Widows and Widowers in Love

Close up photo of older couple embraced hands with engagement rings
Image credit: photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash.

How often in life are we given the amazing opportunity to give love and be loved twice? To have the experience of being in love with your soul mate is an incredible gift, and to have the opportunity to be in love after experiencing the loss of our first spouse or partner is a miracle come true.

Losing the person we have been with and treasured for years is one of the most devastating things that can happen to us. It may seem impossible to heal from this grief or even consider that there might be someone else who can give us as much joy in this world, and so often we refuse to even consider this because it seems like a betrayal.

Of course, no one can replace our departed spouse or partner in our heart and mind. If, however, we are open to the possibility that someone else may come along who can enhance our life, we may find love again. And this person clearly is not a replacement, simply another incredible person in their own right with whom we can connect with and love.

Are your children holding you back?

Sometimes the impediment to finding that love, or to allowing ourselves to sink deeper into a blooming relationship, is less about us and more about our adult children:

  • They may resent and be angry towards us and / or our new boyfriend or girlfriend. This may occur regardless of age; the adult child might be twenty or fifty-five.
  • Sometimes it might be hard for us to understand how our forty-year-old daughter might be angry at us instead of happy for us.
  • And sometimes mutual friends of our first life partner may lack understanding because they cannot imagine anyone else as our companion other than our partner who has passed.

If children, friends, and family members are not able to move through their own feelings, they may abandon us, creating a whole other loss:

  • The disapproval may be directly communicated or indirectly communicated.
  • There might be an overt or covert message that it is not okay that there is someone new in our lives.
  • Of course there are times when the people in our life are thrilled and happy for us, yet it is not uncommon that this is not the first or second reaction to the news.
  • One of the most painful things possible is when the people in our lives that we care about are unwilling to meet or be open to this new relationship.

Under these circumstances it may feel like the people we care about are trying to steal our joy. This may trigger our own anger and resentment. And there are times where a decision may need to be made if adult children or friends refuse to be a part of our life with our new partner, we may be forced into making a choice.

Time is on Your Side:

However, when there is a new love in our life it may make a huge difference if we slowly introduce the person to our adult children, friends and family members:

  • One of the most important factors is to gently encourage each other in getting to know each other as opposed to pushing them into contact, especially around holidays and other important dates.
  • Although it is understandable that we might be very excited to share our new love with the people that we care about, our friends and family may need time to adjust.

Patience is the watchword. [As the new person entering the family] Do not force your affections on a child. Step back, be kind, be loving, be a role model, be helpful, be respectful of their time with your partner and their feelings for their dead parent and just BE THERE. Then - simply wait. They will eventually, little by little, start turning to you and a relationship can be forged.

Grief expert and coach Ellen Gerst.

In addition, it’s important not to push aside all memories or discussion of the dead. Begin to make new memories with the adult children or family, but still allow for time spent grieving and celebrating the spouse/partner who has passed, both in word and deed.

Still tough?

If either you or your new partner feels as if the relationship has suffered because of the demands and concerns of other family and friends, it may be helpful to speak with a licensed psychotherapist.

A trained therapist can help to provide you with the emotional support you need to work through the tumultuous emotions of grief, new love, and family dynamics, either as a family, a couple, or on an individual level.

Finding a professional to help to guide you and create the space you need to discuss these tough and painful topics can be of incredible value. At Nassau Guidance & Counseling, we’ve worked with many people to create beautiful and vibrant second marriages.

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