Posted by: Rob | July 15, 2008

Thoughts about “Moving Forward, looking back”

Another widow recently posted a blog piece about “Moving Forward, looking back“.  She’s just a tad bit further out on the “widow road” than I am.  And it is safe to say that we have chosen quite different paths in living our lives after the death of our respective spouses.  Not to say that one is better or worse than the other.  They’re just different and suited to our respective individualities.

But some of the statements that she made got me to wondering.  Admittedly, I don’t give much thought to how I am perceived by others in respect of what’s occurred in my life and how I’ve chosen to live it since Shelley died.  And so I sometimes marvel at what other widoweds see in how they’re perceived by their families and friends, especially, I suppose, in how they have chosen to live post loss.

As I read the post I really wondered at the drivers behind it.  Words that she used, like urgency and obsession, practically jumped off the screen at me.  Really, I wonder who is advancing such ideas?

Most of us have heard or even experienced that the non-widowed are very uncomfortable in the presence of or in conversation with the young widowed, regardless of the situation.  Typically, they will be the ones who might urge the widowed to “move on”, but it’s more for their own peace of mind and to put them more at ease.

But that’s their problem, not ours.  If we don’t want to hear what they have to say about it, we can simply tell them to stop talking that way and to mind their own business.

Insofar as references to dead spouses, whether it be spoken memories, belongings, or pictures, well, it’s entirely our prerogative to do what we want, regardless if it offends others or invokes their disapproval.

I am a widower.  But I have remarried.  My second wife is a widow also, with a very young daughter to whom I’ve become step-dad.

Our relationship developed quickly and I encountered a little bit of the opposite to “When are you moving on?  When will you find someone new?” from my family and my in-laws.  I listened to their concerns, but I did what I felt was right for me anyway.

I don’t know if I’ve made things easier or harder for the non-widowed that I routinely interact with.  They almost need a scorecard to keep up with my references to my late wife, my wife, in-laws, kids, etc.  For, you see, I have not stopped talking about my dead spouse.  How can I?  She was and remains an intrinsic part of my life and who I am.  She was in my life for a very long time and, in some ways, continues to be so.

The same is true for my second wife’s late husband.  My step-daughter loves to talk about her daddy and hear stories him.  She questions his illness (why did he get sick?) and his death (why did he die?).  She has many characteristics and personality quirks that came from him – though she hardly knew him and never before he was ill – that I have to occasionally ask Ann – “Was Will like this? or that?”  “Did Will do this?  or that?”

I don’t know.  I hear/read a lot of things like she had written and as I’ve personally encountered this so little in my own experiences, I have trouble relating.  I even have trouble understanding where this comes from.

At the end of the day our life is our own and how we choose to live it is no one else’s business, really.  Do we just have to be more direct in communicating this fact to others in our lives?


  1. nice reflection – proving once again that every human brings different experience into situations, and all need to work through it differently. Also proving that, try as we minght, we are always at least wondering what others think about what we do…

    experiencing the unexpected early death of a spouse must be one of the most intense experiences a human can endure. suspect every person has a different approach and timeline.

    i think your final question nailed it – it would be good if people were less offended when we trench in with that position.

  2. I am often intrigued by the “how we choose to live it, is no one else’s business, really” statements. God knows I have said them enough, but I don’t think I really mean it. There ARE people in my life that I DO care what they think–not that I wouldn’t go ahead and do what I thought was best, but I believe I have incorporated them into my life enough that it IS their business. Does this make sense? So, decisions I make DO take their feelings and insights into consideration. That being said, NONE of them have told me not to talk about Don–quite the opposite, they speak of him as well. None of them discouraged me from dating or remarrying (even my in-laws) and were more supportive than I could have asked for. So, I guess it is much easier for me to say that their opinions matter because none have been contrary to my own. They have simply been concerned with my happiness.

    Now, Kent’s best friend has been another story. He has not been supportive of our relationship, but that didn’t stop Kent from making the decision he believed was right for him. Sad thing is, I know it breaks his heart that his decision to be happy has harmed the relationship with his friend.

    When it comes down to it, we don’t live in a bubble and if relationships are important to us, so are the opinions of those folks we count closest to us. I didn’t mean to ramble, but this post really got me to think.

  3. Well I told you what I think.

    Spouses are not family relationships but chosen, love/romantic ones. No one is going to question talking about deceased family or hanging onto familiy memories because they probably have some experience with this kind of a loss themselves. So they get it.

    But the only experience most people have with lost love is falling out of it ie: breaking up or getting divorced. The model for that is moving on. Getting rid of objects and not talking about the person after a certain point.

    What I don’t get is the continued anger some widowed people feel towards people who just haven’t the personal experiences that would allow them to relate and say/do the “right” things. How can we expect that? And yes, it is another burden imposed on us by widowhood but really who ever said that anything about losing your spouse was going to be easy?

    I suspect that the people who are most troubled have inner conflicts that are triggered by folks like this. Or it is pushing them to think about things they don’t want to because they are not ready.

    Regardless, at a certain point the people who mean well in their own irritating way should just become those we disregard without all the teeth-grinding.

  4. Rob, haven’t you read “The Right Way to Grieve”, by I. Mopin an’ A. Nated…? It’s good. It has all the answers. Because, you know, there ARE answers to be had; all we have to do is follow the proscribed path of righteousness and appropriate post-loss etiquette.

    In the intro of one of Douglas Adams’s books, he talks about that guy who was nailed to a cross a couple thousand years ago, for suggesting that it might be nice if we all got along, for a change. I’d like to repeat that suggestion.

    It would mean keeping unsolicited opinions to oneself, however, so I think I’m outta luck. Good folks out there in the world know what the RIGHT way to grieve is, and it’s not the way we’re doin’ it, and it’s their job to straighten us out, whether we’re taking too little time or too much time.

    Sigh. I think I don’t like people very much today.


  5. daisyfae: Indeed. Now quit picking at that line between what I say and what I think.

    Marsha: Your words have given me something to think about. I’ve got to roll it around before I (perhaps) clarify my thoughts and write them down.

    Annie: I hadn’t really considered that angle, mostly because it’s outside my own purview and experience. I, too, wonder about those who go on and on about what the so-called “DGI’s” say or do.

    Sally: I think your first paragraph is satire, although I can’t quite work out the meaning of the author’s name. And…uh…I can’t help but wonder if unsolicited opinions refers to what I have written. I hope not…

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