By Dr. Lani Leary
I have lost by beloved childhood sweetheart. We were going to get married young, our lives took different directions. After 40 years, we reunited and have been married 4 charmed years. This is so hard. I am in shock. Jack died April 8th, 2006. It is raw and every day I cry. My question is, Jack had 3 children now grown. How do I answer them when they start telling me what things of their dad’s they want and what family times with them I should attend when I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like living right now. Thanking you in advance.
You are grieving many, many losses and that compounds your mourning. You are grieving the loss of your childhood dreams and the time that was lost when you and Jack did not marry in your youth; those lost years must feel like a lifetime and you can never get them back. But you and Jack found each other again and lived four short years of your dream, only to find yourself without him once again. You grieve the death of your beloved husband, the loss of your youth, and the end of your future dreams. Of course you are in shock, and each day is raw and flooded with tears. Grief is a long journey and you feel each step, each day, each tear. I hope that you can find or build a support network who will listen to your story of love and grief as often as you need to tell it; reminisce with you with laughter and tears; help you celebrate anniversaries and rituals; and companion you throughout this heartbreaking challenge of learning to live without Jack.
Your question about his children speaks to the difference in the relationships with Jack. Each of his children had a different relationship with their father as you had a different relationship with your husband, with different meanings to the roles and different intensities to those connections. Is it possible to have respectful conversations between the four of you to fully discuss and understand what Jack’s possessions MEANS to each of you? It will be easier for each of you to understand why you desire to have certain objects if you can connect the value to the meaning of and the stories behind each object. Is it possible that many of their father’s items have stories behind them that link their father to a certain child or a certain time?
I want to assume the best of Jack’s children, and hope that when they are telling you what family events you “should” attend that they mean to include you as an important part of their family. Unfortunately, they may be confusing an invitation with an obligation and that never feels good. Can you explain to them that you need time and space to follow the surges of your grief?…that some events are helpful and other gatherings are just too difficult at this time? Your self-care and honest assessment of your grief is your most important work right now, and they need to understand that your respect for your needs does not minimize their grief. I encourage you to find the support that will help you move through one day at a time and honor your love.
I am so very sorry for your loss, Lani
Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional.