What’s Your Question: Should my boyfriend still display photos of his late wife?

Welcome to our newest feature, ‘What’s Your Question: Grief Advice & Answers’. Full disclosure, no one has actually asked us anything, making this advice 100% unsolicited gold.

A reader and friend of Litsa’s recently forwarded her a question posed to the advice columnist, ‘Ask Amy’. As a widower this reader friend found the question to be kind of awful and as such just had to share it (obviously). Upon inspection Litsa and I found the question to be equally as awful and, although the advice columnist answered gently and with tact, we thought we’d like to take a stab at it ourselves. Okay here goes:

DEAR AMY: I have been dating a widower for almost two months. He lives out of town but we are spending weekends together. His wife passed away 2 1/2 years ago (I have been divorced for 10 years).

Pictures of him and her with family are still on the walls of his house.

He tells me he leaves the family ones up because of his kids and grandkids coming over. They were married for 38 years.

Is this man really ready to be in a relationship? I have met two of his three children, who are in their late 30s. I felt I was drilled with questions.

I just don’t know if he is really ready for his next life. Sometimes I wonder if I am just a “test run.”

—Worried”

Okay stop! Before we go any further, widows and widowers, please never (x infinity infinities) let anyone tell you you’re stuck or ‘not ready’ due to the photographs you have on your walls or any of your other fine home furnishings. It is not only normal but encouraged to leave photographs of your deceased loved ones out. You are not crazy, you are ok.

Alright now let’s take a giant Yeti sized step backwards and look at this situation. First and foremost let’s discuss the concept of a photograph. People take photographs so they can fondly remember the loved ones, places, and moments that make up their past. Regardless of the length of a marriage (this one just so happens to have been 38 years long), a couple is likely to have shared countless fond memories. Photographs are a device to help us remember these moments and the people we shared them with, that is the entire point. Memories don’t lose importance because the person we shared them with has died.

Moving on, I am a grown woman whose mother has died and I have 5 grown up brothers and sisters. We all still unequivocally consider our mother to be a part of the family. She exists in memory and she continues to influence our family to this day. Sadly I can no longer see her or talk to her, so instead I hang her pictures to help me remember. Your boyfriend is right on the mark, I totally expect my father to leave her pictures up for the benefit of his children and his grandchildren. We are a family and these photographs are important to our history.

Part of loving, loosing, and grieving well means coming to terms with who and what you’ve lost and finding ways to integrate their memory into your continued existence. When someone dies they don’t just disappear. I mean, consider that prospect; after you die would you want your loved ones to hide your pictures away and never utter your name? I think not. And what does it mean if this is someone’s reaction after 38 years of marriage? My guess would be they are avoiding the pain of their late-spouses memory or they are being pressured by their new insecure girlfriend to take them down.

And trust me, if you’re coming off insecure, jealous, and threated to me, there’s a good chance this is how you’re coming off to his children. I’m sure they have a few hopes for the next woman in their father’s life and you are not off to a good start by pushing him to erase the memory of their mother. The message your sending is not that he needs to move on, it’s that he needs to forget.

You’re feeling that “you just don’t know if he’s ready for his next life” is probably spot on. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a ‘next life’. True story. Your past influences your present and your future. Who we are today is a reflection of where we’ve been and what we do tomorrow is influenced by today. You will not be your boyfriends ‘next’ family because he already has one, the most you can hope for is that the next chapter involves a happy merging of his family and yours.

So here is some legit advice: just as with any relationship, seeking the approval of those closest to your mate is an important task, try to tread a little lighter while on their familial turf. And the next time you see your boyfriend and/or his children, you should speak his late wife’s name and acknowledge her. Without being disingenuous, ask them about her. What was she like? What do they miss? What was she good at? What kind of a mother was she? This will let them know that YOU know you can never take her place and reassure them that you understand she will always be a part of the family’s past, present, and future.

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Alright, so we have a request. To avoid any further grief confusion (‘Griefusion’…can we make that a thing?), going forward we’d appreciate if you’d ask us your grief related questions. Send us all your ‘Is this normal?’s, ‘Am I crazy?’s ‘What should I do?’s and ‘Can you believe she did that?’s. You can ask via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments and we will answer here on the blog a-la Dear Abby, we promise our responses will be constructive and non rant-like.

As always, we strongly recommend/beg of you to subscribe to receive our posts via e-mail. Over there —->

March 28, 2017

48 responses on "What's Your Question: Should my boyfriend still display photos of his late wife?"

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  2. Casonia ShortridgeJune 13, 2017 at 3:06 pmReply

    I think this is great to have this forum… I have been dating a widow for 18 months. His wife died over 4 years ago, to make matters worse she had two children from a previous relationship and died after her 4th child was 8 months old. She was addicted to prescription meds. With all that being said, she left my bf now a widow, single parent and struggling financially. We dated while living in two different cities, after 8 months of dating he asked me to move in and I accepted. After being divorced for many years I was ready to on such a level where I thought this was the man I would spend the second part of my life with. When I moved in, I was expected to attend the same church him and his wife were members of. When the grandmother (d-wife) mother would call not often, he would drop everything and go have dinner with the grandmother and kids. I helped provided and supported his children in many ways, baseball, football, and basket ball games. Pick up the 4 yr old from school, whatever was needed. His 12 yr old son had a hard time with this and displayed a daily dose of disrespect. I tried to be understanding, empathetic and compassionate towards everyone especially the kids. My bf and I recently went on our very first trip and while on our trip his phone alarm went off, it was a reminder in his cell phone of his d-wife’s departure date. Really?!? He still receives mail at the house as if she pays a bill. He holds onto her wedding bands. There were no boundaries, no consequences and no room for me. I felt like I was living in the shadows of a dead woman. It angers me that this woman left 4 kids behind due to an addiction and I can do all of these things, be the caregiver, provider, maid, suzy home maker yet I am nothing. After 18 months I ended the relationship. It is very hard dating a widow especially when there are children involved. Yet you can choose how you want to spend your life, you can either continue living in the past which no longer exists or you can choose to live again. Depending on what you choose there are life modifications, If you choose to stay in a grieving period, you will be alone. If you choose to live you will need to set boundaries with respect. I don’t agree with an earlier statement that dismisses the new relationship, If you re-marry you are now ONE and d-wife or widow should not rob their partners of that. Of course the d- wife or husband is never forgotten and the kids serve as a constant reminder. I would never date another widow again.

