Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.
But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?
I can’t imagine how hard that has been for him. I had 2 ½ years from the time Drew died to when I met Mike. In that time, I repressed nothing. I was outwardly and very unapologetically angry, depressed, sad, anxious, hopeless, and all around messy. Whatever feeling I was, I just allowed myself to be. I went to counselors for most of that time as well, so I could air this shit out even more and not have to overburden my friends and family too much.
I had the luxury of years before Mike came into my world to be able to find my resolve with Drew’s sudden death. I was even angry AT Drew for this for a long time… because that made sense. He died in an accident he didn’t even cause. But so what, I still needed to be angry AT him for that for many months. Had I met someone new during that first year, I think I would have been a total trainwreck to date.
Mike… had only a few months before meeting me. And yes, he always knew he would lose Megan young. Yes, he had 6 months to prepare for the possibility of her death, while I got slammed with it suddenly. But it still didn’t give him much time to process things. Maybe that was just the way it needed to happen though. Who am I to know that he didn’t need to just plow full speed into living ahead for a while, before looking back? We’re all different. We all will deal differently with our grief and our particular circumstances around losing them. I am sometimes not as open-minded about that as I should be.
As you know if you’ve read our posts, it’s been pretty full speed ahead for us since we met. I truly don’t know how he’s done it. Yes, lately, we’ve had some issues come up. And last week that came to a head in a not-so-pretty way that he wrote about in his post on Tuesday. It was certainly not his best moment, but honestly, the fact that it’s taken him this long to begin to react to some of this stuff amazes me. Given what he is dealing with, I think it’s fairly impressive that he has managed to keep his unresolved stuff with Megan and our relationship pretty separate.
Unfortunately, as he and I are learning, being widowed does not magically make your non-widow baggage disappear. Man, that would be nice! To have all the other insecurities and fears and “stuff” wiped clean and to only be feeling the pain of loss? I’d take that any day. You mean it doesn’t work that way? Well damn. No, it doesn’t. Mike has brought some unresolved insecurities with him, and so have I. While I did go to counseling for years to deal with Drew’s death… there is another chapter of my life I have actually never gone to much counseling about. The relationship before Drew, which was codependent, and toxic, and abusive - both verbally and physically.
So the last time I lived with anyone, it was that man, and it was hell. I was yelled at and locked out of my own house and having things thrown at me. I was made to feel small and powerless. I was learning how to act a certain way as to not start a fight. The last time Mike lived with someone, it was certainly very filled with stress and a lot of uncertainty as he and Megan began addressing some things in their life and trying to get back to a good place again. Ironically, it sounds like the tensions in their relationship weren’t so different from those in my first relationship. Not to the abusive extreme perhaps, but certainly not healthy.
I think it’s safe to say that Mike and I moving in together has been the trigger that has sent both of us into a bit of fear. Fear from both of our unresolved places in the past. Which has probably built up without us even realizing it until this past week. In hindsight, I suppose it’s a good thing. This blow up he had last week totally freaked me the hell out. Mostly, because I know that if that continues, I will have to leave. And I do NOT want to walk away from this incredible person, this person who I would very much like to spend all the rest of my days with. So as he said, I called him out on it. Which was terrifying to do. It is definitely not our favorite moment to be sharing about with all of you. But if we’re going to work, we have to make it through a thing like this and we have to learn from it together.
So we’ve made an appointment next week to go see a counselor and get some help. We’re admitting that neither of us know what the hell we’re doing. Not a clue. We’re admitting that MAYBE having past baggage plus a nine year old to raise plus being two widowed people with love for our dead people PLUS both of us also trying to carve our new career directions really might be too freaking much for two people to handle on their own. Honestly… I feel relieved. I want some help. I’m tired of trying to figure this new life out - a life that is so very different from my old one - without some outside perspective.
I do think being widowed has given us gifts. Widowhood is the reminder not to waste time or be petty. Not to hold grudges or bury emotions. And especially, not to be ugly or say things you would ever regret to each other. We still do those things every now and again, we’re only human, but I think having lived through all we have has made us more accepting of each other's muck. We've all had to crawl through the mud by now. Some of us for months, others for years. Either way, we're all going to be a little muddy when we find someone new. And that's okay. As long as we are willing to learn and grow, widowhood has the chance to make us better partners than we were to those who came before.
Image: "The Dance" ©Sarah Treanor