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Please don't interpret anything you read here as medical, legal, or otherwise expert advice. Don't disregard any expert's advice or take any action as a result of what you read here.

We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

I just finished reading Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd, It was a great read, especially for a young widow and I loved that it was a memoir rather than an advice book. It made me feel a little less crazy, which was much needed, but it also got me thinking. 

What I realize now at just over four months, is that I'm in the middle of an identity crisis. I'm not only trying to figure out who I am now as a single person...heck, just as a person. I spent so long as part of a couple that even figuring out what just I like to eat or what kind of furniture to buy is a little overwhelming. I think this sort of identity crisis is common to all of us here. 

But I'm also in the middle of another sort of identity crisis. Because Phil and I weren't married when he died and only engaged, I'm having a hard time figuring out where I fit...everywhere. I don't really know how to interact with his family. I'm not sure what I am to them and what I want them to be to me. We weren't especially close before and now that Philip is gone, I have no idea. His mother drives me nuts and says and does things I find both insensitive and inappropriate. She loves to text me things like "You are his wife!" or on other days likes to have a grief competition with me. Or she asked me to bury his ashes in her family cemetery where he apparently played as a child. He wouldn't have wanted that and his headstone his in his dad's family's cemetery. She didn't know him at all. He was not especially close with her, but at the end he had made peace with both her and his brother.I want to be on good terms with them, but I also know that I want a future for myself and I'm not sure how or if I even should include them in that future. What I'm figuring out as I'm trying to find my place with them is that I have a lot of resentment towards them and towards the fact that we weren't married. They want to consider me family now, but they didn't treat me like family before...and they certainly did not treat him with the respect he deserved in life. I resent them because they didn't include me when planning the memorial service. I had no input, only one or two people even spoke to me during the service, and I got no chance to honor him and his life in the way I thought he deserved. I resent that they are dragging their feet with handling the estate. 

Which brings me to another part of my identity crisis--all of the paperwork and financial stuff. I knew this man better than anyone, we were building a life together, but I couldn't arrange to have his body removed from the house and taken to the funeral home. I couldn't make any funeral plans. His place of employment wouldn't talk to me since we weren't legally married. I couldn't have access to the accounts he made me beneficiary of until someone in his family contacted the institutions first. I know he wanted it this way so that I wouldn't have to worry about the estate or paying any debts, which there was barely any. And I appreciate his way of taking care of me. But I guess I feel like if I could have taken care of some of these things, I could have taken care of everything in way that really honored him and his memory. I would have gotten all of these things done in a timely manner. I guess I could have kept taking care of him after death. 

But the hardest part of us not having been married is I think that most people in my life don't really consider me a widow. I think they think because we didn't spend our whole lives together and because I have a new life about to start, that my grieving should be over or less intense. They don't understand my reactions to things or my occasional social anxiety. They want me to be fine and excited about my future. My mom even said to me, "I know your depressed, but you have so much to look forward to in the coming weeks." I'm not depressed. I'm exhausted. I'm lonely. I miss talking to the person I told everything too. And the more time that passes and the more things start to normalize, the worse my grief gets. I'm just now spending days in bed...I didn't do that two months ago. I know we weren't married, but I wish more people realized that I didn't lose a friend, or a parent, or a pet...I lost my whole life, my everything. It is going to be a long time before I'm over it even though people want me to be over it now. 

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Comment by Callie2 on June 29, 2015 at 5:04pm
I know, it is awfully hard and each situation may be different. It seems you must have had some conversation with him prior to his passing. I do believe though the life insurance is yours if you are beneficiary. Best keep as much to yourself if you can as far as how much. I feel bad for you to be in this situation, do you have anyone you can trust enough for guidance? Wish you the best, hope it all sorts out amicably.
Comment by CandJ02 on June 28, 2015 at 6:27pm

Thanks everyone for the support. Callie2, my thoughts exactly. There was no will, which he planned so that what he left me was all officially designated because he made me a beneficiary, but I do often wonder if his family will ask how much I was left from life insurance, etc. They didn't have to allow me to gain access, but the bank wouldn't talk to me because I didn't have a death certificate until a few weeks ago (yet, another thing unmarried people can't have access to). I feel like there should be a manual about how to navigate all of the paperwork and legal issues that come with having a dying spouse/partner. I guess before this happened, I always thought it would be something I learned about as we went and not something I'd have to know anything about at 31. I'm so grateful for all of you and this website--it has been a tremendous resource for me! 

Comment by bis4betsy on June 27, 2015 at 8:09am

Your situation is messy.  I hope it will clear up soon for you.  

I  also hope at some point in time you're able to celebrate your the love of your life in a way that honors your relationship with him and the love you shared together. 

