So here's a question you don't think about every day. Get ready.
Should I brace myself? Yeah, sort of. You know, I haven't been thinking about this, but, you know, I just had this thought, like, if you passed away, that's what I mean.
This is where we're going today. Yeah. If you were not alive, and it could go the other way, but I'm just going to pretend. If you passed away, would you consider it an honor? Or would you be offended if I got remarried?
Oh. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.
And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. If you passed away, would you be offended if I got remarried?
I go one of two ways. I can think, oh, were you so happy that I'm gone and now that you're going to get remarried? Or did you love marriage so much that you couldn't wait to get married again? I just want to know if you think it's a good thing or a bad thing. You're asking, is it a compliment when someone gets married after their spouse is deceased? I would see it as a good thing, a compliment, because they had a good taste in their mouth of marriage.
Yeah. And I think if there's somebody that could probably answer this question better than us, it's our blended family director here at Family Life, Ron Deal. And Ron is in the studio with us today. So welcome to Family Life Today, Ron. Hey, guys. Always good to be back with you.
So answer that question, Ron. Well, you know, I think it depends on the person. But, you know, there was a famous quote where somebody said the highest compliment you could pay to somebody is that you would want to get married again, as if, just like Ann said, you so enjoyed marriage because of your time with that person before they passed away, that you would want to pursue marriage again. Now, some people look at that and go, I don't know, that kind of feels like you just left me behind and moved on without me.
Like you weren't missing me very much, so. Right, right. And others would go, yeah, you know, obviously, as you said, I like the way you put that, you left a good taste in their mouth. And so they're open to it. Flip it around. What if you left a bitter taste in their mouth and marriage with you was difficult and the last thing they want to do is get married again?
Well, that's not a compliment. And the truth is, you would know better than any of us, this happens quite often. You know, a spouse dies, a family or a husband or wife get remarried. Now they're blending if there's kids involved, an entire new family. Yes, Dave, it happens pretty frequently. And I think a lot of times when we talk about blended families, we just sort of assume somebody got divorced beforehand.
But that's certainly not always the case. In fact, the Fame of Life blended podcast that we're going to be listening to a portion to today, I interviewed a couple, Ryan and Jess Ronnie, who were both widowed, actually lost their first spouses to the similar sort of brain cancer. And so found themselves each blogging about their grief, and then found one another in the process and got married.
Jess is an author, by the way, she's written a couple of books, but her latest is called blended with grit and grace. And that was the subject of our conversation. So let's listen in. Tell us a little bit about your family. Well, I guess it all started in 2010, when we both lost our first spouses to brain cancer. I blogged from Michigan, Ryan blogged from Oklahoma, and a stranger who followed both of us from Pennsylvania, reached out to me and said, Hey, there's this grieving widower, he has three young children.
I just think you could really be a source of encouragement to him. And the rest is history. We started emailing and we met and we were married within a year and he moved to Michigan, we adopt each other's kids, and we thought we were going to just live happily ever after.
However, Then there's the however. There's a lot more to the story when you are a blended family, or probably any family really. We ended up moving to rural Tennessee a couple of years after we were married, had another baby together, our Annabelle.
And she makes number eight, right? Yes, eight children. And we lived what we thought was a simple life out in rural Tennessee until it wasn't all that simple anymore. We have a child with profound special needs and autism and as he aged, it just became more and more difficult. So we moved towards Nashville thinking that would help remedy the situation and there would be more resources and support for him and just found really that the South is really lacking in anything for special needs families. And we are in the process of moving back to Michigan right now.
We're actually in a temporary home and building an accessible home for our family to live in in the future. So listener, you just got a snapshot of this family story and we have a lot to unpack, don't we? So let's just back up and start unpacking a little bit at a time. Jessica, in your book, you say that you met Ryan, you were drawn to him, and then you realized one day that you were grieving one person while simultaneously falling in love with another. I bet both of you are going through a similar journey there. I'd like for us to just unpack both sides of that, the grieving one person side and the falling in love with the other person side. So let's just start with who were you grieving and what's that back story? Well, I was grieving my late husband, Jason.
He had gone through his cancer journey for three years. And in the middle of that, we were raising four children, actually had an unexpected pregnancy in the middle of all of it as well, and raising Lucas, our son with special needs. Honestly, I had kind of worked through a lot of the stages of grief, I believe, by the time he actually passed away because it had been such a long, painful journey for our family. And there was a deep sadness when he passed away, but I think there was also something in me that was at peace that he was no longer in pain and suffering and that cancer wasn't a taskmaster in my life anymore.
