“Neither of us expected to ‘meet someone’ at the weekend,” says Steve. “I hadn’t planned to go, really. I’d said to myself that if there was room, I’d go, and then I found myself there.
“I didn’t talk to Paula until the Saturday. I ‘noticed’ her, and was a bit unsettled by that. Then on the Saturday I decided to go to the optional workshop about new relationships. The counsellor I was seeing at home had encouraged me to go even though I wasn’t sure I was ready. Paula was in that workshop.
“We started to talk that evening. I felt an attraction, but I also felt guilty and I wanted to be respectful of where she was on her journey of grief, so I pulled back a bit.”
The ‘proactive moment’
“I was oblivious to all this,” admits Paula. “I didn’t realise Steve was feeling like that until we were just about to leave and he came into the car park. He saw me still in my car, trying to sort out my sat-nav, and came over to ask me if we could stay in touch.”
“In the workshop, the leader talked about how people may need to choose to be proactive if they feel that they are ready to consider a new relationship,” says Steve. “So that gave me the incentive to say something to Paula. If he hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have had the courage.”
A shared understanding
“Our having both been through bereavement gave us a level of understanding of each other,” says Paula. “Gary, my husband, and Joanne, Steve’s wife, had died very suddenly – both of pneumonia while they were being treated for cancer. We’ve both lost people who we have loved deeply and who we will always remember. I couldn’t have been in a relationship so quickly with someone who didn’t understand.”
“The suddenness and shock is something we both experienced,” agrees Steve. “Jo died the day she was told that her prognosis was six months. I was telling our kids that we were going to make mum as comfortable as possible, and she actually died that night.”
How the children reacted
“Telling the kids I’d met someone new was hard too,” says Steve. “My son and daughter are both young adults, but they are still on their own journeys of grief. They wanted me to be happy, but found the concept of me in a new relationship difficult. My son was very pragmatic. He advised me to treat it as a friendship initially, which was wise advice.”
“My children were up and down with it,” adds Paula. “My son’s grief was expressed through anger. He wasn’t angry with Steve; they got on well. But sometimes he had to express his feelings, and usually he was quite angry as he did so.
“It was nerve-wracking to meet Steve’s kids. They’re a bit older than my two, and obviously the relationship was going to be different.
“The wedding was the significant event. All four of our kids had a part to play. Steve’s daughter was my chief bridesmaid, and his son was his best man. He made a speech and said that both our families had been through some dreadful experiences, but we are now one family, facing the future together.”
There is hope
“Living with young kids is a real change for me,” says Steve. “And my daughter found it hard that I was moving away from the family home after I got married. She still lives there and, of course, that’s where her mum lived. So, it isn’t easy.”
“The thing about moving forward is that you do have to be aware of other people’s feelings and how they are grieving,” says Paula. “It’s about recognising that people grieve in their own time and in their own ways. Not everyone will re-marry, but you do have to trust that your life will change, even if, at times, things seem bleak.”
“There is hope,” agrees Steve. “In the darkest times, you just have to cling on. As a Christian, I believe God is still with me in the dark times, and that something good can come out of something tragic in my life.
“Something amazing has happened for us. As you travel on your journey, there may be times when you have to pluck up the courage and be proactive. It may or may not involve meeting someone else, but do take each opportunity as it arises.”