  3. My boyfriend still refers to his late wife as his wife. This makes me feel like he still considers himself married. I find it incredibly hurtful.

    I have been widowed for around 10 years, my bf just over 2. We have been together for 2 years but friends for over 30( complicated situation).

    I can cope with the photos around the house…. I have no choice really if I want to be with him and we have got through various other issues that have raised their heads with communication. For some reason, I shy away from raising this.

    I don’t think this is jealousy over marriage. At this particular time, I don’t really think about us getting married or not……..but I don’t refer to my late husband as my husband…….because he isn’t, he is my late husband or I say he was my husband. I feel completely crazy over this. I am his girlfriend & she is his wife…..not was, IS.

    I know my bf very well obviously & he would say if’s just habit, just a word but to me it signifies that he still considers himself married……which he has said independently he doesn’t.

    Very confusing.

  4. Wow. Don’t know when these posts were written, but funny how life is. I am in the same situation. I am widowed 10 years after 36 years of marriage. He is widowed 1 1/2 years after 38 years of marriage. Difference in my story is that I am a nurse and know of grief process and have embraced his wife. We talk about our spouses and call them by name. My problem is adult children who don’t want him dating and don’t want to meet me. It has been a year and I am scared things will not change. I am 65, not getting younger and do have health issues. Afraid of my timeframe. His children’s behavior prevents him from moving forward. His attitude is life will work itself out. This is really tougher than I ever would have imagined. All I wanted was to be loved, have a partner, travel, and live out the rest ofy days. This has been very stressful. Hurting.

  5. I am a widow of a little over 4 1/2 years after 32 years of marriage dating a widower of a little over 5 years after a little less than 5 years of marriage – his late wife passed 9 months prior to when my late husband passed. His marriage with his late wife was his second marriage with his first marriage of 15 years ending in divorce. There are 2 adult daughters from that first marriage who had a very loving relationship with his late wife and with whom I have an excellent relationship. Additionally I adore his 2 grandchildren, and have been openly welcomed by his extended family. We began dating a little over 3 1/2 years ago – a year after my late husband passed and a little less than 2 years after his late wife passed. My late husband passed in a motorcycle accident while his late wife passed after a year’s illness from a hereditary pulmonary disease. She was on a transplant list but complications ensued and she passed prior to lungs being available for her. His expectation was “never” that she’d pass, rather that she’d have a successful transplant. Therefore, for him her passing was just a sudden and shocking to him as my late husband’s accidental death. The reason I’m writing is: 1) I have 2 adult children who he’s simply casually met. I also have elderly parents, siblings, etc. who he will not meet. I have asked and invited him to meet them many times and always receive polite declines despite my expressing to him that him meeting my family is important to me. He has also met none of my friends. He has a sister in law and father in law from his late wife who he remains very close to, typically spending holidays with them; 2) his bedroom has been frozen in time with his late wife’s possessions left exactly where they were when she died a little over 5 years ago – nightshirt still on the bedpost, shoes still at the foot of the bed, clothes hanging on the bedroom door, etc., etc., etc. along with a multitude of pictures staring right at us while in bed; 3) He continues to wear his wedding ring, also wearing his late wife’s wedding ring on his little finger right next to his. Many aspects of our relationship have naturally evolved and “come a long way”, but the 3 items listed persist. Attempts to discuss these do not net concrete answers, rather evoke him shutting down. He’s retired military and an engineer so is a very black and white person so I find it difficult to reconcile our continued relationship and potential future with all of the above. As I started, I am a widow which has given me the compassion and insight that has allowed this relationship to last the little over 3 1/2 years that it has. However, there also is all of the above after 3 1/2 years………

  6. He put his parent’s photo in our bedroom , his brothers sisters ‘ photos in front of my computer , none of our photos were taken together with kids in our house , I don’t like the couch which is bought by his mum but off course he paid all the money , only reason his mum picked it . I don’t agree with him about photos matters . But he seems not feel that … There are too much to share about my marriage here .. Not only photos . Maybe I picked the wrong guy !!

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  8. I moved in with my boyfriend and his 3 children 4 months ago .he is a widower and his wife has been going 10 years he has a big wedding photo and a few others in his lounge which l have to look at each day .when we first met just over 2 years ago he told me about his wife and took me to places they had been and wanted to show me were they got married he often speaks about her l do get upset when he brings her up all the time which is most weeks and l try not to show how lm feeling inside but its getting me down . We are engaged now and l feel like the other woman sometimes.l do understand how he must of felt when he lost her and having to bring 3 children up l know it must of been so hard.l love him to bits but and l ask myself why he has to keep talking about her to me is this something l will have to live with and will he ever take there wedding photo down he told me he has them up because of the children they are adults in there 20’s l wish l could understand all this .