Because that's really, really hard when you have four kids under six. I think I was in a healthier place than Ryan was. And I'll let Ryan dive into that a little bit by the time my husband passed away because it had been so long. But I think I jumped into a relationship with Ryan feeling like my grieving was pretty much all wrapped up in a nice little bow and I was ready to move on in life. And parts of me were ready, but there were also parts that would spring up out of the middle of nowhere. One example I can think of, brushing my teeth at night and looking over at the other sink, thinking that sink would never be used again because that was Jason's sink.
And there sat his toothbrush and his toothpaste. So I was working through some of that and all I can say for myself is we probably should have gotten some therapy. I know we used each other as therapists early on and I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. It brought out a lot of feelings of insecurity and jealousy as we talked about these people we had loved, but yet we were falling in love with each other.
And it was just a really strange place to be. You know, as you're talking, I'm reflecting on all those different elements. Again, so much there to unpack and we will slow down and take a look at each of those little elements. But I think for the listener, the observation that I just want to make is that any significant loss like the loss of a spouse has so many layers to it.
There's so much involved in it. The length of time that you were grieving actually before he passed away versus somebody whose loss is a little bit shorter or sudden, you know, all of those things influence you, the kids, the journey, and they all have to be unpacked. And sometimes when you're listening to somebody else's story, you're thinking, well, that's sort of like mine, but not completely like mine. Well, yeah, nobody's story is exactly like yours.
And so it's okay to absorb what you're hearing today and grab the elements that you can really relate to. So Ryan, it sounds like your story of loss was different than hers. Yeah, it was very different. And my first wife, we had our third child in December of 2009. And just a month after she started getting headaches and feeling really uncomfortable and we just thought it was pregnancy related, you know, just had a baby. But just a week after her 30th birthday, they diagnosed her with a brain tumor. And within weeks it hemorrhaged and she was never the same.
So she was diagnosed middle of March and April 1st, she had the hemorrhage, lost a lot of her cognitive skills and in and out of the hospital just for what, four months. And then she passed away in August. So I had an eight month old and I hadn't even taken a breath or even thought about death or, you know, what's next. It was like I was living, you know, trying to help raise the three kids and basically be a caretaker and a caregiver for my late wife. And then it was done and I was kind of lost. And honestly, when Jess and I started talking, I was looking for an ear, you know, to try to get through this because I really was struggling and not understanding why and all of the questions that you have for God. But just a couple of weeks, I think, after she passed away, my oldest son actually said to me, Dad, when are we going to get a new mom? Like, he already knew that that space needed to be filled and I hadn't even crossed my mind, you know.
But I think I prayed that night and just said, God, you're going to have to help me because I'm not looking to that at all. And when Jess and I met, it was like God just opened this door in my heart that said there's room for one more. But as we got married and got closer together, it's like, you can't really share that. I can't share those feelings with her. And, you know, at some point I got to let that go.
And that was really hard. Our first year of marriage, we did try to be each other's therapist. And there was a point where we finally just said, no more, let's go seek somebody else out to share this stuff with because this isn't fair to each other. So, Ron, we heard them say a couple times that they used each other as therapists after losing their spouse. Now, is that an advisable thing to do? Yeah, no, it's not. And they, in hindsight, admitted that. And I think that's really good.
What I would just say to somebody who's listening right now, no, you don't want to find a new love interest and make them your counselor. Like kind of carry all of your baggage and pain and grief and pour it out on them and expect them to be able to help you through that. But I got to say, guys, it's kind of a common phenomenon for people to inadvertently sort of put the other person in that.
I mean, think about it. Who wants to stay in pain any longer than you have to, right? So one of the attractions of a new relationship, first of all, is it moves me out of the pit of pain. Oh, this gives me something to look forward to with my day.
This gives me something to be happy about. And so there's this push-pull dynamic. I write about this in my book, Dating and the Single Parent, and you've got to be wary of that. If pain is pulling you back into the pit and you want to get away, then you want to try to run away into a new relationship. And that new relationship is pulling you in that direction. Neither one of those dynamics is a good way to decide who you date or what you share with them. You lose your objectivity when you're running away from sadness.
You're not really objective about the qualities of this person or the new relationship that you're developing. So it really is advisable to spend time grieving, not with this person, with an objective person, a counselor, a friend, a pastor, somebody you can really just pour it all out there with, and they don't have a dog in the hunt. They can be honest with you, and you can just sort of work through your grief without any agendas attached to it.
That's very important. I can imagine, though, it's pretty common for a grieving husband, a grieving wife, to end up finding somebody that has similar grief. Again, you know better than I would, but I would guess that happens quite often.
Sometimes they end up married, sometimes they don't. But it's just like you're attracted to one another because you've gone through something similar, and you can share a common bond. And you're thinking, they get me. They get it.
