guess what? So is being divorced or addiction or whatever else baggage that we have, it’s all a lot.

[00:30:54] Karen Stones: Yes, it is. You know, and everybody has it in some way, shape or form, and sometimes it’s just more obvious. But you’re right. I think at this age, middle age, everyone has been through different life experiences, and some of them have been very difficult.

[00:31:13] Karen Stones: And being a widow or widower does not make somebody undateable.

[00:31:19] Megan Steen: No, not at all. Not at all. And again, my situation was. Was a little different because I had known him for ten years, and, you know, our paths were going in different places, but they eventually came together. And like I said, I didn’t choose this. I chose him first and foremost. I chose him knowing that this was coming with it, because I had seen the whole thing kind of play out just as his friend. So that situation is a little different than just meeting someone, I would say. But in my experience, the level of vulnerability and empathy and depth that it’s brought to Troy’s life, who was a widower at 32, you know, you said a little earlier, 59. I mean, this was almost 20 years difference in that. And he had to navigate this, you know, at such a young age. But I think, again, in hindsight, it really blossomed him into just an incredible. An even more incredible person than he was.

[00:32:28] Karen Stones: The depth is, I don’t know, unmeasurable, really.

[00:32:32] Megan Steen: Yeah. Yeah. So I would say anyone on the flip side of that, don’t disregard the widow or the widower. Lean into that and really experience that, because it’s pretty beautiful.

[00:32:47] Karen Stones: Are there still things, even after all these years, you’ve been married, you’ve been together, you have very open communication.

[00:32:55] Karen Stones: Are there still things that are hard for you to navigate?

[00:32:58] Megan Steen: Not at the moment, no. Which is pretty wonderful. You know, we do have two young kids, and we both know that when the time is right, we’ll bring them into both of our stories. They’ve been to. Well, actually, I don’t know if my daughter has, but my son has been to her gravesite.

[00:33:19] Megan Steen: He was probably two years old at the time, so wouldn’t have any knowledge of what that is. But that’ll change when they’re old enough to have those conversations and then to bring her into their lives as, here’s that special person that was married to dad before, you know, and having that, that’ll be an interesting road to navigate because, as you know, kids ask a lot of questions over and over and over again. And knowing my son, he will ask us repeatedly. Once that starts to come up, one.

[00:33:54] Karen Stones: Of the things that I have heard is challenging is when their name is spoken.

[00:34:01] Karen Stones: And how to react. Do I talk? How do you deal with that, Megan?

[00:34:05] Megan Steen: I would say to this day, anytime I see her name or hear her name, in fact, I saw it twice today, like, on a random Instagram post and then something on the t, on, like, a news story or something. And I haven’t heard that name in a long time, so I think she may be here with us today. Honestly, it’s always kind of like a bee sting is the best way I can describe it. It’s just a quick jolt of reality of, oh, my gosh, you know, and it’s kind of like hearing an ex’s name anyways.

[00:34:40] Megan Steen: Even your personal ex. It’s just, you know, tenses up a little bit. I would say the best feeling I can describe is for the first couple of years, that bee sting stung for a longer period of time. Now it’s just kind of like a. Like an instant jolt, and then you’re like, oh, yeah.

[00:35:00] Megan Steen: Yeah, it’s interesting to navigate.

[00:35:03] Karen Stones: Yeah. We talked about doing multiple topics. Megan, you’ll be here a lot. You have a lot to share with your life experience. And you decided that this should be your first topic.

[00:35:17] Megan Steen: You decided it.

[00:35:19] Megan Steen: You did. You decided it. I remember we were out for a walk. You sent me these five amazing topics about me that almost made me cry because I’m thinking, oh, my gosh, here’s my friend dissecting my own life in this super cool way of, like, here’s topics about you.

[00:35:38] Megan Steen: And I’m like, I’m not an expert in any of this, but it’s so cool to have your friend say, you are an expert in this. And then you said, we need to start with this one. And I sat back legitimately and thought, oh, my God, I am the partner of a widower. I never would have labeled myself that. I don’t think of myself in that way. But you were totally right. And then it unlocked this, like, part of myself where I thought, oh, my gosh, this is a very unique perspective to have. And it makes me think of just, I mean, I call it a gift now, then I probably would have thought it was a burden, to be honest with you. Very transparent. Like, this is a lot to take on at first, but now, with hindsight, it’s been a gift. And if any part of this podcast gives an aha. Moment to anyone listening, it would have been worth it.

[00:36:41] Karen Stones: These are really vulnerable, sensitive things to share. Is there anything else that you’d like to tell our listeners about this journey that you’ve gone on?

