Monday, January 19, 2015

Uncharted Waters: Grieving an Ex-spouse

"There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain." - The Beatles, In My Life
 Together 1982
My ex-husband, Bob, died Friday afternoon  after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He passed away in Chicago with his wife, Cathy, by his side. I was blogging here in Maine when I heard.
Bob and I  were married for 18 years and have two children together.
Boy, did I cry!
Bob (left) as a Cub Scout, 1950's
Bob's HS Graduation 1964

The tears catch up to me at unexpected times. In fact, having tears over the loss of my ex is unexpected all by itself. I thought I'd already grieved the loss of this man when he left, many, many years ago.  Do I have to grieve for him all over again?   It seems that I do.

Bob's  '57 Chevy, Kennebunkport, Maine, 196

Families don't know what to do with divorced spouses so it's an odd place to find myself.  I'm grieving and yet I have no place in this, except to stay out of it.  My adult son is in Chicago with Bob's family, which is as it should be.  My grown daughter has disabilities and is not able to understand what has happened.  As the ex-spouse,  I don't expect to get calls from friends, sympathy cards, or casseroles left on the doorstep.  I'm grieving alone . . . for memories of long-ago Kennebunkport summers and the wonder of first love.

With our son, 1973

And if you are remarried, take it from me, crying over the death of another man in front of your current spouse feels pretty weird.  Thankfully, my DH of the past 26 years is the most amazing guy. He not only understands but has been right there to support me when I've cried for Bob, or cried for my children on the loss of their father.  But again, there are no precedents here; we're just finding our way through it as best we can.

 Bob, with my DH, Hank (center), and his BFF Bruce (right) , at our son's wedding.
It feels surreal enough that soon I'll be at the florist ordering an arrangement of flowers for the funeral home, with a ribbon  that says "Daddy" on it,  to be sent from our daughter, who can't do this for herself.
How sad is that . . . in so many ways?
Bob (right) with his sister, Carolyn, and brother, Larry
Luckily, Bob's sister, Carolyn, and I went to college together and have remained good friends.  She is a local UCC minister and was the one person to stop by this weekend to share our mutual grief over a couple of glasses of wine.
And, do ex-wives attend the funeral? 
Maybe I'm fortunate that Bob moved to Illinois when he remarried; the distance between our two families means that I won't be able to be there.  I wouldn't want to make the occasion uncomfortable for Bob's current family when they're already grieving.
DH Hank & I
Is there even an etiquette book for stuff like this?
It's always something!


  1. I am so sorry for your loss. It is a loss of shared memories and children. May you find peace in the coming days and enjoy the comfort and love of your husband, friends and family.

  2. You shared your life with him and you shared your children with him. You are entitled to grieve for what was and for what wasn't. And even though you started a new life there was a past life you have to remember and grieve. I am truly sorry for your loss and I hope you and your family do find peace.

  3. A very thoughtful post. It is strange how to look back at our lives and think of all that has happened. I don't have an ex, I've been married to my high school sweet heart for 44 years. But still when I think back to time in our twenties, children, etc, and now those times gone. Well, I can see and understand your loss. Grief, is grief , whether for your ex and 18 years you had together and all that encompassed that, or grief for a time gone by
    As you say, and it's one of my favorite quote, it's always something.

  4. This is such a well written tribute. I think it would be hard not to grieve for someone that you were married to for that many years and is the father of you children. But, it probably was a good thing that he moved so far away too. Your present husband is a very special man and I'm glad you found him.
    xx, Carol

  5. Cheryl, I am so sorry for your loss. I too have an ex-husband who is the father of my girls. I see him occasionally at family things but he is remarried and happy it seems. I am happy for him. I too think it's hard not to grieve for someone who was in our lives for so long and is the Father of our children. Your husband is a good man to understand that. Sending you hugs dear friend.


  6. It's only natural that you grieve over the loss of your ex-husband when you made so many memories together over the years. I'm glad you have a kind and understanding hubby to help you through this difficult time, Cheryl. I'm sending a big hug your way.

  7. Cheryl, I am sorry for your loss and for your children, as well. I would think that it would be natural to grieve, you spent almost a quarter of a century married to this man, sharing your life, sharing children, so many firsts. You expressed your feelings so eloquently. You should send this to a woman's magazine. I bet you there are many in your position who would benefit from your words. Prayers and hugs...

  8. I'm sorry for the loss you are experiencing Cheryl. It is an awkward situation I'm sure but I think you're doing the right thing and remembering him from a distance. You have every right to grieve as you spent part of your life with him and he is the father to your children. You have a wonderfully understanding husband which helps. Blessings and hugs. Pam

  9. I am so sorry to hear of your children's loss of their father and yes, your loss as well, for you DID share a part of your life with this man, and he is the father of your children. I do understand, having a 1st and 2nd husband and what it would mean to me if #1 were to pass away. Prayers and hugs your way....

  10. Oh dear, I am so sorry to hear about your loss because it is clear that it is still a loss when you loved someone once and have that forever bond of children. Take good care and no apologies for emotions!

  11. How much you can grieve with your ex's family depends on your relationship to them. My ex-husband was murdered several years ago. I never stopped caring about him or his family, and it was probably never questioned why I would show up at his funeral. We shared a daughter, and I always visited with him, his wives (I was the first of four) and his family at various occasions. We grieve for people we have loved and lost, whether through death or divorce. Your current husband shows his compassion by supporting you and loving you though it. I don't know what your relationship is with his widow, but if it were me (and there were no on-going rifts), I would send a sympathy card. It would be your last communication with her, unless your children were close to her, then there may be some on-going light relationship. Follow your heart, and do what you think is best. Do everything with good intentions.

  12. Hmmm...this gives me pause...I have an ex-husband too...he left me when the children were in high school. He has re-married as have I. The first year after the divorce I did want anything to do with him, but gradually I began to be cordial. We see each other at children's weddings, etc. I'm glad he moved far, far away. What will I do when he dies? Your post makes me wonder and hopefully think ahead of what would be best.

  13. I'm sorry for the loss. I think it's probably pretty normal to feel the way you do. Children and 18 years of memories can't be forgotten. I almost think not mourning wouldn't be normal.

  14. my heart went out to you as i read this. bless you and your family.


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