Remarriage After Spouse’s Death


Reader Question: How long should you date after the death of a spouse? When is it okay to remarry?

Our Remarriage Expert Said:

Date as long as it is necessary for you to be sure that you want to spend the rest of your life with this person and date as soon, or as long, after the death of a spouse as you feel comfortable. Also bbe sure that you are not trying to replace the former spouse (with just another warm body). If you aren;t certain that you’ve grieved enough, do seek grief counseling for yourself and for family members, if there are children.

There is no formal “etiquette” here…follow your heart.

Jill Curtis, Author of How to Get Married … Again (A Guide to Second Weddings):

All couples should ‘date’ until they are both sure that they want to make a giant leap together into marriage. Talk, talk and talk. It’s always the best way forward until you both know when the time is right. You must also listen to your feelings inside and, there again, you will know when the time is right to marry again.

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Reader Question: I knew that marrying a widow would have some pitfalls. One thing I never anticipated is her inability to tell me I’m the best thing to ever happen to her.

She’s still in love with her late husband (which I understood beforehand). This came out when I told her she was the best thing to ever happen to me and her lack of a response was deafening. I need to work this out, but it kind of sucks realizing your wife would rather be with somebody else. Aren’t there any support groups out there for husbands of widows?

Our Remarriage Expert Said:

Keep in mind that we can, and do, love different people in different ways. Perhaps you caught your partner by surprise and she couldnt think quickly enough how to answer. Remember she is understandably loyal to the memory of her husband, and loyal to you now in the present by promising to marry. I dont think her silence did indicate that she would rather be with someone else – but putting the past behind you and taking hold of the future can be difficult and takes time.

As a widow myself, I can tell you that, although I probably will always love my first husband in some ways (after all, he IS the father of my two children) I also love my new partner in many different, but still very meaningful, ways. Especially since I am older now (and hopefully more mature!), I think I am capable of loving at some deeper levels than I did when I was younger and married for the first time. Please discuss all of your feelings with your love. I think she will probably tell you that she loves you too but maybe in different way.

Jill Curtis, Author of How to Get Married … Again (A Guide to Second Weddings)

There is a lot to talk about from the letter you posted. But above all, remember that you both are the people you are today because of the past. Good and bad. You both come to this new relationship with a ‘history’ and both of you have memories – how could it be otherwise. But love and understanding of the other will see you through.

Emily Bouchard, Author, “Conquering Conflict: Techniques and Strategies for Resolving Blended Family Conflict”

Your concerns and misgivings are certainly understandable. Grief is an enduring emotion that will be a part of your relationship together for years to come. My mother died over 25 years ago, and there are certain days and anniversaries that get to my father as if it was just yesterday.

And, I’ve also experienced this from the standpoint of a second wife to a man whose wife is still alive and who left him with a lot of pain and grief in the process.

My husband used to call me by his exwife’s name whenever I’d remind him of something she used to do. After I’d get over my initial reaction of shock and hurt, I could then be with him and be curious about what I did that reminded him of her, and what it was like when he was with her. By choosing to understand him and what his loss was like for him, what he missed (and what he didn’t), we got closer and more connected. By not needing him to be different than who he was, I got to show him that I loved him completely, no matter what he called me (within reason, of course).

You may want to acknowledge and own the fact that you’re getting confused by his continued connection with his dead wife, and that you’d like to understand what it is like for him to be present, loving you, while missing her and loving her.

Do your best not to take his feelings for her personally, as some sort of reflection about how he feels about you. Just be with him, and focus on what you are grateful for with him. Most of all, be grateful that you are alive together and that you know how important it is to not take any moment for granted. You both know how precious life is, and what a gift you have to share it together.

Remarriage Expert

As a widowed woman myself, I totally agree with what Emily has said here. I still think about (and still love on some level) my deceased husband (he died 16 years ago). This does not lessen or detract from my feelings for my fiancee but rather enhances them since I am more respectful and grateful for the love that has once again come my way.

