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New Relationship With Somebody Who Is Grieving

13 posts in this topic

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I recently started a relationship with a lady who lost a partner 5 years ago, unexpectedly out of the blue. I have never lost anybody myself. We are both quite young.

My worry is that she has been in a few relationships since - 1 for 3 years and now we are dating. She still talks about this deceased partner on a regular basis, in fact every conversation of any substance includes fond memories and stories. I have never said a word expressing my uncomfortablness and listen intently when she tells stories, and even ask questions about him. My concern is it almost seems like she is still very much in love with him to the point of distraction. She carries a photo of him in her wallet, has the ashes in the bedroom, reads his journals and references him to the point where I am uncomfortable. We do something fun - his name comes up, we face trouble his name comes up, we talk about music his name comes up, etc, etc.

I have to admit it is a little unsettling thinking that I am second best, especially when she pulls out his picture from her wallet after 5 years and mine is not even in there. I hoep that does not sound increditably petty.

I would never ask her to put the death or grief behind her but she seems to be living or reliving their relationship on a constant basis with me and I wonder if this is due to the fact she is still grieving or unhappy in our relatinship compared to what she had?

Do I continue what I am doing or do I somehow, kindly address it with her - or is this completely unkind? Worst yet is that one of the reasons she loves me she says is that I listen, never hold anything against her, judge her, etc, but as she is saying that I feel a little more than insecure because I think if I address it not only may it be unkind but she may lose trust in me?

Edward

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Posted · Report post

That is a touchy subject.

The one thing you will have to consider is this. We who have lost someone were very much in love with that person when we lost them. It has been 3 years now since I lost my wife and there are still a lot of memories that pop up at various times. It is not like a divorce where it is looked on as hanging on when you still think about your ex after so many years and also there is so much hurt because of the divorce that people tend to get over it quicker and don't want to talk about them. Grief can and will take many years to get through. She will always think about him from time to time and that is normal. She may not have been able to talk about him much as a lot of people get tired of listening and so we stop so now that she has found someone who will listen she is talking about him again.

As far as approaching her on this I am torn. I believe in complete honesty in a relationship if something someone does bothers the other then it needs to be talked about to try and come up with a comprimise. However in a situation such as this you may find if you talk to her like you said she may shut down and it could end the chances of the relationship going any further. She may feel uncomfortable talking to you afraid she might say something about him that will upset you and then even start not talking about a lot of things. Hopefully someone here will have a little more insight for you as to what to do all I can do is tell you what I have experience in the form of losing my wife. I have been lucky in that the women I have dated were more than willing to let me talk about Karen anytime I wanted without making me think that they were uncomfortable. Now like you they may have just hid it and I just didn't know it. I guess the main thing is in order to date a widow/widower you have to be very understanding of that person be willing to be compasionate, they have been through a lot and like I said they weren't hurt by the person by divorce they were hurt because all of a sudden they weren't there any more.

Love always

Derek

PS I would be interested in hearing how things go

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Posted · Report post

Derek, Thanks a lot

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Edward,

First let me say that she is one very lucky lady to have found someone as sensitive and caring as you. It is not easy to follow in the footsteps of someone who is loved and forever memorialized as such. However, this lady had the capacity to love him, and has the capacity to love you as well. I understand what Derek is saying, but I have a little different point of view. I lost my husband George to death nearly four years ago, and 1 1/2 years later I remarried a friend of his, John. As John had been a friend of George's, we naturally talked about him from the time he died. It was being able to talk about him that made me comfortable enough with him to befriend him myself, and eventually we fell in love and married. I remember one day John telling me he thought sometimes I forgot I was HIS girl now. I did what I could to make him feel at ease, I took down most of my pictures, and I carried John's picture in my wallet, although I still had George's underneath it. I tried to be aware of how often I brought up George's name. I chose to do most of my talking about George to my kids, rather than John, although I didn't cease altogether. The important thing was to help John feel comfortable in HIS relationship with me and to try to live in the present. This lady may not be aware that she is talking about him so much or that it makes you wonder about your place in her life. I would be quite frank with her and bring it up. You seem like a sensitive person that would phrase things carefully and I would think she would appreciate your honesty so she could do what she needs to do to help you feel secure in your relationship with her. Being as she has chosen to date, it is important for her to realize the need to live in the present at least as much as the past. Please understand that she will never ever forget her deceased husband and she will never stop loving him, but she can have room in her heart for both of you if you can be patient enough to help her enjoy the present at least as much as the past. I hope this helps you understand, true love is forever, and that should help you realize her commitment to you can be just as everlasting as it was for her late partner.