  9. I’ve been dating a widower for a year and a half, his late wife passed away 4 years ago… he still wears his wedding ring on his left hand, a necklace she gave him, his phone screen saver is a picture of her, and he keeps a picture of them on their wedding day in his work truck.

    When I first moved in there were pictures of her EVERYWHERE, and she loved angels so there were pictures and little angel figurines all over the place. After living there a few months I asked if I could take some of the more intimate pictures down and put away the angels and he was 100% fine with it. He has 3 kids so I carefully put everything away for them (even her prom/wedding dresses for his daughters to wear later in life). He seemed to understand perfectly that I wanted it to feel like my home, too. Now although the ring, screensaver, and wedding picture at his work do bother me, I feel like it’s not up to me to tell him when to put them away for good. There are still a few family pictures up.

    I love him like crazy, and if he passes away first I’ll probably keep our wedding ring on and pictures of him up, too. Just don’t forget that your negative feelings towards his late wife’s belongings are nothing compared to the pain he has to live with.

  10. I’ve been dating a widower for a year and a half, his late wife passed away 4 years ago… he still wears his wedding ring on his left hand, his phone screen saver is a picture of her, and he keeps a picture of them on their wedding day in his work truck.

    When I first moved in there were pictures of her EVERYWHERE, and she loved angels so there were pictures and little angel figurines all over the place. After living there a few months I asked if I could take some of the more intimate pictures down and put away the angels and he was 100% fine with it. He has 3 kids so I carefully put everything away for them (even her prom/wedding dresses for his daughters to wear later in life). He seemed to understand perfectly that I wanted it to feel like my home, too. Now although the ring, screensaver, and wedding picture at his work do bother me, I feel like it’s not up to me to tell him when to put them away for good.

    I love him like crazy, and if he passes away first I’ll probably keep our wedding ring on and pictures of him up, too. Just don’t forget that your negative feelings towards his late wife’s belongings are nothing compared to the pain he has to live with.

  11. Pasted Loved Ones should be able to Remain any where the surviors choose to have them..The Deceased can Not take Your Love Away…I agree, on past Couple Pics should Not be in the Bedroom…And of the mind that If someone is to stay in my Life they will have to Share my heart with my late spouse, accept that they are FAMILY, and apart of Ours ..Should We grow into marriage, and that Our Daughter will share them Both ! ….Loving a Widow or Widower is Not for the Weak or Insecure ..

  12. Lately I’ve been thinking about this very subject. I lost my girlfriend of 32 years (don’t judge, it worked) on 6/10/15. She had a long and heinous struggle and suffered tremendously. Last winter I started having prints made of places we went on vacation to and several of her, and her and I, and have one of us in the kitchen, and have added 4 to the one I had in the living room, along with as I said, shots of places we went to. This was my life with her. I also have had couple in the bedroom for many years. But then I saw the movie Last Vegas, and the Robert DeNiro character plays a widower about a year out, like me, and he has pictures of his late wife all over his apartment. It was then that I started thinking, “Am I going crazy?”. I should also mention that I have no interest in dating or even further, living under the same roof with anyone. Am I going crazy?

    • You are not going crazy, brother. I lost my wife of 23 years last summer (July 2016) and dating divorced, insecure women (jealous of the deceased, and any memory we have of our wives and us sharing this thing called life) looses its shine fast. The barrage of questions. The pop psychology that these women run on you. They bash their ex, a guy we never met, and we have nothing bad to say about our late wives except that we miss them. They have venom and bitterness. We have memories of real love, valleys, mountains, and boredom. We didn’t quit our wives when things got rough. Their husbands are Satan’s angels. I would rather live my life remembering my best friend and the man she allowed me to become, remaining in the company of friends, than have discussions about erasing her memory to make a divorcee happy. Widows are coolest for guys like us. They understand. We share the same walk between the world of memory and the world of right now. Knowing how the loss feels, as we do, we need to find somebody that respects the loss. I want to know as much about a widow’s love and life as much as I want to share tales of my great love in this life. I think we could create am “us” with a widow that includes people that we simply never can forget. Having your wife die in your arms and dragging your family through the vain hell of divorce over “lack of passion” are two different occasions. I doubt I could ever work with a divorcee. I don’t know how you feel about that. But on an up note, every day is one day closer to the day we both see our wives again.

      • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

        Dan, well said! I do think, or hope, there are women other than widows who could be good and understanding partners, but I do think takes an extremely open and understanding and it also takes a lot of really strong communication. My mom (a widow) just recently married another widow and I do think that their ability to understand each others’ losses is a huge strength of their relationship. Best to you both as you navigate the complicated waters of grieving after losing someone you love so deeply.

        • I am a divorced woman. Please don’t think that we don’t grieve over a failed marriage. There are many circumstances why people divorce…..betrayal, abuse, growing apart, etc. I don’t bash my ex and neither did we drag our kids through a divorce. Everytime I look at pictures of past Christmases or birthdays I remember good times that were had, and I have kept photos of my ex husband to be given to my kids when they want them. Grief comes in many forms. No marriage or spouse is ever perfect, but when it ends, either through death or divorce, we can remember the good times and the love that was there, but in order to move on, into another relationship/marriage, we must respect the feelings of the new partner as well. No one wants to compete with a ghost and shouldn’t be made to feel that way. Keep your photos/memories/trinkets etc for sure, perhaps display some in a private room, transfer them to a CD or create a memory box. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you want to see loving pictures of your new love/spouse with another man or woman displayed all around the house? If this isn’t the case, then you have no business entering a new relationship/marriage when you are not willing to let go of the past thereby damaging your future and that of your new partner.

