Widower Wednesday: Friends Who Still Grieve

Reminder: I’m looking for stories from GOWs and WOWs to use in my final widower relationship book. More information can be found here.


One of the topics several readers suggested I write about was how to deal with friends who either don’t accept a widower’s new relationship or continue to morn their dead friend. Then yesterday a reader, doc, left the following comment about a similar problem he and his wife are currently experiencing.

“. . .[W]e have found it very difficult to deal with other peoples inability to be in the present too and in particular their lack of thought for us. They have readily let my wife be labelled [sic] as insecure. We both understand that I have a past as does my wife but we just want to live in the present.

Some people who should have been very close to us have done this by keeping a shrine of my first marriage unbeknownst to us until recently when we discovered it and it has been particularly destructive to our relationship.

I would really appreciate some advice and experiences of anyone who has had a similar problem in coping with how others respect your present and getting them to understand and do so. We have spoken to the other party involved previous to this happening and feel let down by them but they don’t seem to understand and are happy to inflict it on my wife and let her be labeled [sic] as insecure.

In reply Annie offered the following perspective.

Going just on the info you've provided, it appears that by engaging with this folks on the topic of your LW, shrines and such, you are giving life to their interference. Stop.

During the first year or so of our marriage, two of the LW”s siblings came to him and expressed their disappointment in his moving on “so quickly”. It was hurtful to them. My husband told them, I am sorry if you feel hurt but this is my life. He also made it clear that their feelings were theirs to deal with and to never bring it up to him again. He simply would not have this conversation with either of them again. The end.

I made it clear to my family and friends that my life was not a democracy and only positive, forward thinking attitudes were allowed. Anything else they could keep to themselves.

And, imo, that’s probably what you and your wife should do. Just stop engaging on the topic. Let these ppl wallow as they please but make it clear that you don’t want to hear about it again.

I am sorry that you are having to deal with this. Most, though not all, family and friends will get on board once they know you aren't in a game playing mood. Good luck.

In addition to agreeing with Annie’s advice, I would add that no one is obligated to spend time with anyone else—especially those that hold you back from moving forward with life or destroy your current relationship. After I married Marathon Girl we dramatically scaled back spending time with those who just didn't get that I was ready to start a new life. We didn't burn any bridges but simply just stopped associating with those who weren't ready to move forward with us. Since then they've all moved on and weave been able to re-establish relationships and now see them when our schedules and life permits.

I always tell GOWs and WOWs that life is too short to waste time with widowers who aren't ready to move on. It’s also too short to spend time with those who try to hold us back. Free yourself from destructive influences and spend that time strengthening your relationship with your spouse because that’s one relationship that can last the rest of this life and into the next as well.

Feel free to share your own stories or thoughts about friends who can’t move on with Doc in the comments section below.