I once read a book by someone who married a widower...she said she always felt a little jealous and resentful of the deceased person until one day (after she married this person) she ran across some cards the person had tucked away to give to people. She realized how thoughtful and caring this person was. After that, she made a point to try to get to know this deceased wife and to love and embrace her too. The result was that instead of feeling she was in a competition, it was more like she was embracing both of them in a special way. This person was a well known author and speaker, and I never forgot her words or her big heart.

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Posted · Report post

Boy, this is a hard thing to think about, but it sounds like maybe she hadn't allowed herself to grieve. Maybe she didn't have the support in the beginning that she now has with you. On the other hand I feel it is best to be honest because I can't see how you can truly have a relationship feeling the way you do, but I don't have a clue as to how to approach the subject without screwing everything up.

Do you know if she ever went to a grief support group? Maybe you could say that you see how much she is still missing her husband and that maybe more ears would help her. Then maybe you could go with her if you felt comfortable or maybe you could see a counselor to see if they had any ideas.

Well, I'm really rambling and not offering much advise. Good luck in whatever decision you make and keep us updated.

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Edward,

I do not know if this will help you or not, however I will present it for what it is worth and hope that at least it will be one more piece of information for you to consider as you attempt to resolve the issues you are facing with a person who is grieving.

I recently wrote the following information to an individual to explain the type of struggle a grieving person has in attempting to foster a new relationship.

This is what I wrote:

“People who suffer the loss of a mate are often not able to show affection to another until that inner peace is found – and the struggle to paint a different picture of the future has been completed. Somehow, in some twisted mental thought process, affection to another is emotionally seen as a betrayal to the one who has been lost. It takes all the power that the human spirit can muster to lovingly place all the pieces of a lost love away and recognize the beauty of someone else loving you. It is a constant struggle of regret over a life taken too soon, a conceived and planned future destroyed and an attempt to put a new face to the here and now. Only those who have experienced this type of loss can know how difficult it is to properly recover and make all the pieces of that puzzle fit or to fit as well as they will ever fit.”

I hope these words have helped – or at least given a different perspective.

My best of luck to you.

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Edward,

I am not really sure what advice to give you at this moment but I want you to know you just helped me more than I think you realize. I lost my husband two years ago and just a few months ago lost a love relationship that hurt almost as much, I am in a new relationship now with someone I have known since my childhood, a wonderful man who loves me dearly and was friends with my husband also many years ago. But you made me realize that not that I have been bringing up my husband too much as he misses him too but I think I have brought up this past love relationship entirely too much and I did not realize it till now. This man is very understanding and accepting of this but I think I need to tone it down some as maybe he is not as understanding as I thought. I had told him that this person and I will always remain close, we shared a very special time together and he is accepting of that but I think I do need to stop bringing his name up so much and I want to thank you for your post since it made me realize that. See that you came here for advice but in turn you helped someone else and I thank you for that. I think the only advice I can give you right now is to give it a little more time, maybe it is a combination of her not letting go yet and wanting you to know how things were and what she is used to. Either way I wish you luck and keep coming here we would like to help you however we can, and again thank you for making me see myself in your post.

Love Always,

Wendy

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Edward:

I don't know if what I am going to say is encouraging or maybe make things worse. I lost my husband 10 months ago of a heart disease. My husband has many friends that he knew since he was a child. There is one particular friend who lost his wife 16 years ago. She suffered with cancer. They were married for about 20 years and had no children. It took him a long time to get over her. At the time they were both 42 years old. After about 7 years he met someone and remarried. He seems to be very happy with his new wife and life. They are married now 9 years. When my husband got sick he and his wife came to the hospital every Sunday to see my husband. I will tell you that it brought back a whole load of bad memories for him. He was especially comforting to me, because he understood exactly what I was going through, because he went through that with his wife. I would call him and even now call him or him calling me and we would talk for hours, even knowing that his current wife (who by the way is wonderful) would probably be upset having her husband relive the past. While my husband was in the hospital and after he passed all three of use would go out to eat and he would cry at times. I would feel so bad that I brought all this out again and felt bad for his current wife. But he would say, I know what you are going through.

