A double mourning, of sorts...
My wife Kelly was killed last summer in an automobile accident as she returned home from work. She simply ran right through a stop sign and ran right under the back wheels of a semi-trailer. She died instantly.
Fast forward two hours: Our house and garage are filled with friends, neighbors, and relatives who all came to support my kids and I. There was a prayer service in the garage that was especially touching, and I gave a little talk about how from this minute on, nothing was to be off limits as far as talking about Kelly, her accident, the circumstances, my kids, or myself - nothing could not be asked because they were all true friends.
Fast forward three days: Funeral viewings in our small towns are rather formal - viewing hours are from 1pm-8pm, and there is generally a long line the whole time when the decedent and/or the spouse either have large families or are notable people in the community. We qualified on all counts and so those seven hours were a madhouse as I shook hands with and/or hugged over 2,000 people. It may sound like a lot, but I personally knew at least 80% of the people coming through and just seeing the grief on their faces and the love for our family somehow made a solemn event a happy one.
Fast forward one day: The Catholic Funeral Mass and burial. After a final viewing of Kelly at the funeral home and the procession to the Church, Mass began at 10:30am. I remember smiling during a lot of the Mass because I thought 'what beautiful send-off we're giving Kelly today'. After Mass we proceeded to the graveyard where the normal graveside prayers were said, and after the family sprinkled the casket with holy water we made our way to lunch.
Fast forward four weeks: My understanding boss gave me all the time I needed to come back to work, so I spent a lot of time working on paperwork issues like obtaining death certificates, working with life insurance companies and our lawyer, and dealing with the Social Security Office to see about benefits for my kids. These first four weeks weren't terrible, because I had plenty to keep me busy, the kids were still on summer break, and there was plenty of family around.
Fast forward two months: I finally fell into a funk. My kids were now in school and establishing a routine, and I was back to my office job, but I simply couldn't concentrate. I normally love my job, but I just couldn't care enough about the tasks at hand to give my best. I muddled along and did what I needed to, but I counted the hours until I could get out each day.
Fast forward two more months: I had been thinking about dating for some time, but living in a small community presents a lot of problems, namely that the supply of unmarried females within a reasonable age limit from me (40-ish) is pretty sparse. But I got a stroke of luck completely out of nowhere. I became friends with a friend's sister, who I hadn't seen in over five years. We messaged back and forth at first and then started texting because it was clear we had a lot in common. Amanda was quite a bit younger than me but neither of us cared about that - she seemed to be on my level in every way, knew I had kids and welcomed the challenge. So we started dating every weekend, which was a challenge because even though Amanda was from my hometown she lived and worked in a larger city about two hours away.
Things continued to progress, and we had those sometimes uncomfortable discussions - could she be a mother to my kids, could she live around here - without them really being uncomfortable, because we were on the same page with everything. Nothing was forced one way or another - it was a 50/50 deal as far as who wanted things to progress more.
Fast forward two and a half months: She had finally met my kids (I waited and waited to make sure the timing was right) and it went great. So she started spending more time here, mainly just watching TV and movies on the couch after the kids had gone to bed.
Fast forward one week: One the day that my late wife and I would have celebrated our 15th anniversary, Amanda tells me that she is feeling pressured and scared and oh by the way, there is an old flame in the city she lives in that is talking about rekindling things. This was out of the blue and I reacted badly. Not violently or anything, but I was upset. This made her upset because somehow she couldn't fathom how I could get that mad about the breakup of such a short-term relationship. Well, I wasn't going to beg for her to stay (I have some pride), so I decided that since I loved her I would set her free.
Fast forward six weeks: I am worse off now than I was before I started dating Amanda. Not only am I still grieving Kelly, but the Amanda thing is still fresh and it just kills me how something so good could go 'poof' so suddenly without any warning. I pine not so much for Amanda but for the times we had together - those were two and a half months where I was totally and completely happy. My counselor says in my trail of grief I got off on a 'bunny trail' to avoid the ugliness of grief, and that I needed to get back to the ugly business of grieving or I would complicate my grieving even further. And maybe she's right, but do I ever miss those two and a half months... So now I'm sort of double grieving, but it's actually easier with Kelly because I KNOW she's dead, but Amanda is out there and I have no idea what she is thinking or feeling, and I'm too scared to even try to talk to her about it. Life would have been so much easier if I had never met Amanda, but I would not give those two and a half months back for anything...