This is hard to write because I'm not sure how I feel. Joel, my ex-husband, died unexpectedly today. He'd been in a wheelchair for years and was not in good health, but there had been no decline lately. My children would have told me. For years I've known that I'd outlive him and wondered how I'd feel when he died. We've been divorced thirty years, and in the last two years we were together he was cruel to me in emotional terms. But I find all that vanished from my mind. I have cried, not wrenching huge sobs but tears that keep creeping down my cheeks. I am grieving for all that he missed in life--our children, our grandchildren, and the wonderful family life we have—and for a man that I once loved a lot and had a wonderful time with.
Now grown, my children have not been close to their father, though they have great childhood memories of him. So the ones I've talked to are like me—sad but puzzled about how to feel. They will go to whatever service is held in California, but they have agreed to go as a foursome, without families.
Joel and I have not been close for many years, not one of those divorces where you keep in touch. When Jordan married, the minister asked delicately how mom and dad get along, and Jordan said, "They're cordial." That's about it. We saw each other at weddings. The last time I saw him or had any contact was in 2004 when Jordan married and he raised a nice toast to me for the way I'd raised our children (it made me feel a bit like the nanny).
Yes, it was cordial, but there was nothing to bind us together anymore. He had chosen a lifestyle that was foreign to me, and my career blossomed in directions it never took while we were married. For him, there was a second wife, with whom I was deliberately distant, and another child, of whom I've always been fond; for me, one man that mattered and some that didn't, and now a wonderful personal and professional life. I can't and won't play the grieving widow. And yet I'm puzzled. I have to remember my place (or non-place) in this.
And yet I grieve and shed tears.
First published as “Numb and Puzzling Grief” in Judy’s Stew, http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com, January 27, 2012.