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Grief, Life, and Love: The Complexities of a Second Marriage

I thought I was finished grieving.  The tears, the talks, the therapy, the meditation, the contemplation, the learning how to be alone.  Divorce is not for the faint of heart. Growing up I thought that people who got divorced just “didn’t take relationships seriously.” More and more I think the people who stay married are […]

I thought I was finished grieving.  The tears, the talks, the therapy, the meditation, the contemplation, the learning how to be alone.  Divorce is not for the faint of heart. Growing up I thought that people who got divorced just “didn’t take relationships seriously.” More and more I think the people who stay married are either just good at being married to one another or good at pretending away the things they don’t want to see.  Marriages where denial takes on the form of forgiveness so the slighted partner can feel better about themselves . People who get a divorce seem much braver to me than before. Brave enough to make it on their own. Brave enough to face the truth of their relationship. Brave enough to want to give their children a house of kindness and predictability.  Brave enough to start over.

But, here I am…on the threshold of the second marriage.  Marriage to a man who has been consistently kind to me for over 2 years.  A man who has held me while I cried and made me laugh more times than I can count.  A man who never makes me feel like I have to change myself to “earn” his love. A man who always plays by the same set of rules.  A man who chooses to open up his home, his arms and his heart so my kids and I can have another chance at a family. So his son can know what it is like to have a mother.  So the five of us can leap across the abyss of the unknown and take a chance on getting it right this time. A man who sends roses on Valentine’s Day and plans an entire day with my girlfriends for my birthday.  A man who snuck a kiss to my cheek when he walked in the room thought I was asleep. A man who thinks I’m beautiful. A man who plans adventures and always shows up for me. A man who consistently says “What do you want?  I just want you to be happy.” A man who has seen the worst in me and believes in the best of me.

Yet, still I grieve.

My life is better now than I could have imagined.  After the divorce I dove into healing like my life depended on it.  I refused to hide behind the kids, the work, the busyness. I tore off anything resembling a mask and refused to give my time to anything that felt inauthentic.  The tragedy that used to be my life was the siren’s call to a new beginning. A new life. I knew falling back into the old life, the old patterns, the old comforts meant I may never grow up. I learned that growing up has nothing to do with age and everything to do facing the truth of yourself.  Growing up meant wrestling with each belief, each dream, each relationship, each day and saying “Is this right for right now? Is it what I am supposed to be doing or is it just what everyone else expects me to be doing? Am I doing what’s best or what’s easiest?” And, with the wrestling comes the freedom. The freedom from guilt, shame, lies, people pleasing, perfectionism, and over functioning in an effort to make up for the fact that your life fell apart.  To make up for the fact that you will only see your children every other Christmas morning. To make up for the fact that you took a chance on another human and it nearly destroyed you. To make up for the fact that you contorted your life in a thousand different ways in hopes of getting it “right” so he would love you and knowing it still wasn’t good enough. And, it never would have been. Divorce takes away so many choices. But, it did offer me a fork in the road: I could continue to be the person I was before the divorce, minus one, or I could go through the struggle of rebuilding.  The struggle of creating. The struggle of discovery. The struggle of figuring out who I was and what I was supposed to do with this thing called life.

It worked.  

Everyday, I wake up with purpose.  I love that I’m in a career that makes the world a better place and I love that I’ve been able to balance my life in a way that protects the things most important to me in the shuffle.  I love waking up to yoga and coffee and watching the colors of the sky change on my porch. I love unstructured time with the kids so they remember the front of my face as I ask them about their day rather than then back of my head as I stare at a sink full of dishes or the bumper stickers on the car in front of me.  I love the stories we read, the songs we sing, the life we share. I love the authentic friendships with my tribe where I am fully known and fully loved. I love never having to walk on eggshells or watch what I say. I love the energy of people in my home and my life who have walked through my tragedies and celebrated my triumphs. I love the times of learning and  laughter, the times of taking a chance and falling without failing. Times of getting up again and again and again. Times of new chances, new traditions, and new hope. And, best of all I love the times of peace. Hours and days and weeks of peace. A peace I will never take for granted. A peace that you can’t appreciate if you have never known it’s absence.

Yet, still I grieve.

I didn’t welcome in Grief.  He never has enough. I thought I was finished wrestling with all the pain I had spent ten years trying to deny.  Finished having Grief hold me to the ground until I admitted defeat. Finished combing through the mistakes I had made and the mistakes other people told me I had made in an effort to manage their own pain.  Finished with the wondering. Finished with the sleeping. And, lack of sleeping. And, sleeping. Finished with the weight of it all. I thought I had done the work and paid my dues. I knew Grief was a hard taskmaster and I had taken Grief seriously.  I had done my part and not ran away from the process, yet Grief didn’t follow the rules. Grief gave me no credit for the work I had done and Grief didn’t realize he had overstayed his welcome. After a perfect morning he snuck in unexpectedly. One sentence, one turn, one moment and we came face to face again.  “You. Why are you here? Why won’t you leave me alone? I’m done with you! Don’t you see how much better things are? Are you trying to ruin this for me too? There’s no place for you in this life!? Why aren’t we over?”