[00:36:50] Megan Steen: Yeah, there’s a famous poem about grief that I’ll summarize very quickly, but I just want to add my own flavor to it. And the summarization goes, grief is like having a rock in your pocket. And when you first put on that jacket, it feels lopsided, it feels heavy. You know, that rock is in there. Grief is just with you. But over time, as you wear that jacket, you get used to that rock, and sometimes you forget about it, and sometimes you put your hand in your pocket and you’re like, oh, yeah, there’s a rock in here. Grief can show up like that in so many different ways. So the, the widow or the widower experiencing that grief, I just want to say to you that your partner also has a rock in their pocket. It’s just smaller and it goes unnoticed.

[00:37:47] Megan Steen: So I want to say when Karen, a great friend of mine, comes to me and says, let’s talk about your perspective on grief as a widow’s partner, I thought, oh, my gosh, someone noticed that. Because in a weird way, I didn’t even notice that myself, you know? But you did. And so that poem really rings true to me because, you know, when I added the, it just goes unnoticed because it does. And we don’t have conversations with the partner about this because you don’t think of yourself in that way.

[00:38:22] Megan Steen: You know, and so this has been very therapeutic for me, and it’s given me a lot of perspective that I didn’t realize I actually had.

[00:38:33] Karen Stones: I’m thinking through the depth that you have really journeyed through, dug into, in all these dark places, you have found beauty.

[00:38:45] Megan Steen: I have. I have. And the last thing I want to leave the or both, both the widower and the partner is the frame of mind that changed my viewpoint on this was that I was not the replacement. I am the addition to his life. At the beginning, you feel like a replacement. You feel like you’re almost wearing, like, a scarlet letter, right, where people see that you’re you’re the one coming to the party, but you’re not her anymore. Very kind of tricky to navigate for a while unless you have great friends like friends and family like Troy does. And they made it as easy as possible, which is really wonderful. But over time, I made peace with it and I realized that I am different. I’m different to him. He’s different with me, and I’m an addition to his life. I’m not the replacement, and I shouldn’t be because she’s still very much a part of the story. Therefore she’s not replaced. So I think that’s one thing that I really want to just ring true to everyone, is that you can be the addition.

 

And when that frame of mind changes, your relationship changes.

[00:40:08] Karen Stones: So beautiful. Well, is  there a good way for any of our listeners to get in touch with you? Some of them might have questions. They might feel very connected because this is a story that they are also following and journeying through. What’s the best way for people to connect with you?

[00:40:29] Megan Steen: Probably my blog withloveantmegs.com. There’s a contact section where you can write me a note and I can respond to you. I do have a blog post that we’ll probably put in the show notes on this topic alone. It actually, I wrote it before having this conversation to get me in the right frame of mind. So it’s there and I’ll continue to write on it because now I know it’s like a whole other world that I can kind of unlock for people and myself.

[00:40:59] Karen Stones: Well, thank you for sharing so deeply, so honestly and so openly.

[00:41:05] Megan Steen: I appreciate it.

[00:41:06] Karen Stones: I know that there’s going to be many, many listeners out there who wish they could hug you and thank you for your vulnerability.

[00:41:15] Karen Stones: Well, we always try to end things with sort of a positive spin on life. Aging is difficult, but there’s also some fun parts.

[00:41:24] Megan Steen: Yeah, and funny.

[00:41:26] Karen Stones: And funny.

[00:41:27] Megan Steen: Very funny.

[00:41:29] Karen Stones: And we always like to play the game. You know you’re old when.

Okay, so I’ve got a joke for you. You know you’re old when you have a CD collection.

[00:41:44] Megan Steen: Oh, that was my high school years right there with the whole. The whole binder. Oh, yeah. And like, the mixed CDs. I’m pretty sure I had a CD that said, like, boys suck or something. You know, something like girl power, you know, full of spice girls and, you know, all of that.

[00:42:02] Karen Stones: That’s so good. I know somebody who still has one of those plastic CD towers.

[00:42:07] Megan Steen: Oh, wow. Does he use it or she?

[00:42:10] Karen Stones: You knew it was a man.

[00:42:11] Megan Steen: Yeah, I did.

[00:42:12] Karen Stones: He jumped in there because some, for some reason, men can’t get rid of their music collections. As easy as we can transition maybe to digital, I don’t know. But yeah, it’s still there. I never have seen it touched.

[00:42:25] Megan Steen: Oh, how funny. Yeah, I love it.

 

[00:42:27] Karen Stones: Yeah, it’s time to get rid of that, my friend.

[00:42:31] Megan Steen: Yeah.

[00:42:32] Karen Stones: Okay. Do you have one for me, megs?

