Widower Wednesday: Honoring the Late Wife

Widower Wednesday

Today is the last day for widowers to submit their stories for the upcoming widower dating guide. You can get a better idea for the kind of stories I’m looking for here.


Dear Abel,

I've dated a widower for six months and our relationship is at an impasse. For the most part we have a great relationship and I feel that the widower has made major strides in moving on (his wife died three years ago in a traffic accident). However there are two things that keep getting in the way from our relationship to become serious. The first is a photograph of them on their wedding day. It’s one of many photos but he says he keeps it up there to “honor” the late wife and their relationship. The second is that on special days like her birthday he and his two kids have cake, visit her grave and basically make the day all about her. When I ask them why he does this he says it’s to “honor” her memory. I feel that in “honoring” her, me and my feelings get pushed to the side. We've talked about this and he doesn't see a need to change and points out all the other things he’s done like finally packing up most of her things from their bedroom and taking down lots of other photographs of her. Am I being unreasonable? What, in your opinion, is the best way for the two us to honor the late wife?

Thanks for any insight you can give me,


Hi T.,

No one is under any obligation to honor anyone who’s passed on. “Honoring” someone who has died is done for the benefit of those who are left behind—not the dead.

Honoring the late spouse is one of those vague terms that mean different things to different people. If you were to ask 100 different widow(er)s the best way to “honor” the late spouse, you’re going to get 100 different answers. I know widow(er)s who insist on having photos of the late spouse in prominent display in their homes. Others run races in their memory. Some want to visit the gravesite on special occasions, write books about the late spouse, or become active in certain causes. Personally, I’m not a fan of honoring the late spouse through rituals or photographs. I personally think we honor those we love by how we choose to live our lives after their gone—not by outward, symbolic acts like photographs or gravesites visits. But that’s just me.

What’s important that you and the widower work out a solution that works for the two of you. It sounds like that both the photograph and the celebrations bother you. If you haven’t already, have an open and honest conversation about it with each other. Tell him how it makes you feel and give him a chance to explain why he feels the need to do it. If you and the widower can’t find some common ground, you need to decide whether or not the photo and the graveside visits are deal breakers. If they are, that’s fine. Cut your losses and move on. Everyone has things they can or cannot live with. As painful as that decision is, it’s better to come to that conclusion early on then waste months or years of your life in a miserable relationship.

One final thought: There’s nothing wrong with rituals per se, but there should be a good reason or purpose for the activity. “Honoring” the late spouse out of habit or because one feels pressure from friends, family, or society to do a particular act is never a good idea and, I believe, hinders people from moving on. I only think “honoring” the late spouse is good if it helps people find closure. It’s better, in my opinion, to focus on things that make you happy and move one forward. Besides, the dead aren’t going to care one way or the other whether or not you visit their grave or remember their birthday. They have other concerns.

Best of luck and let me know how things turn out.