          • When I first starting dating my partner he had a picture of his deceased partner on his living room wall. A short time after we started dating I noticed the picture was gone. We have been together now for 3 years and have bought a house together. Just recently, when moving totes around at his cabin, I came across photos of her (I will call her P and him D)and cards that were saved from her to him and from him to her, she will have been gone 6 years come this December. His comment was “you put things in a corner and they come back to bite you”, he asked me what if I thought he should give the pictures to her son. I said either him or her mother. I kick myself now for looking at the cards and reading them. Wished I had left well enough alone. On one card he wrote “you have giving me a new zest for life that I haven’t had for quite awhile”…I don’t know why and I wish someone could explain it to me but reading that was like a stab to the heart, made my stomach drop to the floor. P was his first love, she left the area where they lived as teenagers/young adults and went away to work, when she returned to the area D had already married someone else. P married one of his best friends. D’s marriage failed and from what I understand from others is P left her husband to be with D but then went back to her husband, had a child and then left her husband and child to be with D. I can see why she did, he is a very special man. It has really affected me seeing those totes. Not only the totes but also when cleaning up the camping trailer I came across one of her journals. I put it back in the drawer it was in, mentioned it to my partner in passing…but it is still there. I know I can be insecure by times and am not afraid to admit it, that’s me. After coming home from the cabin I happened to notice the pictures were in the vehicle. He kind of hid them in the vehicle. I haven’t asked and don’t feel I have the right to ask what his plans are for these pictures. After seeing the cards I realized that she was his soul mate, his other half. This is a man who loves deeply, to his core. Why do I now feel like I am living in a shadow? Is it wrong/crazy for me to feel like the past hasn’t been put to rest? Am I being oversensitive? He calls me sexy and have always felt very special when he does….but….as per one of these cards “to the sexiest woman I know” I don’t feel so special. I keep telling myself she was his first love and I will be his last love but I can’t shake the feeling that a ghost is present. Any advice?

          • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

            Linda,

            It’s really hard for us to offer advice, and we typically try not to when it comes to other people’s intimate relationships because they are far more complicated than we could ever understand based on a comment. I will say that we receive questions like these all the time, so you aren’t alone. Often dating a widow means accepting that the memory of a past love/relationship is present on some level. Does the past every truly get “put to rest”? Not always. Although we may move forward with our lives and make space for new people and new experiences, we often remain connected with those who die an different ways. This is especially true if there are children involved as the woman who died will always be their mother and a part of their family, whether she is alive or not. I think it’s important to remember that it can his love for her in the past, doesn’t negate his feelings towards you in the present. And that it is normal to hold onto notes and photos, this does not mean that he is unable to move forward and have perfectly healthy relationships in the here and now.

            Good luck,
            Eleanor

          • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

            I agree that divorce can cause very deep and significant grief, regardless of the circumstances, and that grief comes in many forms. I disagree, though, that having photographs of a deceased spouse around the house indicates you have no business entering into a new relationship. You do not need to “let go” of all elements of the past in order to move forward in the present in healthy ways.

            This is especially true if there are children involved. In these instances it would not be beneficial for the belongings or photographs of the deceased to be secreted away to a private room. The person who died is still a part of the family and should be recognized and honored as such. If a new romantic partner isn’t comfortable with this reality, then perhaps they aren’t well suited to date a widow (under this particular circumstance).

            This may be one main difference between the grief or divorce and the grief of a death. In the instance of divorce, no one has died and connections can be maintained through actual contact with the person, so it’s not necessary to keep things like photos and notes. When the person is dead, photographs, memories, belongings, etc are all that people have left to remember them by.

  13. Hi
    My best friend passed away March 2013. She was married to her college sweetheart (they recently had got married after 10ys plus of boyfriend/girlfriend). January 2012 she gave birth to their son this boy was a miracle baby she was told she could not have kids. She dealt with depression on the night of her death she supposedly was on antidepressants and sleep meds. She ended up “sleep walking” onto a freeway and was run over multiple times. So fast forward to today, her “husband” has met a lovely new woman whom he loves they have been working together for years. This woman was/is married. He has told all of us never to show pictures of our best friend or refer to her as mommy near his son so the boy does not become confused. The little child calls the new woman mommy. He has also told us he does not want to see us or even let us visit with our best friends baby so we do not confuse him. Also, he has told the sister of his dead wife the same thing. How do we deal? This little boy is all we have as a memory that connects us to her

  14. Hi. I think you are a little hard on this woman insecurities, you do ask yourself these questions at the beginning of a relationship, just wondering, is this normal, and I think the answer to her is yes. Not sure that makes her such a giant shrew. I am dating a man who was married 38 years also. I have no problem with the pictures around, and also no problem if they talk about her. Of course! No one will ever replace one’s mother and that’s a lot of history.
    However, I am younger than he and divorced, have 3 kids of my own and am struggling with the complexity. This statement below sounds a bit contradictory ” You will not be your boyfriends ‘next’ family because he already has one, the most you can hope for is that the next chapter involves a happy merging of his family and yours.” This sounds defensive- don’t even think about you being in MY family he already has one, but then maybe you can merge?
    It never occurred to me that I was giving up having a family. I had thought that with whomever my new relationship to be, that me and this new person were forging be a “family”. I suppose I thought I could have more than that, for the last half of my life, to be someone’s partner and not a footnote to the first . Is that so wrong?

