Widower Wednesday: Parenting and Grief

A recent post on the Widowed and Remarried Facebook group caught my eye. A young widow is having problems with the late husband’s family moving on and worried how their behavior might affect her children.

Here’s her situation in a nutshell: It’s been three years since her husband died and every holiday or birthday gifts from the late husband’s family to her children is some sort of memorial to their late father. She’s worried 1) that the kids will start resenting these gifts and 2) these gifts serve as a constant reminder of their loss and hold them back from moving on. Her question was what the best way to let late husband’s family knows that these gifts are no longer appropriate.

The reason this post grabbed my attention is that I see a lot of this same confusion and hesitation in widowers when they’re dealing with issues involving the late wife’s family. For whatever reason many widowers have a hard time setting boundaries and saying No to the late wife’s family. In a lot of cases the late wife’s family becomes a surrogate parent to the kids which can make drawing a line in the sand even more difficult.

In a perfect world it would be nice to always have the guidance and thoughts from a spouse when it comes to parenting. But this world isn’t perfect and the death of a husband or wife isn’t an excuse for one to abdicate his or her parental responsibilities. Instead widowed folks often have to make the best decisions that one can by themselves. If the late wife’s family is involved in what you believe to be inappropriate behavior, gifts, or anything else you have a duty as a parent to let them know what is or is not acceptable and appropriate when it comes to your kids.

So how do you deal with memorial gifts coming from the late spouse’s family? You do it the same way you would if it was anyone else doing it: You politely ask them to stop. Explain to them that your children remember their mother (or father) just fine and these gifts, as well intentioned as they are, aren’t necessary. Hopefully they’ll respect your wishes. If they don’t, be prepared to state consequences if such behavior continues and then follow through if they continue to disregard your wishes.

Remember they’re your kids. Don’t let others stop them from adjusting to their new life and moving on.