My ex-wife, the woman I knew from our time in college and who I had 3 kids with, passed away three days ago, after a 14 year battle with breast cancer.
If you have read my other posts you will know that her almost 4 year affair ended our marriage, and the resulting fallout was complicated and full of conflict.
In the last 3 months I went from being a part-time single dad, to a partial full-time single dad (my daughter was told to leave the other house in April by my ex-mother-in-law and the affair partner), to a completely full-time single dad with my ex’s passing.
Over the last few days my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. I don’t know if I am feeling some version of grief, or if I am just a witness to the grief my kids are feeling from her passing. The complicated nature of the last 4-7 years has made her passing complicated.
I decided to process the onslaught of feelings by listing the thoughts and questions that have been running through my head the last few days. For better or for worse, in no particular order:
- I am worried about my 3 kids. Will they be ok? Especially the 15 year old who is doing his best to not show emotion.
- Guilt that I feel bad for my ex-father-in-law, but not his wife who facilitated the affair.
- What do I do in between the kids’ moments of external grief? How do I parent numbness?
- Anger and sorrow…my ex and her family did not think about what the kids would need from me when she passed. Keeping me out of the services required my “contracting” out their support during the funeral and burial to other adults.
- My 19 year old should not have so much of the care-giving and administrative burden of his mom’s passing.
- As I sit outside the church during the funeral and reception, being available if my kids need a break from the events inside, will people that used to talk with me before the affair and divorce come up to me? Will they believe the stories that were made up about me to justify the affair?
- Am I upset that my ex chose to be buried in the affair partner’s family plot? My 19 year old thought I would be when he told me.
- My first post-divorce relationship (3.5 years) ended less than a month ago. I feel lonely. I thought my girlfriend would be with me when my ex passed. Feeling abandoned.
- Angry. I thought my girlfriend would be with me when my ex passed. She couldn’t adjust to my daughter being full time with me since April. Feeling abandoned.
- Guilt that I keep looking at my on-line dating matches. How do I meet my kids’ needs and my own at the same time?
- Guilt that I am wondering so soon about how to file survivor benefits and make sure that her insurance pays for the kids’ trusts that their mother set up.
- Wondering whether my ex’s family will begin some sort of legal challenge to the divorce or trust decrees.
- What needs to be on my to-do list in the next few weeks?
- Appreciative of my ex’s best friend, who I have not seen since before the affair revelation, who came over to my place the other day. I thanked her for being nice to me as I fought back tears. She whispered in my ear that she was still my friend. That was a rare gift from the other side.
- How do you parent a wailing child as you pick them up early from camp so that she can say goodbye to her mother before she passes? It hurts.
- How do I keep from bad mouthing their mother in a family therapy session, when the 15 year old says he wants to keep seeing the affair partner, and “why can’t you just get along with him?”
- This day has been coming a long time…13 years from the day she told me she had a lump…why am I not more sorrowful than I am?
- Doing my best to help my kids remember their mom…sharing stories, offering to get them framed photos for their rooms, offering suggestions for music she used to love for her service. It is hard to be positive about a person who was so cruel to me for so long.
- Receiving condolences from friends, some who know the complicated history and some who don’t, feels odd. Does it make sense that I should receive an “I’m sorry for you”?
- It has been 7 years since her affair began…was this the same person that I used to love? Did the person I loved die 7 years ago?
- How am I going to manage being a full time single father? How do I get the energy to meet their needs? How do I date in a way that is respectful of their needs? How do I find time for myself?
I’m tired. I’m not sure what to do with myself.
Am I doing this right?