  15. Hi Marianne, I think to have a nice one somewhere for the sake of the kids and their own memories is nice, but to have them peppered all around the house so you can’t walk the house from room to room without seeing the deceased looking at you is a bit creepy. My ex died. I have one , nice one, of him and the kids in the hallway,but no ”couples ” shot, out of respect of my new husband. I definately took the one out of our bedroom because it is now my partners and my ‘intimate” bedroom. And I also have a nice one of my spouse and I in the hallway and on my bedside table, to make him know I have moved on emotionally. He is also widower and has basically done the same. I think he has two in his house. One is a really cute one of his ex and his son.I can respect that. But definately, OUT of the bedroom! He didn’t want me looking at his deceased wife while we were loving each other. So awful ! So keep some, but many is tasteless .

  16. I dated a man who still had Christmas cards up from the year his wife died…which was 7 years ago…the calendar was up from the month she passed….nic nac still on the window sill in the kitchen from her…etc etc etc…and he talked continuously about her….needless to say…the relationship ended after a year…there was no room for me

  17. So there is this wonderful gentleman a widower whose wife passed away two years ago. She has two children who are his children now and he cares for them. So we met a couple months ago he approached me at the grocery store. He was very sweet and I gave him my number. Since that day we have talked every single day and he comes to see me atleast every other day. We became sexually active and I have grown to really like him. He seems very genuine, hard working, a great father, honest and very caring. He likes to surprise me with chocolate and a mtn dew because that’s what I told him was my favorite the first time we spoke. I can tell he likes me and enjoys my companionship in fact he’s told me so. But I can also feel and sense he still loves his wife, which I completely understand and would always understand that and expect. I haven’t lost a spouse myself but losing anyone is heartbreaking. So I expect it to be difficult for him and his children. So I am always there to listen if he wants to talk about her or how he is feeling. And I want him to feel comfortable talking to me about anything. So I’ve started really developing feelings for him. Being as I’ve been single for over a year now I really want to find that special someone. But with sensing he has not moved on from his wifes passing and sensing he has a fear to completely let me in. I felt that before I get too attached to him I should tell him how I feel about him and see where his head is at. So last week I told him that I really like him a lot and why. And let him know that I am hoping to grow into a relationship as that is something I want and am hoping to have again. I proceeded to tell him that I needed to know how he felt about that and if that is something he was also leaning towards with me or how exactly he felt. I told him It was okay to be honest with me that I would be understanding and I would never judge him but that I needed to know were his head was at. He was honest and told me he loves my conversation and companionship, that he does like me a lot and feels very comfortable around me. But that he still loves his wife and doesn’t think he’s ready for a relationship. He told me he was sorry that he should have had this conversation with me sooner. He also said he would like to be friends still if I wanted too. I wasn’t upset I told him I comepletely understood and I do. I understand why the conversation was hard to have and I understand him not being ready to move on or get into a relationship. That I would love to be friends still I love my time with him, but I let him know that I still really like him and if that’s the case we can’t have sex any longer because I wouldn’t be able to handle that emotionally. He was understanding of that. He still comes to see me on a regular basis still brings me sweet treats it us non sexual now. We just sit and hangout and talk a lot about anything, every day things, and about her. But as I spend time with him I can feel us grow closer as two people and I can feel my feelings for him getting stronger. And there is this part of me that kind of hopes that if I am patient and continue to show him he can trust me with his feelings for her and that I would never to push her memory out then maybe down the road he will be ready to date me. But this also scares me because I thought I could detach the feelings I was having for him and just be there for him as a friend especially because we are both very caring people and I can tell he needs that and if I’m not in the picture he won’t have that to help him along. But Idk if this rational for me either I don’t want to set myself up to be hurt by hoping that one he will be ready when I have no way of knowing that for sure. So sometimes I feel before we get any closer I should just stop talking to him but I don’t want to hurt him or take away support he needs. So I just don’t know what the best thing to do is. Continue to be there for him as a friend even though my feelings for him are growing? Or to just let him out of my life completely to protect my own future feelings? And if I stopped talking to him would that be wrong or make things more difficult for him?

  18. What should I do. I am dating my boyfriend for the last 11 months. He has been a W for 9 years he said I am the first serious relationship since his Wife died. I spend lots of weekend with him at his house.It does not bother me that he’s got pictures of his LW all over the house but what I don’t understand is their wedding bouquet and vow still hanging in his bedroom. He constantly talk about his LW when we get together with his friends. Sometimes I wonder if he is over the grief. I asked him many times and he said he is done grieving but I don’t think he is. Confused .

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Hi Cristy- here is the thing about grief, you don’t actually ever get over it! It gets easier, it gets different, and it definitely comes up less often. But when you lose someone who is so important to you, that is with you forever. That is not a problem or unhealthy, it is just a reality of how grief works. Unfortunately there are many myths and misconceptions out there about grief, including the idea that we reach some sort of closure and our grief ends.

      One of the healthy ways we know people cope with grief is through something called “continuing bonds”. Part of continuing bonds is sharing memories and stories about the person we have lost. Though of course I don’t know your boyfriend or anything about his specific situation, many times when people get together with others who knew their loved one it is an important and meaningful time to share stories and memories so that they can feel they are continuing their bond. Research shows us that this is actually healthy and not unhealthy, but it can sometimes make other people uncomfortable with many years of past and someone is still talking about their loved one.

