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Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow


About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk

On new love

31 May 2012

These past few days have been very much filled with thoughts of both Jane and New Girlfriend. Girlfriend is brilliant and understanding about my baggage. She gives me space to cry when I need it. She laughs at my flippant jokes about death. But no matter how great she is, there is always an underlying issue.

She never knew Jane. So she will always feel like an outsider to whatever I do in relation to Jane. She is there for me but I am very much aware that in effect, none of it means anything to her, beyond the fact that she wants to be there for me. Like when I went to Malvern to mark the anniversary of Jane's death. I wanted Girlfriend with me because it would be nice not to be alone. But then again, she would be acutely aware of the fact that I only went there specifically to think about the love I used to feel for another woman. Or what about this Saturday, when I have organised a charity gig in Jane's memory. How will that be for her? To be there to support me and yet be surrounded by people who will be talking about Jane and how lovely we were together.

Is that fair? To drag someone along to something that is so personal and deeply upsetting? To bring someone along on a journey that is all about the sadness of losing someone she never knew, someone she feels she can never compete with, even if in her mind she knows it is not a competition. (And even if it was, since her opponent is dead, I would say Girlfriend is already the winner by default!)

We had a long talk about this. She admitted to having mixed feelings about Jane. We all have feelings about our lover's ex partner. Nobody likes hearing how we loved doing things with previous lovers. Nobody likes hearing how certain things were great and how we wish we could still do some of those things. But at least if it is a relationship that broke up, our new lovers have the consolation of knowing that despite all those great things, the relationship failed so it can't have been *that* perfect.

But if your lover's partner has died, where does that leave you? If they never intended to leave their partners, had it not been for death? How can you not feel somewhat jealous? How can you not feel in some way resentful towards this person who is making the woman you love so sad? How annoying must it be when so many people keep talking about how wonderful her previous lover was? How can you ever feel anything else but second best?

There are things I did with Jane that I will not be doing with Girlfriend. She doesn't like sport. So the part of my relationship where I would sit at the side of a rugby pitch, cheering on my mates, or where I go to Twickenham with my girlfriend to watch England in the Six Nations, that part will be lost to me. As will the part where I go to the pub with my Girlfriend to watch the football. Or F1 on tv. Those things will forever bring up memories of Jane.

But in return, there are things about Girlfriend that I never really had with Jane. Music, which has always been important to me, never played a big role in my relationship with Jane. It quietly vanished. But now, with Girlfriend, it is back. And I love it. I did not realise how much I had missed it. It is very much part of this New Thing.

For Girlfriend, it must be hard not to be afraid that I will decide I miss too many things and that what she brings to this relationship is simply not enough to keep me happy. This is complicated because if Jane was still alive, her fear might be that I wanted to go back to Jane. There would be a focus for her fear. A reason to be jealous and dislike Jane. But Jane is dead. So the things I miss about Jane and me are gone forever. There is nothing to go back to. And yet, the same emotions surface. And it makes her feel bad. But to me, it is perfectly understandable.

I can see why some widows find it difficult to date a non-widow. Because I feel I can not find the right words to explain to Girlfriend that she is not Second Best. And I fret that no matter what I say, she won't believe me. Because if I mean it, then why do I still have a picture of Jane in my room? But this may well be MY issue and not hers. Maybe I am projecting my own insecurities, thinking of how I would feel in the same situation. And god knows I would be much more insecure than she is.


Girlfriend said...

You're not dragging me on a journey. You're going on the journey whatever happens; and I've decided to come with you. In fact I'm pretty much following you wherever you go. To be honest, you have very little choice in the matter...

Dutchcloggie said...


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