I love it, though, when people get objective about this. I've got to tell you, since this podcast came out, we had a woman from the UK contact us and said we were listening to that podcast. I'm dating a man. He is newly widowed. It's only been a few months. And after listening to the podcast and the Ronnie's talk, we decided that we needed to not date right now. He needs more time to grieve the passing of his first wife. I need a little more space. I need to not be his helper, get caught up into that. And so we're just going to take a break.
And after a year, we're going to reconnect and decide whether we're in a better place and maybe start dating again. I got to tell you, there is so much wisdom in that. That's hard to do, though. It is. But that's maturity. I think it's also helpful for your kids as they're grieving as well and walking through some of the same pain.
Yep. And that was a great toss, Anne, because the next section is kind of about helping kids grieve. OK, so at this point, 10 years, looking back at that first year, you were looking for something in the other that you now feel like was inappropriate. What were you looking for? What were you needing the other person to give you? I think in a lot of ways, we would often seek validation. We shared everything, the good, the bad, the stuff that we didn't necessarily like in our first marriages. And seeking validation for, you know, that was kind of strange in that marriage, wasn't it, sort of thing.
Like, for one, I can think of one example. We would both go to bed without our first spouses and entering the new marriage. Neither one of us particularly liked that trait in our previous relationships. And we kind of discussed it and we were like, we don't want to bring that to this relationship. Let's always try to go to bed together type of thing. But we overshared.
Like, I know way too much about her and Ryan knows way too much about Jason. Like, those should have been sacred memories to that relationship. But we just went too far and that would kind of haunt us in the coming years.
Ten years in, we're over it. Yeah, so there's an upside and a downside to sharing. The upside might be in the immediate, you get that validation that you're looking for about some feeling you had about the previous marriage. But the downside is then sort of burdens, the current relationship with now thoughts of seeing the other person with their former spouse, that type of thing.
Yes. And I mean, looking back to, it's all tied to insecurity. You know, he and I didn't have enough time to have a shared history together. So what our conversations tended to gravitate towards were these shared histories we had with these other people, which does bubble up these insecurities. And then you have the whole rest of the world who has this model of never speak ill of the dead. So us sinful people in a sinful world in a relationship that we're trying to figure out and everybody else in the whole world is looking at these two people who passed away.
And they're now on pedestals of perfection, which we can never live up to. So it's just all this stuff that had we had like somebody come alongside us and help us work through some of that, I think it would have been really beneficial. So if you were talking to somebody, Ryan, right now who's listening, who is widowed, perhaps single or perhaps in a new marriage, blended family situation, what advice would you give them about sharing regarding previous spouse?
I think it's really, that's really difficult question. I think therapy, I think is really key to that because when you first meet somebody, they're more open minded to Yeah, sure. Oh, yeah, I want to know everything. And then it's like, Oh, no, I didn't want to know that. Except for that, you know, so I think Or it's thrown back into your face and an argument like, well, you said she did this. That's not that's where the difficulties come in is when you have to you feel like, well, I'm not good at that, what he was good at, or vice versa. And it's like, so now I have to try to live up to that, or I'm going to be constantly compared to that. So I think the best thing is to communicate early on in those relationships. And just be cautious. You wouldn't talk about your exes before you got married the first time, very openly. But I think as we were married and happily married, we felt like permission to share all the good stuff. And it's like, Oh, well, they're sainted now.
Yeah, they can do no wrong and they can't even defend themselves. Yes. So it was a challenge. You know, one of the things I'm hearing you say, this is something we've talked about on this podcast before. And it's, I call it the color of your us. If I could just give you a simple illustration and then I'd love for you guys to just react to what I hear you saying. So the color of your us is a combination of who two people are when they get married. So if you're yellow and you marry red, well, your us is orange, right? It's some combination of the two of you, your personalities, your temperaments, your giftings. And then your us is that working out of how we do life together.
It's not only our togetherness and our passion and our connectedness, but it's also our style and our ritual and just the little details of life and how we work out, how we go to bed together. You know, whether you go first or I go first, that's all a part of the color of your us. Well, you're used to orange because you were yellow, you married red and you had orange. Well, you're still yellow when you move into a second or subsequent marriage. But this time you married blue.
Guess what? Your color of your us is green and it's different. And well, green is not orange. And sometimes that's really good because, as you said, there's things you didn't care for in the previous us that you can change now. But sometimes there's other things you did like. But then there's the comparison thing. Well, wait a minute. Are you saying you still want orange? Well, because we're green and we're not going to be orange.
And so does that mean you're unhappy with our us? That's what I hear you saying. It is. Yeah. And I think even, you know, let's say me and my first wife were green and I was the blue one and I kind of melded towards the green a little bit. So I'm not I'm not blue anymore. Yeah, yeah. Whenever when I lost her and met Jess, I thought I can redo this. I don't have to be dark blue or I don't have to be green.
