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Question

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.

Answer 

I see how difficult this is for both you and your new husband. I can tell that you are working hard to see both sides as well. Holding both perspectives will help you grieve your loss and allow you to strengthen 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 the 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 new husband understandably feels split with your grief. I’m sure part of him can acknowledge your need to grieve, but he clearly feels invisible when this grief overtakes you.

Your husband may be having a couple of different reactions. He might be struggling with jealousy, which is ultimately his own responsibility to resolve. You can’t do anything to make him less jealous. All you can do is reassure him and remind him how important he is to you. He has to ultimately choose to accept that he’s the one 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 suddenly transport over to your previous relationship with your deceased husband. I’m sure he feels confused, abandoned, and replaced.

If this is the case, there is something you can do to help him support you through this long grieving process. He needs to know that he’s an important part of your healing. If he can know that you need him 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. Your ability to hold both relationships will help him do the same. Let him know how much of a difference it makes for you to allow you to feel sad for your loss and feel close to him all at the same time.

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 the logical mind. Turning to him when you feel grief allows you to honor your involuntary feelings of grief while at the same time honoring your new husband as someone who can love and comfort 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 these difficult emotions.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com 

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT