Bunny who?

Why? Who? What's this blog about? It's about MEEEE!

Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow


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

It's complicated

11 June 2012

I am not sure I should blog about this. As I have said before, I always feel like this blog is an open channel for my emotions. It did not used to be but it became an important emotional outlet for me when Jane was no longer able to talk to me about emotions. It was easy to write about how I felt here because Jane would not read it and feel upset about it. So I could be honest and open. I never slagged Jane off. Or anyone else. But I knew Jane was not reading my blog.

But it is different now. Girlfriend reads my blog. Once of the reasons we are together IS this blog. She read it months and months ago and felt she wanted to get to know me better. And throughout all this, things between us have been easier (according to her) because she has a good idea of how I have dealt with losing Jane, through reading my blog. And it is true that often she seems to understand me without me having to explain anything. We talk a lot about things. About emotions, about how we feel, whatever.

We have been together for over 2 months. I could not possibly love her more than I do right now. I am never the kind of person that holds back. It is all or nothing. I tend to tell my partner how I feel just about everything all the time. But I am starting to think in this case that may actually a detrimental thing for this relationship.

I think about Jane a lot. Not in a sad kind of way but simply in the things that happen in my daily life. I am only in this country because of Jane. Everywhere I have been in this country has been with Jane. Every item of clothing I have, I probably bought when shopping with Jane. Every book I own, I bought whilst with Jane, Jane would have read it and told me her opinion on the plot. We used to have the same size so a lot of my clothes are Jane's. After she died, I went through all our clothes and I just kept the stuff I liked best, regardless of whose it was originally. So more than half the time, I wear Jane's clothes. Half of the CDs I own are Jane's. A lot of the music I now like, I discovered with Jane.

None of this has any emotional significance to me on a daily basis. And so I'll 'carelessly' mention it in a conversation when a thought crosses my mind. The fact that Jane is part of that thought does not stop me from mentioning it. Because surely if it has no emotional significance to me, but merely a factual, anecdotal one, then it is not a problem for Girlfriend either, right? I mean, it does not mean I am still pining for Jane.

But it seems this is not the case. First and foremost, this is my fault. I could be wearing a T-shirt that Jane used to wear and of which I posted a picture on Facebook when Jane was ill. So Girlfriend has seen that picture. So when I wear that same t-shirt, it reminds her of Jane. Even when for me, that link is not in any way an emotional one. In fact, I am often not even aware of the fact that it might have significance for other people. To Girlfriend, this means that Jane is always there. She is always in something I wear, something I say or some music I listen to. When she looks at me, she can always find Jane in something.

I had not realised this. Because this is not how it feels to me. Because I will just mention something as a plain fact. Remarks like that are only a split second passing thought without much significance. Of course there are moments when I feel sad. Moment where I actually mention Jane in a significant way, rather than as a passing comment.

But if I mention Jane all the time when it doesn't really matter, how will Girlfriend know when it DOES matter? To her, all it might feel like is me talking about Jane yet again.

The past 2 weeks have been full of Jane. The memories of her last days, the stress about the charity gig, the sadness of June 3rd being our wedding anniversary and on June 8th, it was a year since her funeral. I have not actually cried other than a few tears at the gig. Which was unexpected. Girlfriend has been fantastic for me. She never once complained, has been there to hug me and has been nothing but understanding. Of course there are things she worries about. It would be weird if she did not feel some insecurities and feeling she is competing with a saint. As I discussed in a previous blog post, it is important we keep talking about this.

But when is it simply too much? Is it fair to just assume Girlfriend will understand when I am really sad and when I am merely just mentioning Jane as a passing thought as part of a story that could be told just as well without mentioning her? Is it solely up to Girlfriend to accept me talking about Jane all the time or do I have a responsibility to perhaps think twice about mentioning Jane in conversations where in fact she does not play a part at all? 

I mean, when for example I talk about where I bought my favourite pair of shoes, is it vital to mention that when I bought them, it was a very hot day and Jane was complaining about the heat, hence we went into a shoe shop with aircon? Would the story be any less interesting (assuming it is interesting in the first place) if I take a second and decided if mentioning Jane is a vital part of this story or that it does not weigh up against making Girlfriend uncomfortable?

A relationship is give and take. Just because losing my wife is a massive fucking thing does not mean it is a carte blanche to be insensitive to Girlfriend's feelings. I am not erasing Jane from my life. I just think I might need to be more selective in mentioning her. Because if I mention her all the time, how will Girlfriend know when I am actually sad and need a hug? It seems perfectly understandable that it would make her a little bit irritable. "Jane.....again".

 We went away to the Peak District after the difficult 2 weeks around the anniversary of Jane's death. I needed a break. Girlfriend also needed a break. I failed to understand that she needed a break from Jane. That it would be nice for her if for a few days, there would be only 2 people in this relationship. And not 3. That for a few days, SHE would feel the centre of my attention. That for a few days, she would not feel like competing with a dead person. That for a few days, I would NOT be wearing any of the clothes I shared with Jane but maybe I could consciously wear some of the clothes I have bought after Jane's death.

