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My ex husband died suddenly.

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Hello there,

I am not sure how to do this but i am just going to start. 

I am a mother of 5 who resently turned 40. My oldest child, and only boy, is 22 yrs old. Yesturday I got the call that his dad, my ex husband for 20 yrs now, had died in his sleep. We havent gotten autopsy results yet so 'how' is still unanswered but he lived a very unhealthy lifestyle for a very long time but had been clean and doing well for a couple of years. He was not a big part of my sons childhood because of his unhealthy choices but they had just come back in contact and had made plans to hang out, and catch up. He and I had an ugly divorce and many fights after, and had not spoken in 6 years bc it was easier to go through his family that I love as my own, then to deal with the fight.   I have been with my current spouse for 15 yrs but I never wanted to get married bc of my ugly divorce so early in my life. IT WAS UGLY. We have the other 4 girls together. 

Since hearing of his death and I cant stop crying. I cant sleep. He was my first love, my childhood sweetheart and the only man I ever said vows with. I was not in love with him at the end of our marriage but we had 5 great years together before it went bad and those 5 years of my life were more significant then I realized. He was the first person to truly love me unconditionally. He was there with me when I found out I was pregnant with my son and I FREAKED ( I was only 17 but had been living on my own for 2 years) and he was so happy and kept me sane. He got down on 1 knee in front of his huge family and professed his love and asked me to marry him. We grew up in our relationship. We turned from youth to adults in those 5 years. We became parents for the first time together. We loved each other. And he is gone. 

I dont know that there is a right or a wrong way to feel but I dont know how to feel at all. I dont know how to talk to people about it. I dont know how to explain the immense pain I feel. The loss. I may not have wanted to be with him, but I wanted him on this planet with me and now he is not. Before he died when his name came up all I could think of was the pain he put me through in our divorce, and since I heard the words 'willie died last night' I dont even remember that pain and my mind is filled with all the wonderful memories I have, and it hurts, it hurts so bad. The guilt. The loss. The grief. My current spouse is confused by this. Partly bc he has been around for all the times Willie disappointed our son, or made me so mad I broke down in tears, one time he even stole from us. But he was never around before all the bad choices. When he was great. He was great. 

How do I know how to feel? How Do I explain how I feel to my spouse? How Do I grieve appropriately? How do I get through the viewing tomorrow? How do I help my son cope? How Do I know if I am making it worse for my son then it would be if I wasnt so upset? How Do I do any of this? 

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I am sorry to learn of your XH's untimely death...so young, and just as your son was getting to know and spend time with him.  I'm sorry for all this means to your son as well.

I doubt there is a right way or a wrong way to feel in such a circumstance.  I have a shared history with my XH of a 23 year marriage and having raised kids together.  I felt I knew him and understood him, but didn't much like being married to him as he was controlling and sometimes could be very ugly to me and the kids.  But that aside, we have many good memories and I care about him and always will.  When he dies, I'm quite sure I will grieve.

What you do want to be careful of is your husband's feelings.  Do you have a sister or someone close that you could trust to talk to?  

It's good to keep in mind that our relationships aren't always so simple and to try not to compartmentalize him and remember that people are complex beings...neither all good nor all bad.  Try to remember him realistically...someone you shared a very important and special time with, but also someone who was not there for his son in his growing up years, although trying to change that as of late.  Maybe you could try to focus on being there for your son in a supportive way.  You might want to give a grief counselor a try as perhaps they can help you with perspective and laying this to rest in a healthy fashion...you won't ever forget him, nor should you, but you definitely don't want to give him more acclaim than due and harm your marriage to a wonderful man in the process.  

I want you to know that regardless, your feelings are legit. but you want to try and keep the balance of perspective...it wasn't all roses, there was a reason you found it necessary to break up.  Remembering that does no harm to his memory, but helps you keep things in reality.

I think both of these articles might be of help to you:


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You ask, "how do I know how to feel?" Understand that feelings are neither right or wrong, not always rational, and not the same as facts. We cannot control how we feel, either ~ but we can exercise some control over our behavior and in how we react to our feelings. Learning about what is normal in grief goes a long way toward helping us to understand what we may be feeling and why ~ and being with others whose losses are similar to our own helps us feel less isolated, crazy and alone ~ and gives us hope that, if others can make it through this pain, then we can find a way to do it, too.

I hope you will read the articles Kay has suggested and take her wise words to heart. Above all, give yourself permission to mourn this loss and know that your grief is legitimate and worthy of whatever attention it demands. See also Is Grief A Normal Reaction to Divorce? (Note that all of these articles contain links to additional writings and resources.)

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