Yet, still I grieve.

I grieve  because as hard as I worked to get past it I am hit with the reality of what getting past my past means.  I am hit with the reality that this is it. This is the life I’ve have been working for. This is what I wanted with all the it’s beauty, foibles, and flaws.   This new life of unexpected problems and complexities that are a thousand times better than the problems of my past, but are problems all the same. Problems that are here and that are real and that will need my attention. The complexities of schedules and holidays and blending children and making sure everyone is treated fairly. The complexities of building a home where five people get a chance at a new life.   A life with three sets of little eyes watching our every move to know that they are safe and loved. Three little eyes looking at a new parent and thinking “Will you love me? Are you sure? Do you know what I have been through so early in my little life? Will you guys stay together? Is she/he safe to love? Will you take care of my mom/dad when I am not around? Will you give me the freedom to grow into myself or will you want me to become you?  Will you be able to handle my bad days as well as my good ones?”

Questions that I never wanted my children to have to think about.  Questions I never wanted to think about. So, I grieve.

The complexities of looking at a man and saying “Can I trust you?  Will you be as wonderful for the next twenty years as you have been the last two?”  The complexities of opening yourself up to vulnerability and taking on someone else’s glory and struggles as your own.  The complexities of balancing schedules and budgets and children and two sets of silverware. And…the complexities of feeling like you should probably make yourself small because this is a second marriage so it isn’t worth all the fuss and fanfare, the pomp and parties. The complexities of the nagging voice in your mind saying “Are you SURE you should celebrate this?  I mean you couldn’t get it right the first time. Are you SURE you are making the right decision? If you screw this up you are going to ruin your children’s lives. This isn’t just about you. So what if he makes you happy…is it really all about being happy?” It’s the complexities of people who want to point out all the reasons a second marriage won’t work and the statistics around second marriages. The fear of “Oh my gosh. What if this goes bad again.”  The pressure to not take a chance again so you can avoid ever making a mistake again, The complexities of becoming a mother to a child who hasn’t had one. The complexities of little heads who don’t fall asleep on the same pillow each night. The complexities of giving full access of your children to another human when you yourself don’t even have them full time. The complexities of trying to choose the fork in the road with the least amount of problems. The madness of trying to find a controllable future where you can predict the outcome.  The excitement and insanity and hope of a happily ever after where everything magically works out. The complexities of the cold hard reality that it didn’t work out for you last time and knowing you are making the conscious choice to give yourself to someone without knowing exactly what it will take to make it work this time.

So, I grieve.

I grieve that fate is asking me to live a life I never prepared for,  a life of new beginnings that never would have happened without going through a series of horrific endings.  Learning to trust a love and joy I never thought I would have. A life so beautiful and so different that I find myself flooded with gratitude one minute and flooded with fear the the next. Fear of the reality of the actual world, not the world you hoped would be as a little girl. A world where people played nice and everyone appeared to be who they seemed.  A world with more love than secrets. More trust than lies. More love than anger. I grieve the unpredictability of human kind. The unpredictability of disease and children and parents and exes and jobs and…life. I grieve the world I thought I was in as I learn to embrace the world I am actually in. The grief of a simplicity and predictability, the grief of how things were supposed to be, the grief of building a life and having it fall to the ground and then being brave enough to try again. Brave enough to hope again. Brave enough to love again. Brave enough to take a chance on a man who loves you back.

I grieve the idea that family is forever, but I also trust that I’m no longer the wide eyed hopeful little girl who spoke her vows the first time around.  The little girl who entered her first marriage thinking that working on yourself was enough to make a marriage work. The little girl who thought the right look, the right faith, and the right attitude would be enough to keep her man happy.  I enter the second marriage with the full expectation that it take two to do the work, two to speak kindly, two to be vulnerable, two to shoulder the burdens and share the joys. I enter this marriage with the full understanding that one person cannot save another.  That each person is responsible for their own healing and their own happiness. I come equipped with the knowledge that what is a problem before the marriage is unlikely to “work itself out” within the marriage.

But, while I grieve the past and I grieve the unpredictability of the future, there are a million things I don’t grieve. I don’t grieve who I am and I don’t grieve who he is.  I don’t grieve how strong we are and I don’t grieve the cloud of ease that surrounds our relationship. While I grieve that the paths of our pasts were so rocky, I also recognize that you don’t appreciate what you have always had.  I recognize that harmony, support, and building each other up are difficult to recognize when they have always been a part of your life. I recognize that my hope is greater than my grief and my trust in myself is great than my fear.  I am not the same person who got this wrong the first time.

So yesterday I grieved.  Today I will breathe. And, tomorrow I will take the first step into my new happily ever after.

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