My new husband of one year is having difficulty with the memories of my late husband and any mention of him. Case in point: A song recently played on the radio and I asked him, eyes filling with tears, to please turn it up. The song is titled “You Should Be Here” and happened to play while leaving our granddaughter’s birthday party.
My late husband died young, just 45 years old, after a long battle with cancer. We had been married 25 years and there are a million tiny reminders of him everywhere – in a song, a wildflower, six grandchildren; the list is endless.
Now I am afraid to shed a tear or show the pain of his loss. I am afraid of hurting my new husband’s feelings. Grief doesn’t stop just because you learn to live with it. If it did, that pain would be long gone.
How do I spare my husband’s feelings of jealousy over a dead man and still learn to deal with the pain of losing such a huge piece of me?
The song says, “This is one of those moments that’s got your name written all over it, you know if I had just one wish, it would be that you didn’t have to miss this. You should be here.” He should be here.
That said, I love my new husband and am grateful for having him in my life. Where do I find balance in this? I can’t erase the past, but this loss is damaging the present and threatening the future. I don’t know how to let go.
I see how difficult this is for both you and your new husband. I can tell that you are working to hard to see both sides as well. This is a key part of grieving your loss and strengthening your new marriage. You are both having painful experiences and there has to be room for both of you to understand what it’s like for the other.
It’s impossible to hide your grief of losing your husband of 25 years. It will eventually seep out of you, so it’s important to allow it to ebb and flow. Your husband understandably feels split with this experience. I’m sure part of him can acknowledge your need to grieve, but he clearly feels so invisible when that grief overtakes you.
Your husband may be having a couple of different reactions. He might be struggling with jealousy, which is his own responsibility to resolve. You can’t do anything to make him less jealous. You can reassure him all you want, but he has to ultimately choose to accept that he’s who you want to be with and that your sadness isn’t a reflection of his inadequacy.
He also may be struggling with knowing how to respond when you plunge into sudden grief and loss. It probably startles him to see you leave the moment so suddenly and be in another relationship even though he’s sitting right there. I’m sure he feels confused, abandoned and replaced.
If this is the case, there is something you can do to help him help you through this process. He needs to know that he’s an important part of your healing. If he can know that you need him more than ever when you feel sad, he can hopefully understand his role and be there for you. For example, you can tell him that when you are feeling sad and missing your deceased husband, you need comfort and support from him. His touch, attention, understanding and presence make a difference in your healing. Turn to him and ask him to help you feel comforted. Let him know how much of a difference it makes for you.
Chances are, when you are suddenly thrown into grief, you pull away and withdraw inside yourself. If this is happening, this will feel like you’ve suddenly left your current husband. He’ll feel replaced and unimportant. This is difficult for anyone to tolerate, even if it makes sense to our logical mind. Turning to him when you feel grief allows you the need to honor your involuntary feelings while at the same time honoring your new husband who can be there for you.
Turn to him, ask him to turn to you, and both of you can hold each other tight while you cope with these unexpected and deep feelings of loss that appear so suddenly. Hopefully he can see that his support and presence prove how much you need him as you cope with difficult emotions.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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