I can be whatever it is I want to be. And I think my personality and some of those things that I had held back in my first marriage came out in the open. And Jess, I'd have to give credit to for a lot of that stuff because I didn't communicate very well at all in round one.
But I learned how to communicate with her because it wasn't an option. But I think, yeah, that's a tough one. Like trying to meld those colors the first time around. Yeah.
And then you have to kind of regroup and reboot and start over. What do you think? You have always been extremely adaptable, which has worked well in our relationship because I'm not. I'm like, I've pretty even keel and have always like what you see is what you get. Like you say, like I didn't force him to communicate, but it was highly encouraged. Like you need to open your mouth and start telling me how you're feeling or this isn't going to work.
So you did. But I would say like I was blue in the first marriage and I'm blue in this marriage and I don't know where you are now. I'm like up and down. Yeah, I do vary.
I'm like a chameleon. Yeah. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Yeah, this is good. You know, I think the takeaway is every us has a color to it, has a hue to it. There will be things that are similar to a previous relationship, things that will be different. But it's the comparison and the contrast. That's a space where insecurity can thrive is in the comparisons. And so you need to guard against sharing too much information. Don't you think that's also an internal thing? Like you also have to guard against comparing in your own head this relationship, that person versus the other person. Well, we say, you know, when we got married, it was the two became one, not the four became one. And 10 years later, we don't have these problems at all. Like I said earlier, I think it's those first couple of years where you're not sure of your place in the relationship.
You have all these insecurities. As time goes on, like we have such a shared history now and we've been through everything together at this point. And we just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and I was married to Jason for 10 years as well.
So now I have as much time with Ryan as I had had with Jason. And I would just say to anybody listening, time does heal a lot of those insecurities and wounds, but you have to give it enough time. Keep working at it.
Keep working at it. Because if you check out at year five or six, you have no idea how much better it could have really gotten at 10, 11, 12 years. Yeah. I think that's a good word. We say that to our listeners all the time. Most blended family couples quit before it ever has a chance to get good.
Because they don't give the cooking process enough time to really get there. And we kind of laugh with eight kids. Like we've threatened, like, I don't want to do this anymore. And I've stormed off and then it's like, but I don't want to do eight kids by myself. So honestly, like the eight kids almost kept us together to a place where we're now like in a really good place. Being persistent.
Right. I think we learned how to talk about that stuff too. When we did share things, we finally did decide that, you know, I had 14 years of experience with that person before I met her. And she said, I want to know more about you. Well, then if you want to know more about me, you're going to have to know about those last 14 years. So what we learned to do is instead of saying when we were in, you know, this place or at that place or doing this, it was just I. When I was, you know, over there doing this and then it felt better.
Like it wasn't just everything. My whole identity wasn't with my first wife. I still had my own identity. As I listen to that, I think that would be a tricky situation. I can feel myself feeling insecure as the new spouse, wondering if I'm enough or as good or even was his life richer with his first wife. And that can feel a little bit insecure.
I thought Ryan's observation was really good. You know, if I always casting my past in light of my relationship with my first wife and our family and who we were together, then it's sort of like my wife now just can't see me any other way. Am I an individual or was I just a husband to her?
So to begin to tell stories and be sensitive to your new wife and new spouse and say it in a way that doesn't necessarily make the other person feel that insecurity. Hey, Ron, how long does it typically take to get beyond the comparison to your former spouse to like burying that? Not in a bad way, but I have to move on.
Is that a year or could it be much longer? You know, I don't know that there is ever a time where you get past. I just think you carry the past with you in the present. You honor, the memories continue, there are moments where maybe there's going to be a reflection that brings a smile to your face, you know, a good memory.
That's not dishonoring to your current spouse. It's just, you know, it was a good moment in time. And yet, Ron, I'm wondering if that was my dad and now he's not referring to my mom who passed away any longer.
I'm not sure as a child how that would feel. Yes, exactly. And that's what we talked about in the rest of our conversation. And we're going to come back to that tomorrow. Yeah, so we have a second day that you don't want to miss, but if you want to jump in right now and go to familylifetoday.com, you'll find a link there to our podcast network and you can hear the whole story. But you know what?
Why don't you just wait and jump in tomorrow with us? You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. We've been hearing clips from Episode 67 of the Family Life Blended podcast. It's part of the Family Life podcast network, which you can learn more about at familylifetoday.com. If you are in ministry and wondering how you can help couples like Ryan and Jessica work through grief in a new family, we'd love it if you consider joining us at this year's summit on step family ministry. This year, the focus is on helping ministry leaders better understand loss and grief in blended families. The event is October 13th to the 14th in Phoenix, Arizona, and you can find out more at familylifetoday.com. Now tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson will continue their conversation with Ryan and Jessica Ronnie to talk about how to deal with children grieving. That's tomorrow. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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