I'm a newbie and I posted this in the grief section too but thought I might get more views and advice here. If mods need to delete I understand but I really need all input possible.
I'm in the middle (actually just the beginning) of a very weird situation that even professional counselors say they've never heard of.
My fiance's ex-spouse very recently passed away suddenly. It was a complete shock to everyone. They were married for two decades, have two kids, and have been bitterly divorced for four years. We've been together for over a year and recently got engaged.
The good news, at least for now, is that all of the bitter feelings that existed between the families since the divorce have healed during this time. I hope that lasts for everyone's sake but so much has happened and the bitterness was so vile that I have to wonder if it will return once the initial shock of things wear off.
Right now I'm struggling to find my role in all of this. I never met the ex-spouse and only knew this person through what my fiance and the kids would talk about.
I've been very supportive and will continue to be and I know that my fiance is grieving not only for the kids but the ex-spouse. I know my fiance is going through the regrets and reliving the marriage and at some point will also relive the divorce too before reconciling everything.
I just don't want to be pushy so I'm trying to be supportive, let things occur in a natural way. However there are questions I have about their relationship, their marriage, and even our relationship, and yet I don't know when is the right time to ask them. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells even though we've agreed from day one we could talk about "anything". Right now things seem so sensitive I'm afraid I'll say or do the wrong thing by asking.
I've been told that I'm still loved and that all of our plans are still a go and I don't doubt that one bit.
Just as my fiance is grieving, I guess selfishly in some way I am too because everything has now changed from the way it was in terms of "us" too. I hope it will get back to where it was and I have to hang on to the belief it will.
Has anyone ever been through anything similar? Surely I'm not the only person in the world to have gone through this? I just need some advice on what to say/not say and how things might go for the next few months that lay ahead.
20 years was a long time for them to be together, combined with the bitter divorce, your fiance is probably going through a really rough time right now. One part of her will grieve as if she lost her husband, because even with four years of bitterness, 20 years has firmly entrenched that marriage in her life. Then, she will also feel the effects of losing someone that had become such a bitter point in her life.
On your end, do not walk on eggshells, but do not start asking questions about her prior marriage at this point in time. If she wants to talk, but there for her, but mainly, just be supportive while she goes through this process. Learn everything you can about the grieving process and you will be able to know what stages she is in and the best way to be supportive of her, and hang in there. She loves you and as she works through this your relationship will begin to become much better.
Thank you! As far as questions about things, I already know a LOT. I'm dealing with my own issues of only knowing the bad things I've been told and now seeing everyone involved reconcile and hearing the good things at this early stage. I know that eventually everything will come together in my mind too.
I will stand by my fiance and give all the love I can give and I know you are right that this will make us stronger. It is just so hard to stand idle because I'm a guardian or caretaker by nature but I also know this is something I cannot do for someone else.
You're welcome and I do know this is hard. Look at hearing the good things to be a good reflection on your fiance' because if it was all horrible for twenty years, then that would not tell you that your fiance' is in her right mind.
You can still take good care of her, give her massages, hold her, and find ways of helping her pick up the slack in her life. For example, if she works, takes care of her home, etc... helping her out is going to be much appreciated even if washing the car doesn't seem quite as helpful as being in a position of hearing her heart's feelings about all of this.
Most of all, hang in there. You sound like a great fiance' and your thoughtfulness of wanting to do what's right is truly admirable.
Hi. I can somewhat identify with your situation. In my case, my ex spouse died suddenly (divorced 6 years) last year. It was a horrible divorce, and then later he tried to get full custody of our two younger children (now teens) just three years ago. I am currently engaged, although at the time of his passing away we were still getting to know each other and my kids didn't learn about our relationship until about a month after his passing.
I was no longer in love with him, kept our communication strictly about the children and tried to never argue or have anything to do with him. My last conversation with him was the day he died, and it was about the kids and pleasant so for me, there is no guilt or remorse in how I treated him. The pain comes from the fact that it was hard to admit that for ME, it eased up the never ending fear and drama I lived with (he was very angry and wanting to try to take the kids again). My kids adored and loved him deeply and it's been hard for them. They are doing as best as they can despite their loss and I've done everything I can to help. My fiance is somewhat on the sidelines when it comes to my kids. But he's been a great help to me. He was separated from his wife when she suddenly passed away several years ago, and he went through some depression and many assorted emotions, guilt, relief, you name it. So I think with his help I haven't had to deal with that.
Just remember, death is handled differently by individuals and you shouldn't let it bother you if she has moments where she misses him, or anger (in my case, some anger, as I wish he would have taken better care of himself, as he was too young to die). How are the kids handling it? How old are they?
I am sorry for her loss, but I'm sure you will be okay. Maybe try to find a different therapist if the current one seems stumped. I'd be willing to answer any questions you may have. Stick together and allow the grief. Take care,
Seeking help is one of the best things you are doing. You'll get through this awful time if you give each other respect, don't allow yourself to feel like a third wheel ever, and be there for her and the kids. Patience is a favorite word of ours. Make sure you are heard as well...this is tragic for you as well, just on a different level. I'm so grateful for the support of my mate and know eventually my kids will be okay. They seem like that on the surface. Stay strong!