      Personally, I think it important part of dating a widow is keeping in mind that the person will probably always want to continue bonds in someway with their late husband or wife. It is about coming to terms with the reality that that is not a problem, but rather a product of natural and healthy grief.

      All that said, Lake with anything else in a relationship communication is crucial. If there is anything at all that you’re uncimfortable with, it is good to have a discussion about it. I would just encourage you before doing so to learn about grief and understand why he may be doing things he is doing. Many times the things that make others uncomfortable are actually part of normal grief, but as a society we simply don’t know much or understand much about grief so it can look confusing or off putting.

      The fact that you are researching this and taking the time to think about it shows how much you care about him and I am sure he knows that! Wishing you the best!

  19. I’m married to a widower. He was with her for 27 years, they have a son and daughter. We met 3 years after she died. We’ve been together for 13 years and married for 10. We have two children of our own. Lately, I’ve been feeling that I will never be an equal to her. It stems from a discussion we had and I said I’m not like her, and his response was “You certainly are not.” He didn’t elaborate, but it was clear that he didn’t want me to further compare myself to her. I’ve tried to respect his memory and love for her and know that his love for her is still strong. He refers to her as an Angel and apparently she was. As I deal with my insecurities, I want to talk to him about how his response made me feel. I don’t want to talk about her because I fear that he will immediately be on the defense. However, I think I need to. My question is, is grief ever completely gone?If he’s still grieving for her, I don’t want to add my insecurities to it.

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Bebe, I am so sorry you are feeling insecurities. It says about the kind of person and wife you are that you are trying to understand your husband’s grief to best handle the situation! The short answer to your question is no, grief is never completely gone. When a person has been such an important part of our lives and we lose them their impact on us and that loss stays with us in some way forever. It may (and most likely will) change dramatically with time. It may get easier, it may get different, but it is always still there in some ways. Certain triggers will always come up – a song the person loved, their favorite food, those tough days – birthdays and anniversaries.

      Now, all that being said, this doesn’t mean you and your husband shouldn’t communicate. I can’t possibly know what your husband was thinking when he made the comment he made, but in a general we all know that those we love are totally unique and irreplaceable. When we lose someone there is such a deep fear that we will forget them, and the last thing we want to is to think we have replaced them. This doesn’t mean we don’t learn to love new people just as deeply, but we don’t want to think that new love is taking away from the love for the person we lost, or replacing it. It is important to remember that you can be completely and totally different than his late-wife was, but that has nothing to do with how he feels about you and how much he loves you. We love people for who they are, not for reminding us of someone else. And when it comes to grief, in some cases it can be especially important that we don’t feel we are trying to replace someone we have lost with someone else like them.

      I can’t tell you the best way to handle things with your husband, but I think it is important to remember that communicating emotions is such an important part of any relationship. You will never be his late-wife, and that isn’t a bad thing because he loves you for you, not because you are like her. But if you are feeling bad and are not able to resolve it, keeping emotions bottled inside is not ideal.
      I am sorry there are no clear answers. Again, the fact that you are researching how to handle this is a sign that you are thoughtful and caring. He is lucky to have you 🙂

  20. Eleanor, thank you for the response. It’s hard enough dealing will all this, running a house and care for the needs of everyone else. People want us the survivors to be the anchor for you lost loved ones. The glue that keeps the memories alive. Every place I go people want to speak about Susan and grieve. It is an ever daunting task. A role I’m happy to take on. I just when I encountered this situation it makes you rethink am I crazy.

    Your kind words and knowledge truly put me at ease and at peace. God Bless

    Ps my daughter is being raised catholic as per my wife’s dying wish. She love to see the candle lit for mom everyday. So for my Ex sorry the “shrine” as you called it. It’s staying for both of us and for God as well.

  21. I was faced with the same situation this week. I’m a widow of 3 years. My new girlfriend of 3 months confronted me about the pictures of my wife in my home. And the fact that I haven’t cleaned out the closet yet.

    I told her I would be happy to put the things away and remove some of the pictures. I stated that the reason her things are here still is because of my 9 year old daughter. I feel she needs to have pictures and to be close to her mother. I also said I’m saving her personal items for our daughter.

    I was then told that I’m in need of therapy and I shouldn’t use my daughter as an excuse. I was also told I have a codependent relationship with my daughter and again should seek help. This is due to the fact I asked my daughter where she would like to go to dinner before I asked my friend. I reached out to a therapist and was told your grief is fine. You are normal it’s ok. When I told this to my new friend. I was told repeatedly I’m nuts and need help. That there is no way anyone should say I’m ok. Then I came across this post on my first attempt for information and you seem to confirm what I have been told.

    What causes someone to be so hurtful and so disrespectful? The line used to me was “you have a dead persons stuff in your house, it’s gross” ” all me friends say you are holding on to the past”. Don’t we all need our past to grow?

    What can you even say to someone like that? I was truly heartbroken that someone would discount my grief in such a harsh manner. She never once asked me what it’s like to go through this or what was your wife like. I was told call me when you get your life in order and the things are gone. Which includes a really cool convertible I bought my wife when my daughter was born. I was really hoping to save the car for My daughter.

    I plan to box up the “stuff” this week but I will never pick up the phone to call this person. I just don’t think they are worthy of being part of my family.

    Any thoughts would be so helpful

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Oh my gosh, if you didn’t say you were going to already I was going to tell you to run as fast as you can away from this person. She sounds like wicked step-mother material. Maybe not that extreme, but either way NOT the person you want in your and your daughter’s life. I am so sorry you had this experience. I promise you there are women out there who would admire the way you’ve been handling your grief and your daughter’s grief and who would treat the situation with caring and compassion. I am just so sorry you had to experience this first.