So you see, a death of someone you loved dearly is very hard to overcome. I have lost a lot of family members and the lose of my husband, I have to say, has and still is the most horrific thing that has happened to me. I don't know if someone can ever stop talking about their loved one completely. It might lessen, but I truly don't think it ever stops. I know for sure that it will not for me.

I guess you just have to wait and see in time. I know you came to the right place for advice and it is hard even for those who haven't lost anybody, seeing their loved ones go through this

Love and God Bless,

Jeanne

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Posted · Report post

Well I addressed the issue with her last night in a delicate manner. I asked to talk and brought up the deceased's name and went on to explain.

Her response was very receptive and said that her last partner had the same concerns but the communication was always bad and not handled correctly (angry and petty approaches) so she had not really made much or any effort to change - she would always say to her last partner 'why are you jealous of a dead man?". I pointed out that our 'problem' is not the past relationship - like it was a regular relationship that had just ended - its this shrine of perfectness that is bestowed onto the dead partner that seems to be the barometer that so many things are measured against. She reassured me that this(us) was a great relationship the healthiest she has ever been in and that this past partner had also been in her life during a time of profound change personally and she admitted she connected the two as being one in the same and often used his memory as a way to reflect on those times??

She was not aware of the extent to which he was being mentioned but would certainly be more mindful. For those reading this please understand that while you are grieving it is hard for us new partners to put our clothes on in a bedroom after being romantic and the old partner's ashes are in the closest, or that your love letters are kept along with the dead partner's love letters, or while your laying there listening to music with a drink perhaps its NOT the best time to say how the old partner loved this song? etc. "Removing" physical reminders is something that perhaps you might consider (in a suitable and respectful manner) if new people come into your life. They don't have to be discarded but perhaps a better balance? For example could the wallet picture not come out and go into a photo album? Little things.I have to admit I would like her to bury his ashes or scatter them, i would like my picture in her wallet INSTEAD of his, etc but at the same time I feel immensely selfish for even thinking that.

I think at times those grieving who enter into new relationships almost take offense as they feel that "the death" negates any new partners right to feel uncomfortbale or jealous at times and that is a tough, almost uncompromising postion to place your new partner into and your probably not even trying to do that but you might be unintentionally - especially if you have an understanding new partner. Asking somebody to respect your feeling is reasonable, but are you at the same time denying them their own expression? Not sure if thats right for everybody but just my ideas.

There was no anger or tears, she seemed to understand, she almost seemed relieved that that was all it was...thats not to say she just won't be quiet now and nothing inside her has really changed and that is the whole problem with addressing the problem - I'll never really know becuase if she stops have I infact pushed it too far... This was not an easy and now seems even more difficult to handle becuae I have 2 cans of worms to deal with!!!!!!!!

But it seemed like she really had some introspection happening almost a reevaluation and maybe the idea that she can live more in the present and not so much has to be referenced in the past.

So the jury is still out on how it actually went long term. I told her I was afraid of losing her trust cause I had been so supportive to this point and then brought it up - she responded that she appreciated the honesty and tact.

Edward

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Edward,

I appreciate your honesty and candor. I do want to make a comment though...my late husband was not perfect, but he was "perfect for me", we had a wonderful relationship. Grief may go on forever, but it evolves and does not stay the same...in the beginning it was pain and anguish, but with time, thoughts of him brought me comfort, encouragement, and strength and it helps to be able to have a glimpse of him when needed, by easy access in my wallet.

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Edward,

I am glad it well for you. I am glad that you were honest with her as that will be one thing that will not be between you to. This post has me thinking as well because I am also in a new relationship and sometimes wonder if I talk too much about Karen, I don't compare because I don't believe in it and also I know as well as anyone else that she wasn't perfect but because I have a 9 year old son there will always be reminders of her around for him. I am getting ready to take down the last remaining big reminder of her this weekend and that is the curio cabinet. It has all of our wedding stuff in it and her sister has expressed interest in it so I am going to clean it out so she can pick it up. Hope all works well for you.

Love always

Derek

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I'm glad you took the "leap". I hope it works out well for you and if not maybe it was not meant to be, but hiding YOUR feelings isn't right either. Only time will tell. Who knows, it may even make you closer.

Since you had not lost anyone I am glad that you found this site and came to us. It has already helped others, so if nothing else comes of this you can take pride in that fact.

Keep us posted. Maybe we'll be invited to the wedding.

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