Direct Answers 'Column for the week of February 9, 2004
I love my wife with all my heart and soul. She is now and will ever be the other half of my heart. Twenty years ago I felt much the same about another woman. She was my first true love. Unfortunately, her parents did not see us having a future together. Although I had a hard time letting go, I respected their wishes.
We both went on to live separate lives. We married different people and had children, and we moved thousands of miles apart. I found out she died yesterday. I did not expect the news to affect me this way, but I am shattered.
I feel the grief of loss, even though her love is something I have not had, nor could hope to have, for the last 20 years. I feel guilt for feeling this grief and do not know how to explain this to my wife. She can see the news affected me. How do I cope with this? Is it appropriate to send my condolences to her husband and children. What would I say?
Guy, in James Joyce's story "The Dead," a man named Gabriel Conroy goes with his wife Gretta to the annual Christmas dance given by his aunts. At the end of the evening, with most of the guests gone, a tenor sings a song which stirs a memory in Gretta. Gabriel's heart is brimming with happiness because he thinks his wife's thoughts are running with his.
Back in their hotel room Gretta, in tears, explains that the song reminded her of a boy she once loved. The boy died after standing in the rain outside Gretta's window the night before she left home. Gabriel then realizes how deeply his wife loved this boy, and he realizes "how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life."
It's hard to share this memory with your wife without her wondering how poor a part she, your wife, has played in your life. To tell your wife she is the other half of your heart, and then to say 20 years ago you felt the same about another woman, may undermine the sincerity of your words.
And what would you tell the husband and children of your first love? That you are the man who should have been her husband and their father? That won't help them. There is no reason to feel guilt, but you should realize this is all about you, your feelings, and your imagining of what might have been.
We suggest two things. Write out all your feelings, perhaps even the entire story of your relationship, in private. In the writing you may come to understand why her death has affected you so deeply. And get a book on grieving as a way to get in touch with your emotions and accept her death. Some things must be faced alone.
Wayne & Tamara
A Day Away
My friends and teachers take the mickey out of my name by singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie." But they replace tomorrow with Tamara, and it really hurts my feelings. What should I do?
Tamara, I bet my bottom dollar you'll be having people use word play on your name not just tomorrow, but for the rest of your life. Like you, I pronounce my name like the day after today, except the o's become a's and the w is dropped.
People love making puns, and teasing or "taking the mickey out" of a name makes them feel clever. But isn't the mickey really on them? When you walk into a room, you are able to make people break into a happy show tune, whether they can carry a tune or not. That song makes people smile, and it ends with "I love ya, Tamara." Take it as a compliment and smile with them.
About the Author
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.
Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com.