Also, all the places I have been in this country, I have been with Jane. Some of these places were awesome and I would like to take Girlfriend there. Not because of my memories, but because that place was just really nice. I did not realise that I may well not get emotional about Jane in those places, but that for Girlfriend, we are once again in a place with ties to Jane. And so instead of going to Buxton, we changed our plans and went to a different town instead. One that I had never been to. One that had no memories. No chance of me insensitively pointing out how at this particular bridge, Jane and I fed some nice ducks (or something equally trivial). I made an effort and found it did not feel like betrayal. I did not feel upset or angry. I did not have to spend most of my day suppressing memories. In fact, I actually found it quite a relief. Which was a surprise to me too.

If any of that sounds unreasonable to you, if you feel Girlfriend should be a complete saint and never mention her feelings about this, then you don't understand how I feel about Jane, relationships or Girlfriend.

I think Girlfriend deserves to feel like she is the only person I want to be with right now. Because she is. And if I make this difficult for her to understand because I keep mentioning Jane in unrelated, trivial throw-away comments that could easily be avoided, then I feel it is up to me to make the effort to try and be more careful about what I say.

It is about finding a middle ground. Girlfriend will have to accept that I miss Jane (and she does). Not as a lover but as a person I love deeply. That certain significant dates will be difficult. Or that certain things I did with Jane and now do with Girlfriend will be difficult. (We are going to Edinburgh Fringe this year. In 2010, our trip to the Fringe signaled the return of Jane's tumour and the trip was an emotional disaster).  I will have to accept that if I want to be in this relationship, I might have to think twice about sharing every single thought I have about anything.

If I talk about Jane too much when it doesn't matter, I run the risk of Girlfriend getting tired of it and not being able to be there for me when it DOES matter. She wants to be there for me. But she is not my crutch. She does not want to be and she should not be. She deserves to be in a relationship with me. Not with me and Jane. I should not take her understanding for granted. Because it is pretty rare to find someone so patient.

I am already feeling myself being more wary of mentioning Jane altogether, even when I am sad. Last night, for some reason I don't want to discuss, I got really sad and cried a bit. I did not miss Jane as such. I was just so sad about what has happened to a lovely young woman. My first thought was to call girlfriend and hear her reassuring & caring voice that always makes me feel better. But I did not want to talk to her about Jane again. So I cried alone for a few minutes. Then I texted a friend for a hug but she was out in a nightclub.

This is a worry. Because it should not become something that I can not discuss with girlfriend. I guess this is a tricky phase in our relationship. The initial excitement is making way for a more stable thing. (Although..... I have seen Girlfriend every day for the past 2 months. Every day. And still, every time I see her, even if it is only for a cup of tea during my lunch break, my heart soars.) We will need to find our own way with this. I have no advice for her. I have not done this before. She has not done this before. We are making our own history as we go along. But I want this to work. Because she makes me feel happy again.

And frankly *flippant comment alert*, Jane would hate to think she would be wrecking my relationships AFTER her death.


HB said...

We walk the same path. Again.

Substitute JS for Jane and your new love for mine and Northumberland for The Peak District and your words are my thoughts.

HB from PG

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

These are the thoughts of the many repartnered widowed people in my Facebook group, "widowed and remarried" (I know, inaccurate name, but they don't let you change the name and the group has gotten quite large and active).

If you wish to join, friend me on FB and I'll send you an invite. I think you'd really like having folks who've been in some of the same spots you have and are doing the same kind of balancing each day.


Jules said...

I am much further along than you. I have been widowed for 8 years and in a new relationship for 6 years (well, ok, maybe not so new now). Anyway, I do understand completely what you mean. I do think we have to be a bit sensitive about how often we mention our first loves. I don't mean we shouldn't mention them at all, or that we should have to watch everything we say, but perhaps just be a bit mindful that new love doesn't want to live with a saintly ghost.

I have 2 children so of course I talk to them about their dad, and I often mention things we have done or places we have been BUT I do try not to mention first love too much when I am talking about things past with new love.

I love my new man very much. He makes me very happy. I do not want him to think he is second best in my life because he is not. He just happens to be second chronologically. New man has just moved in with me, into my house which I bought with A and although we are gradually replacing old stuff with new things chosen together he is still surrounded by things I chose with first love. I would imagine that the last thing he wants is me wittering on all the time about how A and I brought this, or about when A and I went here or there etc etc. Now new man is very respectful of my memories, he has never asked me not to talk about A and he never would, he understands I have a past love and that I will talk about A and relive parts of my life with him, but I want new man to be happy living here with me, so out of my respect for my new man and of my own choosing I leave A out of the conversation sometimes. Of course I am now at 8 years so this is easier now, but I feel for any second relationship to be successful and happy this approach may well be wise.

I wish you every happiness with your new girlfriend.

Love Jules xx

Dutchcloggie said...

Jules, thank you for your comment. It is really good to know others are facing similar issues. Good for me because I know this does not mean I am somehow still very "hungup" on Jane. Good for Girlfriend because it means she is not the only one feeling this way and that feeling like this does not mean she is selfish or demanding. I guess it is all part of the learning curve of widowhood.

Supa, I will look the group up on facebook.

Mark said...


As you know I lost my partner Steve not long after you lost Jane, it's 12 months today for Steve.

Being three months in to a new relationship a lot of what you say resonates with me. I hope things continue to,work out well for you.

Take care,
Mark (mark Bobbie Dazzler on FB)

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