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Reader Question: My fiance still keeps in close contact with his wife’s parents. Do you think that this might triggor some strong emotions of his loss?

They didn’t have any kids together or anything, but I know that I feel uncomfortable whenever I am in contact with them or her sister.

I confronted my fiance yesterday evening on how his feelings were especially now that the Holidays are fast approaching, he said that he feels that his memories are not as strong as they once were. I find this really confusing because if I ask him the same question a week from now he might either say the same thing or simply lost for words because he misses her so much. Is this a normal reaction of still greiving?

I did tell him that I have accepted the fact that she’ll always be a part of his life and if he want’s to hold on to his memories I’ll support him. By the way, thanks for the reply from my last post.

Jill Curtis, Author of How to Get Married … Again (A Guide to Second Weddings)

What you are describing is entirely in keeping with someone who has been bereaved. There is often a real desire to move on, and yet at times memories will flood in. You are doing the very best you can by being supportive and sympathetic. I am sure your future husband must be grateful for this understanding.

Another Reader Responded:

I married a widower recently and feel exactly as you do. Hi, Im not sure if anyone is there, but I am having a child with my partner, a widower of four years. His daughter is 5 and mine is 7. I love him deeply, and feel blessed that he and his daughter are in my life. I have always known that he will always love his wife, and although this has been hard sometimes, I have been able to believe that I am a different woman, and our relationship is a different one from theirs, and so he can love me as well. But last night he was dreaming he was talking to her, and I heard him tell her he was sorry, that he had wanted to ask her to marry him again. And I cant stop crying today. I feel like in a way, she has led us to eachother, that I am in his life and thier daughters for a reason. But it is just too hard to lie next to the man I love, that I want to spend the rest of my life with, the father of my unborn child, and hear him tell her that he is sorry, and that it is her he wants to marry again. I feel tremendous guilt for feeling so hurt. I was hoping someone could help me, who has been through this and is wiser than I am, thank you

Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”:

I’m wondering if you talked to him about what you heard. I’m sure the thought of doing that may be scary, but you really need to. I would wait until you can be a little less emotional about it. It’s an important discussion to have. You want his honest answers, not him placating you because you are sobbing. You need to be able to trust what he’s saying.

There will always be a part of him that will miss his wife on some level. It sounds like you are aware of that. It’s important to understand this and not be threatened by it. She is gone. She will not come back and reclaim her family. He has made the choice to be with you now.

It’s not uncommon for surviving spouses to feel a level of guilt toward their deceased partners. Rationally, they know they have to move on, but somehow it seems to feel as if it’s a betrayal to the lost partner.

I encourage you to talk to your partner about this. Share your fears with him and try to get him to talk to you about where he’s at right now. Try to support any fears or guilty feelings he has. Use this as an opportunity to grow closer to one another rather than as a wedge to pull you apart.
Best Wishes!

Yvonne Kelly, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute

I think the advice you has been given is excellent so I’ll echo that and just add another personal piece. I remember having similar concerns and feelings as I married a man (widower with 2 daughters) who had been on his own 4 years when we got together. I even remember feeling guilty that I was the one that got to be in his life, and that his ex was robbed of that experience. Guilt can be such a powerful and also debilitating emotion. I also experienced similar concerns as I knew how much he had loved her and that the only reason they were apart was because she had died. And even though my partner loved me as I’m sure your partner does you, we can make ourselves feel insecure by dwelling on the fact that they once loved and to some extent still do, love someone else. I helped myself by focussing on the fact that I knew he loved me and that this was simply a different love and a different life than the one he had before. His love for her and his fond memories of her didn’t detract from his ability to love me in the present. And talking with our partners can usually bring about the reassurance that we need.

