Journey of Moving on from Grief: Partnering with the Widowed

Grief is not an area I expected to deal with at this stage of my life. The death of a person or the death of an idea for your life (from the words of my therapist) seemed years away until it came in various forms. If you had told me at 25 years old that I’d be getting a divorce in a few years and then remarrying a widower – I wouldn’t have believed any of that. But here we are, in the beautiful chaos of emotions that brought forth an even brighter life.

Most perspectives we hear come from the widowed (rightfully so!), but rarely do we listen to what it’s like to be the partner of the widowed. This is the person who is there not only to help pick up the pieces but also to acknowledge that the pieces will always be there. Grief is also present in the widowed person’s partner – we’re just experiencing it differently. So, it’s important to hold space for that partner, too, as they navigate the path themselves.

At the beginning of the relationship with my husband I didn’t know how to feel or express unnamed emotions. My therapist helped me draw boundaries for myself as we both navigated our way forward. A great example that will always stay with me is when Troy visits his wife’s grave on her birthday and on the day of her death. At the beginning of our relationship, he felt it was important for me to come with him, not only as support for him, but also for me to acknowledge the reality of her passing too.

Visiting her Grave

He has a beautiful ritual of buying flowers at the same place and listening to music that reminds him of her. To be perfectly honest, the music was hard for me to hear. As I heard love songs that he shared with another person, I felt like I was competing with a ghost. My therapist gave me the advice to tell Troy how I felt about the music, and to not get in the way of his process, so to make a suggestion of “We can drive separately.” This was a boundary to say, “Do what you need to for you, and I’ll do what I need to do for me.”

Visiting the gravesite at first came with a lot of emotions – as it should. Guilt and sadness and feeling like I was intruding or encroaching. But over time, it turned into a “Thank you.” My message for her now is, “Thank you for loving him as you did and for helping him turn into the man he is today.” It’s honoring the part she played in his life. Our kids come now too. When they are old enough to understand that Mom and Dad had prior lives, they’ll learn more about how we came to be.

Interacting with Family and Friends

Other hard parts of my role of supporting my widowed husband come into play with family and friends. How do you not feel like you are the replacement? Well, I did feel like that at the beginning. I felt like I was perceived as such, but I quickly realized that it was coming from my own self-talk. The people in his life were gracious, kind and also understandably cautious. They asked how I was doing, too. They cared, but they didn’t pry. That must have been hard for them, too. The only thing that heals this feeling of replacement is TIME. Time really can heal if you let it. It doesn’t erase, but it does heal. Now, when asked how I’m feeling or navigating when his first wife gets brought up in conversations (which still happens)… I can confidently say, “I’m not the replacement; I’m the addition.”

I’ve added to his life. I have not and will never replace her. It’s a mind shift to acknowledge that adding to someone’s life means that there was something there before. A person. A loving woman who loved this man fiercely and who this man would continue to love. In this instance, I learned I had to take my ego out of that mindset of it being about me. He still loves her and will continue to. And while that can be complex, it’s completely valid. I honestly believe he loves me unconditionally because of the love that he has to give. His grief has turned into something greater than himself.

A Multi-layered Relationship

I do believe, now, that widowers hold heavier water than the rest of us. They have all this unexpressed love to pour into new things and people. Therefore, they can love deeper and harder. They know what is at stake. And those willing to take another shot at love after losing it in a way that was out of their control are pretty remarkable to me.

So, the perspective of a widower’s partner is layered. I still feel like I see her face in a crowd sometimes. I still feel sad for her friends and family who miss her. I still feel like I can’t always comment when she comes up in conversation. I wasn’t there during the college days and the inside jokes, and that’s OK. Time and communication have helped heal the unmasked feelings. Validation from my partner helps too.

Grief is a part of our story. It’s a part of our family. I believe it makes us wiser, more empathic, and a little more aware of the beautiful chaos in life.

ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
Loving a Widower: A journey through the complicated, challenging and beautiful
Loading
/
  • Megan Steen

    Megan lives in Orange County, CA, with her husband and two active toddlers. Growing up in Northern California as the daughter of a sports writer, naturally, she is a huge sports fan, cheering on the San Francisco Giants and 49ers whenever she gets the chance.

    Megan has spent her career in enterprise technology. She worked her way up the corporate ladder as an office assistant, various roles in marketing, and now serves as the Director of Growth Marketing at Quest Software. She currently leads a large team of international employees executing marketing programs across multiple tactics.

    Megan is passionate about deep and real connections with people, so she hosts an annual vision board party and participates in a monthly brunch club. She finds magic and joy in going for walks at local beaches, breathing in the fresh air in Lake Tahoe, and taking in the splendor of Big Sur.

    Megan's creative outlet is found in writing letters to her niece about life lessons and the wonders of life - With Love, Aunt Megs

    View all posts
About the Author

Megan lives in Orange County, CA, with her husband and two active toddlers. Growing up in Northern California as the daughter of a sports writer, naturally, she is a huge sports fan, cheering on the San Francisco Giants and 49ers whenever she gets the chance.

Megan has spent her career in enterprise technology. She worked her way up the corporate ladder as an office assistant, various roles in marketing, and now serves as the Director of Growth Marketing at Quest Software. She currently leads a large team of international employees executing marketing programs across multiple tactics.

Megan is passionate about deep and real connections with people, so she hosts an annual vision board party and participates in a monthly brunch club. She finds magic and joy in going for walks at local beaches, breathing in the fresh air in Lake Tahoe, and taking in the splendor of Big Sur.

Megan's creative outlet is found in writing letters to her niece about life lessons and the wonders of life - With Love, Aunt Megs