 I can relate to the family "shunning" though, I have been "excommunicated" from almost everyone, which is a blessing.  At the time they all blamed me for him not going to the doctor and told me how he wanted things done, funeral arrangements, etc.  For people he rarely spoke to it was simply amazing to me how they knew "for sure" what he wanted. 

Comment by k2k9 on June 27, 2015 at 4:54am

I should have clarified:  I had Durable Power of Attorney (which, unbeknownst to me, ends at death!); I was his health care proxy; and I did all the finances for both of us, as well as the family business, so my name was on almost all of the accounts, except for his two personal accounts.  He had also named me Executor, so I had to wait to get that money to pay the mountain of bills that have piled up.  We thought we had everything covered, but when he died my name couldn't be on the death certificate, and in fact they named his (now deceased) first wife on the certificate!  ouch!  That hurts, every time I see it.  He was married to her for four minutes, when he was 20 years old.  I mean, really???  Stupid government laws and rules.  The governor and state reps were VERY good at trying to make a case for me, but in the end they said there was nothing they could do to posthumously declare us as married.  Sigh.  Well, I just wanted to share that because I hadn't made it clear in my first reply.

Comment by k2k9 on June 27, 2015 at 4:48am

You lost the person you love most in the world.  Your future plans, and everything.  Unless other people have lost a spouse (or equivalent), I have learned in the last three months, they have no clue about this particular loss.  No clue at all.  It will happen to them, and they will then "get it", and they'll think of you, and they'll say "Wow, now I understand."  I know this because, I have called all the other widows I know (and for some strange reason I know a bunch of them, and we are all young!) and I've told them I now understand, and I'm sorry I didn't understand before.  Your grief is real, and grief is grief, there is no timeline, no right or wrong way.  You are allowed to feel the way you feel.

I call G my "husband" but we were not married, legally. We were together 30 years.  Towards the end, he realized we should get married, and we got "this close" to getting married, and he died the day after we were supposed to have the JP come to the house and perform the ceremony.  We had the license, and the appointment, and everything.  I had to cancel that appointment, and he died the next day.  Well, I even went to the governor of my state, and pled for an exception to make me his wife.  There is no "common law marriage" in my state.  So, the 30 years we spent together, was not recognized.  On the death certificate, they couldn't put my name, they put his son's name.  Thankfully, in G's will, he named me Executor and I am also one of the beneficiaries (I have no kids... he had two adult kids).  So, I had to wait 3 months before I could access his money and accounts, but now I am executor, and lemme tell you it is stressful.  He has a very complicated estate -- he even owned real estate in a foreign country.  I now co-own his business (where I worked for 30 years) with his kids.  It's all surreal and weird.  

As for the identity crisis, I understand.  He and I did a lot of things separately -- he was 20 years older, and a "loner" when I met him, and he sorta stayed that way.  I used to be angry about us doing everything separately, but now I'm grateful because I have all my hobbies and interests (and people that go along with them) so I turn to those now more than ever.  But, I realize there are so many things I did because of him that I no longer need to do.  I changed furniture, I moved things around, I disconnected things like land lines and cable TV that he insisted on in his "old school" preferences.  Being 20 years younger, all my friends are starting to talk about retirement.  I WAS at that stage, and he kept saying he would never retire.  Almost like he knew he would die first.  He worked right up until the end.  Well, now here I am running the biz and trying to maintain a lifestyle that depended on two incomes.  I'm thinking about starting all over again, after I wait a year.  Creating a new identity.  I mean, why not?  I've got no one to answer to except me!

Do not let people push you into being "over it".  Grief is grief.  There is NO time limit.  When I run into people who think I should be "over it", I decide that I won't mention my grief to them in the future.  Talk to people who will be more understanding; when you are with the Get Over It crowd, keep your feelings to yourself.  :)

Comment by Callie2 on June 26, 2015 at 5:39pm
You didn't have to be married to feel such deep grief, obviously, the two of you were in love. It is unfortunate you weren't married because that would have simplified matters a great deal. There are many couples living together today that probably do not realize that even if their partner becomes ill and needs to be in the hospital, they can make no decisions for that person. They will not even hand you personal items to take home, say in the case it was an emergency. Laws may differ from state to state. What I don't understand is why would his family have to approve to allow you gain access to an account of which you were beneficiary?

Do you think his family is being nice to you so that you won't balk about anything or contest his will? I hope that's not the case, but if this is all just recently, it could be a possibility. Be couth, but be aware. They may very well fade into the sunset when all is settled and you wont't need to worry about fitting in. I really hope I am wrong about that but when we are grieving, we are very vulnerable.

The fact that you weren't married has nothing to do with the grief you are feeling. If others feel you should get over your grief more quickly, that is ridiculous. Grief lasts for as long as it does and we feel this way because we loved them. I hope you will find some peace soon. We do survive and return to being functionable again and in time, we can even be happy again. I hope you can keep that in mind.

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