      As far as your wife’s stuff, if you feel like boxing it up and saving it for your daughter makes the most sense then I encourage you to do so. Maybe have a discussion with your daughter about how you want to save her mother’s things in a safe place for her for when she is older. Perhaps she would want to help to go through the things, perhaps not.

      This is just a personal opinion, but if I were in your position I would leave the photographs out. It is important for your daughter to feel a connection with her mother and to know that even though she is not physically present she is still a part of your family. This topic is always so interesting to me because for some reason people treat romantic relationships as the one relationship in which they expect the griever to just erase the deceased from their life. If it was a child who died, a sibling, or even a parent – I can’t imagine people would expect you to put the photos away, but because it’s a romantic relationship people expect you to treat the situation as though the person is just someone you broke up with. Just remember, people are very misguided when it comes to grief and they don’t understand that “moving on” and being ready for the next chapter of life has nothing to do with erasing the past. You should honor and celebrate the past and I know you will find someone who fits comfortably into that next chapter.

  22. I was faced with the same situation this week. I’m a widow of 3 years. My new girlfriend of 3 months confronted me about the pictures of my wife in my home. And the fact that I haven’t cleaned out the closet yet.

    I told her I would be happy to put the things away and remove some of the pictures. I stated that the reason her things are here still is because of my 9 year old daughter. I feel she needs to have pictures and to be close to her mother. I also said I’m saving her personal items for our daughter.

    I was then told that I’m in need of therapy and I shouldn’t use my daughter as an excuse. I was also told I have a codependent relationship with my daughter and again should seek help. This is due to the fact I asked my daughter where she would like to go to dinner before I asked my friend. I reached out to a therapist and was told your grief is fine. You are normal it’s ok. When I told this to my new friend. I was told repeatedly I’m nuts and need help. That there is no way anyone should say I’m ok. Then I came across this post on my first attempt for information and you seem to confirm what I have been told.

    What causes someone to be so hurtful and so disrespectful? The line used to me was “you have a dead persons stuff in your house, it’s gross” ” all me friends say you are holding on to the past”. Don’t we all need our past to grow?

    What can you even say to someone like that? I was truly heartbroken that someone would discount my grief in such a harsh manner. She never once asked me what it’s like to go through this or what was your wife like. I was told call me when you get your life in order and the things are gone. Which includes a really cool convertible I bought my wife when my daughter was born. I was really hoping to save the car for daughter.

    I plan to box up the “stuff” this week but I will never pick up the phone to call this person. I just don’t think they are worthy of being part of my family.

    Any thoughts would be so helpful

  23. My situation with the pictures is similar its not easy to compair. I however would like to mention that I really hope he sees how unbelievably selfish, shallow and a lot of other things that add up to a breakup this woman seems to be. Anyway I lost my wife of 18 yrs to overdose and because its a very long completed situation that involved us being abused molested and other things that left us damaged confused seeking comfort in anything that helped all of us have abused drugs very young to hide from our emotional distress. All three confused about our sexual orientation they openly bi and were truly in love since childhood they were each others best friend protectors I at about puberty started recalling being molested and thought or drempt about getting touched and I as hard is it is for me to say didn’t hate it which made me think I must be gay unfortunately in the rual area we are from that is about as bad as it gets it made me feel like I should do everyone a favor and die. Things have changed a little here bi girls is fairly common and my girls were openly bi and together. I’m proud of them I have never explored that part of me except with Lydia and heather. Anyway there is enuf to be confused. Lol we lost lyd jan30 12 to accidental overdose we think but who can say for sure.if u lost someone to of u know what I mean. Nothing makes sense and everything is in continual confusion I went thru a stage where I thought I forgot what here voice sounded like and I freaked out and printed a lot of pictures of lyd and I and had them all over the house I didn’t print any of heather which was wrong but at the time I thought she would feel the same because she loved her too well after awhile Heather as kindly as possible said she liked the pics however we should hang some of the three of us and to make up for it I took her out and had a photographer take a bunch of photos of us cause somehow while we were all together for near 16 years it wasn’t public knowledge heather was married and had children that we didn’t want to upset in the end her kids could tell the three of us were closer than we let on. Of course kids these days are far more open sexualy than I wish they were. I love her kids as if they were mine. Hesther and I spiraled further and further out of control spent 3 yrs heroin addicts I found her Feb 3 15 my world is shattered I did more heroin than ever trying to join them without doing it totally on purpose. I just couldn’t flat out kill myself so since I couldn’t fall to sleep forever I decided again i am ment for something i have to do. I have been a good listener and am pretty good at helping others even though i dont care for myself and am so alone,affraid, confused, drsperate for anything to make me feel better or something. I have went to every grief class therapy session or anything that may help but nothing has helped im so so happy to have came accross this site it is the first thing on loosing someone to overdose that sounded good in these last years. I’ll make an attempt to tell this story in better order and with anything that could be confused as knowledge included to hopefully help someone out a little. I’m gonna be 40 this year and most of my life since I became sexually active its safe to say I among the other addictions also am a sex addict so were both girls I always had someone on call for lack of a better term. I felt terrible for ever and eventually Lydia and I confessed every little secret and we were so alike we were okay with it and got even closer. Heather didn’t wanna share us and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing her for the first time I’m alone and the thought of starting a relationship totally exhaust’s me and I honestly don’t picture myself with anyone again.the idea of even a one night stand does not interest me. Honestly I haven’t even masturbated. It is getting concerning once I find the answers I need maybe things will change but for now I’m not looking and even hiding for the most part
    Something that made me feel different today is reading all the stories about parents and spouces who lost to overdose. I really feel for those who are looking for answers why this person did this to you or themselves or both. I am lost confused and desperately seeking clarification but as an addict myself I can say I don’t know why we didn’t stop for anything or anyone not even ourselves
    I have been asked by anyone and everyone who cared and felt wrong by us. We really have no answer except I can tell u short of molesting us you as our enablers and victims are not to blame and that’s one of the things we know for sure. We never wanted to hurt anyone we were just trying to save ourselves from something we couldn’t touch catch understand or overcome. I can at this time only see myself healing by helping others heal then maybe I really hope I can manage this guilt confusion sadness and every emotion u touch on here on this site. I finally don’t feel totally alone.

