Helpful Do’s & Dont's for the Widow/Widower Embracing New Love
by Gloria Lintermans & Marilyn Stolzman, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.
Is it possible to mourn the loss of a beloved spouse and, while still grieving, to not only meet someone special, but fall in love and begin to build a new relationship that includes a commitment to sharing your lives? Can we overlap our loving and our grieving? The answer is a profound: YES! But, to smooth the path, keep these helpful Do’s and Dont's in mind.
- Do allow yourself the joy of healing and moving on.
- Do allow yourself to feel good when this happens.
- Don’t feel guilty.
You have been respectful, loving and caring towards your late spouse. Time has passed. It is healthy to want your life to move forward. Try to recognize your emotions every step of the way and not shy away from inner scrutiny, or back off from facing your emotions.
- Do know that it is possible to combine families with adult children no longer living at home.
- Do know that it will not always be smooth sailing; there will be moments of arguments and disagreements to work through.
Commonly, jealousy, fear, abandonment and money issues come up, even for your grown children. Will he leave “her” in “his” will? Will he forget about us? Will he respect our grieving? Be aware that often even the adult child feels, “I am not ready for this.” I want my dad/mom to be happy but not so fast….I’m still grieving for my mom/dad; I’m not ready to think about a “replacement” for his or her love. It may be hard for children at any age to fully understand that the bereaved are lonely and, if the widow or widower had a good marriage, this can further motivate the longing for another partner. There is also the sense of urgency, i.e., “time is running out and life will not go on forever”.
Tactfulness, thoughtfulness, and consideration for the feelings of children of all ages are so important, as well as the understanding that fathers and mothers grieve differently than their children who have their own important timetable. One cannot hurry the process of your grief, your adult children leading their own lives, or that of younger children.
While you want your life to move forward, a sensitive and understanding parent needs to recognize and be especially responsive to the needs of children living at home; children who are grieving the loss of their mother or father. The child needs the "daddy" or "mommy" that’s left. They need them to be emotionally available. Equally important, children commonly have expectations that they have exclusive rights to this parent. Dealing with young children still at home, requires an added set of challenges.
- Do listen carefully to what your child is, and is not saying.
- Do not have a new partner or romantic interest stay overnight too soon.
- Do be sensitive about the messages that you are giving your children about this new person in your life.