I think remarriage is a kind of taboo subject for military widows. We define ourselves as keepers of our soldier’s legacy, and marrying again would diminish that somehow. Or maybe we worry about losing the military benefits. Or even perhaps we believe we cannot commit to a new marriage until the pain and grief is completely gone (does it ever go away?).
Of course, I can only speak for myself, so I admit all of these concerns were mine. Perhaps because of religious beliefs, and also out of respect deserved to my children and the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I disregarded those concerns and remarried anyway. I think I am one of only a few, and so I wanted to share some of my experience as a remarried widow.
I felt like I was betraying my soldier’s family when I announced my engagement. They were hurt because they saw what their son was missing out on, and they worried about how a new marriage would affect their relationship with me and with my children.
My friends were very excited and happy for me. I think they saw a remarriage as a sign that I was “all better.” But, I will always be a widow, even though I am no longer afforded that title. Early on I decided that I didn’t want to be defined by the tragedy of losing my soldier. I find it ironic, that in remarriage, I felt reluctant to give up the title “widow” and found it even more difficult to take on a new married name.
In my new marriage, people I meet often ask about my kids’ dad and refer to him as my “ex.” I try not to be offended as I correct them. And I hope I don’t offend my new in-laws when I speak of my old in-laws, who are like my second parents. I still haven’t figured out how to distinguish all the in-laws.
One of the hardest parts of remarrying, was giving up the government benefits for survivors. I suddenly felt “divorced” from the military. They took my ID card away, and I had the disparaging experience of being question by gate security and military police upon trying to gain access to a military instillation. I remember the person at the gate saying that I needed someone to “vouch” for me. I thought: isn’t my husband’s sacrifice of his life for our country enough to “vouch” for me?
My children still get benefits, but interestingly I cannot access certain websites, which keep record of their health benefits, etc. even though I am their guardian. As a remarried widow, I have no standing with the military at all. It is very frustrating at times and even a bit hurtful, that I lost my husband as he defended our country, but I am not afforded any kind of status with the military he served with and died for.
I am very blessed to have met a man who is so compassionate and understanding of all of this “baggage” I still carry. He has stepped up to take on the role of father to my orphaned children. He walks by my side, as I wade through my grief. It hasn’t been easy to remarry. At times, I even feel like I stepped into someone else’s life. But, I will say that the experience of finding love again, has felt like a ray of sunshine through the most bitter of storms.