[00:42:34] Megan Steen: Yeah, we’ll just stay on the music theme. You know, you’re old. When you turn on SNL and the new artist, you have zero idea who they are, what they’re saying, what they’re wearing and what is going on in the background.

I today, again, today’s music, and I’m a huge music fan. I love all types of, all types of music, live music, all of that, today’s music. I have no idea what they’re saying. I don’t know what they’re wearing. I don’t think I’m cool enough to understand what they’re wearing, their makeup choice. I still don’t even know, what is this?

So that’s what I’m like. I’m old, you know? That’s how I know.

[00:43:17] Karen Stones: Oh, my goodness.

[00:43:18] Megan Steen: That’s good.

[00:43:19] Karen Stones: Well, thanks again for coming, Megan. We can’t wait to have you on again.

[00:43:22] Megan Steen: Oh, thank you so much. This was lovely.

[00:43:25] Karen Stones: Today’s episode is brought to you by Dana Creath Lighting, where artisanal craftsmanship meets innovative design. Are you searching for lighting that stands out from the rest? You’ve got to check out Dana Creath lighting handcrafted in southern California. Each piece exudes attention to detail and commitment to quality. Say goodbye to replacements and hello to long lasting beauty. Visit danacreeth.com. That’s dash r dash.com. To view their stunning collections, or stop by their showroom at 1822 Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, California. Dana Creath lighting, where elegance meets innovation.

And that brings us to the end of another episode. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. Okay, so if you haven’t already, make sure to hit that subscribe button so you never miss another episode. If you’re loving what you hear, I would be incredibly grateful if you took just a moment to rate and review this show on your favorite podcast platform. It helps others discover us and it’s a great place to share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas for future episodes. For even more exclusive content and detailed show notes, check out our website at. That’s spelled out thirty five sixty four dot com. As always, a huge, huge thank you for spending time with me today during this episode. I appreciate that you tuned in. I’m going to leave you the same way I do every episode. Remember, it’s not too late. You’re not too old, and you’re definitely not dead. Okay, until next time, friends.

  • Karen Stones

    Show host Karen Stones is the creative heart of ThirtyFiveSixtyFour. Born in 1979, Karen is a child of Generation X. As a podcast enthusiast, she noticed a major void in content catering to listeners her age. Karen found existing productions were either niche, evangelized negative perspectives on aging, or hosted by a well-meaning young adult who lacked the wisdom and life experience to provide meaningful insight. Thus, ThirtyFiveSixtyFour was born. The philosophy behind ThirtyFiveSixtyFour stands in stark contrast to the conventional midlife crisis narrative, advocating instead for midlife to be seen as a time of confidence, reinvention, growth, reflection, exploration and renewal.

    Karen has over twenty years of mass communication and marketing expertise. Her journey in media started early, as she interned for notable figures like Larry Morgan and Ryan Seacrest at the Los Angeles FM radio station STAR 98.7. During her university years Karen served as a disc jockey for the on-campus, student-run radio station. Following a successful career in the corporate world, she took the entrepreneurial plunge, founding 13 Jacks Marketing Agency in 2014. The agency currently oversees multimillion-dollar projects including global product launches, international events, specialized social media and advertising campaigns. Beyond her agency pursuits, Karen extends her expertise to coaching executives seeking to enhance their business strategies and personal growth. Based in Orange County, California, Karen is a dedicated mother to three and an outdoor enthusiast.

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About the Author

Show host Karen Stones is the creative heart of ThirtyFiveSixtyFour. Born in 1979, Karen is a child of Generation X. As a podcast enthusiast, she noticed a major void in content catering to listeners her age. Karen found existing productions were either niche, evangelized negative perspectives on aging, or hosted by a well-meaning young adult who lacked the wisdom and life experience to provide meaningful insight. Thus, ThirtyFiveSixtyFour was born. The philosophy behind ThirtyFiveSixtyFour stands in stark contrast to the conventional midlife crisis narrative, advocating instead for midlife to be seen as a time of confidence, reinvention, growth, reflection, exploration and renewal.

Karen has over twenty years of mass communication and marketing expertise. Her journey in media started early, as she interned for notable figures like Larry Morgan and Ryan Seacrest at the Los Angeles FM radio station STAR 98.7. During her university years Karen served as a disc jockey for the on-campus, student-run radio station. Following a successful career in the corporate world, she took the entrepreneurial plunge, founding 13 Jacks Marketing Agency in 2014. The agency currently oversees multimillion-dollar projects including global product launches, international events, specialized social media and advertising campaigns. Beyond her agency pursuits, Karen extends her expertise to coaching executives seeking to enhance their business strategies and personal growth. Based in Orange County, California, Karen is a dedicated mother to three and an outdoor enthusiast.

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