mending while bending

On Being “Chapter 2”

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding one’s ability to love again after the loss of someone important in life; can you love another person in the same way you love who was lost?

In my opinion you can’t love the same way, but you can love in a different way.

Speaking from my own personal experience I lost one of my best friends in 2004 in a plane crash. He and I spent so much time just hanging out, discussing business, relationships, and how we would conquer the world. When he died it took me to my knees and rocked my world. I felt numb to nearly everything in my life. Being a guy, I tried not to show how sad I was or how bad I hurt. Boys are taught at an early age to be tough and show very little emotion no matter what happens in our lives. Looking back all these years later I realized it really affected me. This is going to sound very sensitive and emotional but I really loved that guy like a brother.

I say loved, but in reality I still love that guy.

It has been over ten years and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him or something doesn’t remind me of him. Thinking of him does not mean I’m stuck or that I have not moved forward with my life, it just means he is an important part of my history and is part of who I have become. Thinking of him is not self-pity – its just part of my life after his loss.

Let me be clear, I am by no way comparing my loss of a friend to anyone’s loss of a spouse or child – I have not experienced that loss and hope I never do. The point I am trying to make is that I have many friends in my life; some really close friends whom I love like brothers. Losing my best friend back in 2004 didn’t stop me from having other close friends in my life, and while those relationships are different I still love many of these friends like brothers. I am still able to make new friends and have new relationships, only they are different friends and I love them differently than I did Brandon.

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We as humans have the ability to “feel” and show emotions for just about anything we come in contact with. It may be as simple as good meal, beautiful scenery, a favorite exercise, a favorite pet, our kids, a mother, a father, wife, husband, best friend, a lost husband, a lost wife, or whatever it might be we think about and feel a certain way towards.

We don’t just love ONE Way or ONE person or ONE thing.

We have the ability to love in so many different ways and can continue living and finding new things/people to value. Don’t put yourself in a room and close the doors never showing others you care or love them after you think your world is over.

My wife Michelle recently wrote a very popular blog regarding her widow status after our marriage and since that time there have been quite a few “opinions” regarding how I should feel or react to her words as her husband.

What I’m about to write is how I personally feel about the situation and I am in no way speaking for others who love/marry widows/widowers.

When I first met Michelle I had no clue what a “Chapter 2” was or even what it meant. To be honest I had never heard the term before used in a context of marriage or to describe a significant other. The more time we spent together, the more I learned about being a Chapter 2 in Michelle’s life. This was a term given to a new husband/or wife when a widow/or widower remarries. Similar to chapters in a book, we each have chapters in our lives. When we first started dating – Michelle had pictures up of her late husband. Most of those pictures were with him and the kids.

Did/does this bother or hurt me?

No.

It was her late husband and father of her kids whom she lost very tragically.

It did make me sad when I saw the pictures. Early on it made me question if there was a place for me in their lives.

Was I wasting my time?

Would she love me?

Could she love me?

Over the next few years as our relationship grew I have learned so much. I have been referred to and introduced as a “Chapter 2” on numerous occasions and at numerous events. This does not bother me – in fact I embrace it. After all, Michelle’s history has shaped her into the woman I fell in love with. Part of what I have learned the past few years is that my wife loves me differently than she loves her late husband. As I mentioned early, you can love people differently, just like I loved my best friend and now love many other friends.

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You love your significant other different than your kids. You can love your son, different than your daughter. You can love your sister or brother different than you love your mom or dad. You probably thought your first love was the only one you would ever love, but throughout life you figured out there are different types and levels of love. Hell, you can even love your pets, which is obviously different than your significant other but love all the same. Again, I’m speaking for myself with this blog as I’ve learned all grief is handled differently.

I’m not intimidated by a love that was a significant part of shaping my wife. It doesn’t bother me knowing my wife will always in a way love her late husband. She had a great life and two beautiful kids with him. I’m secure enough to know she loves me too, just differently than her late husband – we have our own memories to create. I am not “threatened” nor do I feel less loved when his name comes up, stories are told, or there are pictures of him. I just don’t understand those people out there who think I should feel less of a man or husband when Mitch is brought up in conversations, and or in writings. It seems as silly as saying your significant other can’t put pictures up of his mother, because it would take away or minimizes the love he has for you, his wife. It is a different love.

In my personal opinion, any “Chapter 2” that has an issue with someone who is no longer alive or feels threatened by pictures or conversations has low self-esteem and may not be confident in themselves as a person or in the love they now have. How can you let someone who is not even here bother you that much? I have experienced first hand how deep my wife loves me and I cherish the love we share. I understand that so much of what she writes is a way for her to help others with their grieving and she has a great gift with her ability to express emotions on paper.

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My best friend wouldn’t want me to stop making new friends, nor would he want me to forget all the times we shared.

Michelle’s late husband wouldn’t want her to not share love again, nor would he want her to forget all they shared.

I really do feel badly for those who can’t grasp these important lessons on love. Knowing that you can continue to love new things or people is an important thing to remember.

Keith

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Keith Baumgard is the Co-Founder of 1fw Training, LLC, The One Fit Widow Nonprofit, and more recently the blog, Mending While Blending. Keith is a fitness trainer with his BS in Exercise Science and has extensive additional education in exercise programing, development, and flexibility. 1fw Training, a virtual training company has clients of all ability levels that span the globe. Keith speaks to numerous groups throughout the year on subjects that range from physical development, motivation, and inspiration. He also speaks on the the subject of learning to love and live again after life’s many difficulties. Keith resides in Montana with his wife Michelle and their 4 kids.