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Birthdays (any yearly reminder of significance really) of those that have walked the Rainbow Bridge can be hard for the griever. This past February would have been a significant milestone for Jen...she should be 50 years old. While the daily triggers to thoughts and reminders were still occurring before this birthday, the intensity definitely increased as the date came and went. I took me into the afternoon before I could muster the courage to reach out to her sister. I am walking through Wal-Mart, bawling, as the conversation progresses. She thanks me for reaching out...While she had remembered earlier in the day, having someone check in with her helped her to realize that others still cared, it helped to validate that Jen existed, and she was important in the lives of those she touched. It broke my heart that she was reaching that point of wonder and I encouraged her to give me a shout anytime those thoughts resurfaced. She posted a lovely tribute on Facebook later in the day and interspersed among the "Happy Heavenly Birthdays" were some genuine reminders that even with a brief time on the planet, Jen had a significant impact.
Being on the high side of the emotional ebb and flow of grief from the birthday, I decided to return to the GriefShare support group for, well, support. The past meeting was extremely small due to some bad weather, just the two facilitators and one other lady that began the program about the same time as I did. We were familiar, but I had not been exposed to as much of her story as the facilitators had been through past interactions. I was actually a great meeting. It went long and we went deep into the individual issues of the day for all of us. During my sharing I revealed the one subject that, while not technically off-limits, I just do not really discuss much with my wife is Jen. At first I say that it is out of respect for my wife, that I do not want her to feel threatened by the connection I had with Jen. One of the facilitators talks about her story where her second husband encourages her to share stories and the antics of her first husband that passed suddenly. Not threatened at all. We (they) dig some more...okay! It makes me feel like I am cheating on my wife. The fact that I loved Jen and still think about her makes me feel dishonorable. They call me on this one too. That is on me. That they would feel hurt to have the decision, of whether the subject of Jen can be discussed, removed from their say in the matter. If my wife does not want to talk about it, she should be offered the choice. Worse case, yeah, she is not comfortable talking about it, and the other side of the coin, she is and I can get feelings off my chest and share stories freely...or somewhere in the middle.
It is an interesting slap in the face. I am wrestling with it, as I always do. Yes, I want to respect my wife's ability to choose for herself, and at the same time, just asking for her to make a choice feels like cheating. My wife has been a trooper through this late round of resurfacing grief, and has always made me feel like she believes that love is additive, not an either-or situation. I will likely mull it over for several more days (even weeks) and then breakdown and ask the question, but I have to get over the 'ick' factor too.
How have others approached it with subsequent significant others? Is it off limits? Is it free discourse? Are stories shared only? What about feelings that still remain?