I know four months is not a long amount of time but my nerves are getting raw with all of this. I feel like I can't approach my fiance to discuss this or they will "turn completely off" and never talk to me about it again. Usually we can talk about ANYTHING.
Recently I kind of unloaded about it. It's like my fiance isn't over the ex spouse and it's hard to tell where the fiance's heart is, with me or with the deceased ex spouse.
I understand there are memories but it was an ugly last half of a 20 year marriage and a bitter divorce that was four years old and LOTS of ugliness in between and still it's the good memories that everyone has that makes deceased ex look like a saint. I feel like I'm in the ex's shadow a lot and that all of the memories of the ex are good, and I can't promise just good memories. And the worst part is I have no one to talk to about it all because it's like if I bring it up I'm not understanding or compassionate.
And yet that's what I've tried so hard to be but at the same time I've had to hold a lot of emotion inside which is not typically me and it's starting to spill over.
I'm really afraid the relationship could end because honestly it's in some ways haunted by the past.
I saw my mom through her grieveing over my dad they were married for 20 years, divorced for almost 8 when he passed unexpectedly. Her bf at the time (they had been dating seriously for 2 years) didn't understand nor was he supportive of her grieving he ended up leaving her and that made it all the more worst for her. I would tell her when she is ready that you would like to talk about her prior marriage that way if it is still an open wound you give her time to heal. Your doing the right thing being supportive.
It's not so much we don't talk about the prior marriage as it is the grief my fiance is experiencing and the fact that the deceased ex is missed by my fiance even tho at times the ex was totally hated to the extreme.
I'm just really confused more now than ever because it seems like its worse now than it was when it happened. Maybe it always gets darkest before the dawn. But I think last night with me making the statements I did, the cat is probably out of the bag and I will come across as less supportive.
Thing is, it hasn't been an act. My support and concern has been genuine. It's just that all this has taken a toll on me too and on our relationship and yet I'm kind of an outsider on this.
You have a few challenges facing your relationship, and I can understand why you'd feel like your relationship is threatened. His death must be raising some intense unresolved feelings for your fiance, and she's at a vulnerable place emotionally because of it.
When two people are very angry at each other, as you say their last years and divorce demonstrated, it's because they *do* still care. Anger and hate aren't the opposite of love - apathy is. Both anger and love mean the other person affects our emotions.
When the ex died, it most certainly aroused a lot of those emotions. The healing that you've seen take place with the other family members shows that caring that still exists beneath all the negativity. While you've heard a lot of negatives about this guy, you already are ahead of the curve by recognizing that those fond and affectionate memories are coming to the front lines, too.
So you have 2 situations - Helping your partner cope, and coping with the changes in your relationship. I think that if you can navigate the first one, the second one will fall into place.
To help your partner cope and get your relationship back onto firm footing, you need to find a way to be a support to that larger family group and your spouse.
You could send a card to the ex's parents or children saying, "I was thinking of you today and hope you're doing well." You can invite your fiance to have the kids over for a remembrance dinner - an opportunity to share their memories with each other and help you know the person she really was. (You may not want to highlight the purpose of the dinner, but bring it about in a gentle way during your meal.) Go ahead and bring her up in conversations where it's appropriate, and do it in a positive light only - not dwelling on the angry stuff. If negativity is going to come into play, let it be because your fiance's needing to address those things, and when it happens, help her find a way of making things right within her own mind.
Tiptoeing isn't the answer. It just shows her that you're seeing her as fragile, and not trusting her to be genuine with you. Be considerate and honest, and take steps to encourage active healing.
This is a process that just has to play out. There's little you can do to help. Number one, don't personalize it. It has nothing to do with you and, in fact, may end up being a blessing to you, if from a tragic cause. If you and he were ever going to have a chance, your fiancee needed to work through this former relationship, given how long and troubled it was. Now he's forced to. This means one day his emotional decks will be clear to fully love you.
In the meanwhile, try not to linger on this all the time. While not ignoring him, of course, focus on yourself, your activities, your goals. Don't let this maelstrom swallow up your life. That way, you'll be able to exercise more tolerance and understanding because your own emotional reserves won't have been sucked dry.
In short, be there for him but be there for yourself, equally. By continuing to be yourself and do your thing, you're also offering him freedom to be him -- to grieve, to do whatever. Eventually, he'll see the rest of life is going on and he's welcome to join it when he can.
I've never met the deceased ex-spouses parents. They know we are engaged, or so I'm told. I've met one of the deceased ex-spouse sisters and she's been very very nice. But I've sort of been held away from the parents, partly from my choice because it seems weird and I have to be ready for that, and partly from my fiance's choice because my fiance isn't wanting to force me onto them.
You all are right. I'm just going to have to be patient. But gosh, it gets harder instead of easier the longer this goes on.