So, today is my one-week wedding anniversary. If you read here last week, you would know that on New Years Eve, almost 10 years post-loss, my fiance Nick and I were married in a private, covid-safe ceremony at The Groton Inn – the whole thing live-streamed to Facebook Live. It was unique, it was beautiful, it was magical.
But, now that Ive been a remarried widow for a whole week, I have questions. Lots and lots of questions. Just as there is no existing handbook for being widowed, there is no such handbook for how to be a widow who is remarried. Which brings me to my first question: how should people refer to me? How should I explain my situation to others? This situation does not fit neatly into a box you can clearly mark and call it a day, and even if it did, there is often times no box for “widowed”, never mind “widowed and happily remarried but still always missing my dead husband and that’s okay and normal, thank you very much,”
In the first couple years of widowhood, I wanted everyone to know my story. Total strangers , the guy who works at the gas station, everyone – because I wanted everyone to know who Don Shepherd was and because I wanted everyone to somehow understand how impossibly hard this is. Now, I am feeling s second wave of that. Now, I want to shout out to the world that I am in LOVE again, that I have found joy and a beautiful person to love, TWICE, and do you understand how incredible that feels? Equally though, I want to shout to them that I only found this great love because I did the impossibly hard grief work for years and years, and because I was willing to have my heart broken open and then just broken again and again, so I could have a chance at finding another someone who would be present with me in my healing, and love me through it and in it. When a total stranger sees my ring or comments that I just got married, I want to say: “Yes! Im married! AND – Im also a widow! Did you know that? Because thats a huge part of me and part of my story and I dont ever want to erase it, and just because Im now married does NOT mean that I am no longer widowed!”
As you can see, its all very complicated.
So I have questions. Some of them are rather humorous. Like, if I die first, is my husband Nick responsible for visiting my ashes AND Don’s ashes? Should he keep in touch with Don’s family on my behalf, and our behalf, to keep that connection alive, since Ill be dead? What if he dies first? Then Im widowed twice, which even thinking about that possibility gives me instant hives up and down my arms and makes me start to itch all over. But what if that happens? Then what? How do you grieve two partners? Do you rotate who you feel sad about ? Mondays and Wednesdays are reserved for Don, and Nick gets Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other days become a split? Does Nick get more of my grief time because Don has already had 10 years of it and Nick’s death is more recent? Will people look at me weirdly, like: “don’t get involved with her – she had TWO husbands die!” Yes, these are the messed up things that I think about.
How do I refer to my husbands now? For the past 10 years, when I said “my husband”, I was referring to Don. Sometimes I would say “my dead husband”, if it needed to be added that he was, in fact, dead – but there was never a question about who I was talking about. Now, if I say “my husband”, someone might say: “which one?” , to which I guess I would have to say: “the alive one!”, or “the dead one!”. I dont think people understand how weird it is to be widowed for almost a decade, and then suddenly to be married again, and to wrap your own brain around it.
There will be some that will insist that because I am now remarried, that I am no longer widowed. This is simply not true, and I will ALWAYS be widowed. You wouldn’t tell a parent who lost a child to death and then years later adopted another child, that she is no longer a grieving parent or that her child that died didnt exist or no longer matters. That would be ridiculous and insanely cold-hearted. But with widowed people, others often want to erase the one who died from our hearts, and pretend like it never happened at all, and now that Im married again, Im no longer widowed.
Wrong. I am proudly Nick’s wife, and I am proudly Don’s widow. One would simply not exist without the other. I will walk in this world proudly honoring the love of my life in that other life that I lived with Don, and proudly living life with the love of my life in this life-after-loss life that I am living. Confusing? Yes. Beautiful? Absolutely. And I will never apoligize for it or feel like I have to justify it. I am deeply in love with my husband Nick, and I will always love Don, my husband who died.
More to come …