The other aspect here is that you are experiencing a lot of negative emotions that can really take you down. You are feeling guilty about feeling hurt. Most people would react that way but it’s important to remind ourselves that we are not the author of our feelings – they just come to us and we can’t change that. We do however have control over how we think about the situation, which is really what contributes to our feelings anyway. So blaming yourself for feeling a certain way only reinforces your feeling badly and can come to an end as soon as you stop blaming yourself.

As advised already, talk with your partner, let him know what you’re thinking and feeling in a way that doesn’t convey blame on either side, but that can deepen your understanding of one another. Once I was able to stop blaming myself and really focus on what I knew was good which was our love and our future together, we were able to go on and have a wonderful family together (3 boys together added to his 2 girls), which you have already started on.

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How long should I wait to remarry after my husband’s death?

My husband of 22 years passed away after a 2 year illness. We were very happy the first 10 years of our marriage but started having problems after that. We loved each other but not as deeply as the first 10 years of our marriage. I was always there for him and was at the hospital every day for him. He had been in and out of hospitals for 8 months of the year before he died. I miss him and I will always love him but I desperately needed someone again to share my life with. I am retired and very lonely. I met a widower (who is also retired) and we became very close friends for the first 2 months of our relationship. After that, we knew we loved each other and he proposed to me. We are planning to be married in 8 months.

My problem is my adult children and my late husband’s adult daughter. They are terribly angry with me and accuse me of being disrespectful to my late husband. They refuse to attend my wedding and I did want my daughters to be my Bridesmaids.

What can be done to make them understand or to at least be happy for me and support me? I have been so upset over this. My fiance is afraid that their actions will cause us to break up and he worries.

Remarriage Expert

I’m sorry for your loss and your impending issues with the kids.

Can you tell us how long ago your husband passed?

Father Ken Zelten OFM, Senior Pastor Ministers in a Minute; curriculum director at BCE Training academy, West Tennessee.

I understand your frustration. I had the very same scenario in my own family, with myself being in the same position as your daughters.

After my Father passed, I was grief-stricken, but after the better part of a year, my Mother began dating and ultimately remarried. Rather than take offense, that she was somehow dishonoring the memory of my Father; I opted to be happy for my Mother.

I will say that my Mother remained very discrete, and rather than making a big production, she married quietly without a big fanfare. (It was actually quite helpful for me, not to have it thrown in my face.)

With expressing your wishes of having your daughters being a part of your wedding ceremony, you may be unknowing be creating a bit of “unrest”. They perhaps are struggling with their participation being somehow a slight to their Father’s memory.
Death tends to immortalize our memories, and it may be that they see your impending marriage as a terrible indiscretion. They are, perhaps, not aware of the difficulties and demands made on you after the first ten years of your married life; neither should they be made aware.

Adult children of divorced parents find the remarrying of either parents much more palatable. Bottom line… This is your life, and your happiness. I suggest you pray for your children who are having difficulties, and reach out to them when they are receptive. Move forward with your marriage discreetly, and diplomatically In this case “less is more”

Remarriage Expert

Thanks for that personal perspective.

My mother died when I was a teen, but my dad never remarried, so I have no experience from the child’s perspective. However, I was widowed at a very young age, and did date another widower within the first year. That relationship failed, mostly due to the family and children not being able to accept that we had our lives to live too, and were lonely. I’m sure it was difficult for them to see us moving on, which further highlights the loss.

When my sister died, and her husband went on to remarry, many of my family members we not accepting. I, however, understood completely that this was not him replacing my sister or disrespecting her memory, but just a human being needing to have human contact.

Perhaps you could impress this upon your children, allowing them to see things from your side. Also, years later, my kids are very happy that I met someone new because, after all, if I hadn’t, I may have been camped out on their doorsteps!

I asked how long you had been widowed because for some odd reason, people think there’s some rule of etiquette that requires a widow or widower to wait a year before dating or remarriage. Rest assured there is no such rule. You certainly cannot place a time stamp on grief and healing, which we all do in our own time and season.

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