  24. I left a long comment/question in the ‘Grief Makes you crazy’ post. Realizing it may have been better suited here, apologies if I put it in the wrong place, was desperate to get it out! Feel free to move it, etc. as appropriate.

  25. My husband died suddenly 3 months ago. Is it normal to keep yourself so busy at work and at home that you do not have time to think?

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Hi Susan. I am so sorry about your husband. This reaction can be very common, but it is important to be aware that it can become problematic if it turns into avoidance over the long-term. Avoiding things can be an important coping mechanism, because sometimes thinking about things too much and deeply feeling emotions can make it hard to deal with the practicalities of daily life. But ultimately we have to face our grief eventually, or it can create problems in the long term. We have a post about this that you may want to check out. http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/self-care-and-keeping-busy/.

  26. The photo of a lost loved one displayed is natural and okey…in the case of moving on to finding another love, respectfully if one chooses to move on and open his heart to allowing a space to be filled with new love, then choices will have to be made. Keep beautiful memories of your lost love in your heart and do not make a new love feel intimidated by your past. Only a strong and affirmative decision to move on requires changes to be made. If not do not selfishly lead another heart along. As for the new love..do not expect or ask for the photo to be removed. If you belong with this person, completely and honestly, the decision to remove the photo will come naturally from your partner and you would know you are in a geniune and progressive relationship..if not do not commit or have any expectations. You do not have to live in another’s shadow..it’s not pain but compassion that you have to feel. You are there to love not to live a painful journey.

  27. What about the ‘types’ of pictures that are left hanging? My widower boyfriend was happily married for 40 years. I too am a widow, so I do understand the need for pictures and blending them into what we have now. But I am questioning ‘romantic type’ pictures of he and his late wife alone that are still scattered throughout the house. I can see having many family pictures with them and their children, but those of just the two of them alone is what I am dealing with now. We have been together 2 years, and there are still portraits in full view of them alone, and a few other ones of them alone scattered throughout the house as well. Would like your thoughts on this. Thank you

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Hey Marianne,

      That’s a good question. I’m not 100% sure what the pictures depict and I don’t want to assume – by your description it sounds like photos of them as a couple perhaps embracing? I guess my question would be, what do these photos represent to him and what do they represent to you? There is a difference between holding onto photos because your pining for a love that is gone and holding on to them because they represent a part of the past that the family still remembers with love and affection.

      It’s hard for us to really comment because we don’t know either of you but if your concerned about the ‘why’s’ I think the best thing you can do is be honest and ask (tactfully). As you may know, a lot of people just don’t know what they’re supposed to do after a death and they are worried about following ‘normal protocol’. There may be many reasons why he hasn’t taken them down – perhaps he hasn’t taken any photos down, perhaps he’s worried what his kids will say, perhaps he just never realized they would bother you; you don’t want to assume the worst if it’s not the case.

      Either way, you know your situation better than anyone. What does your gut tell you about the photos? Do they seem harmless or do they seem like a symptom of something bigger? And if they really are no more than old photographs, can you live with them?

      Eleanor

      • One picture is a large one of them holding one another close together, and a few of the others are of them kissing. I have mixed emotions about him having them out in full view as we are now a couple. I also have been staying at his house on weekends for the most part, so having them out in full view does trigger emotions within me. He does know how seeing them stirs emotions within me, but he hasn’t removed them yet, and I am not asking him to, as we do not live together and they are in his house. I would like to see him remove them on his own when he feels ready to, but it’s the fact that he knows some of them bother me and he is not doing anything about it. I just feel that out of respect for us as a couple, it would perhaps help us move on in a healthy way if those types of pictures are put somewhere out of view. I do feel the main reason is that he keeps them up for his children & grandchildren, who do visit often. I try to look at it this way. We have a good relationship otherwise, and I do see continued progress with him. Any one else have a similar situation such as this, or any other thoughts to share?

  28. Every paragraph of your response to this question is so spot on. I can’t wait for more posts in this series, even if it means you have to answer questions sent to other columns. 🙂

  29. I can see why this might make someone feel insecure, but sometimes I think people who have experienced a great relationship are the ones who are equipped to enter another relationship. I believe you can experience grief over a loss while still experiencing joy in a new relationships. It’s all a continuum.

  30. Dear Greifusion,
    Last month some friends of ours lost their young adult son to suicide. It was very sudden, he had just spoken with his dad the night before and things seemed to be going well. No one saw it coming. All of the typical things you say when someone dies suddenly didn’t seem to apply or seemed hollow. I wanted to send them a card but what do you write? What is your advice for being a support in this very difficult situation.

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