My wife died and my family disapproves of my new partner

Tell Me About It: My partner does not understand why we do not go out to meet family or have them over to visit

Many people do not understand the loss of a husband or wife

Many people do not understand the loss of a husband or wife

 

My wife was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live. I found it very difficult to cope with the shocking news.

I am struggling to come to terms with the loss of my best friend. I am living in a nightmare every minute, day and night. I never stop thinking of her. Its difficult sleeping at night. I have met men and women who have lost their partners and they too find it difficult to cope with their loss.

Many people do not understand the loss of a husband or wife. My home is empty, long evenings, long winter days and nights, it’s very lonely. No more Christmas or birthday presents to give or receive. No one to talk to. 

Recently, I met a wonderful lady to share holidays, evenings out, walks and above all a good laugh. My family disapproves of my partner, so do my in-laws. My partner does not understand why we do not go out to meet family or have them over to visit.

I meet up with my family outside my home. My sister-in-law made life difficult for me during my wife’s illness and after her passing. It’s very sad as we got on well but that’s all gone.

I helped set members of my family up in business – people have short memories, they forget what I did for them.  I feel rejected. I am not looking for anything in return just to be respected and to be accepted by both families. I find it hard to cope and get into bad form at times thinking of the loss of family, it’s difficult to concentrate with everyday things. I thank God I have good friends but feel like moving away to another country to start a new life.

ANSWER

You are suffering an enormous loss: your wife and best friend, your relationship with your own family and the respect and connection with your wife’s family.  Perhaps some sessions with a bereavement counsellor would help at this time as it appears you are stuck; you cannot let go and cannot move on with your new partner. 

It seems that you are angry at your wife dying (this is a normal part of the grieving process) and are resentful of the lack of empathy and understanding from your extended family and that your family home seems abandoned.  However, your family and your wife’s family are also struggling with grief and anger and are perhaps resentful that you seem to be functioning well and have replaced your wife, the person they loved and lost.  You will need to be patient with your own family as it will take them time to see that your new partner is not a substitute but someone with whom you can take the edge off the loneliness and with whom you can feel alive again.

Your family take direction from you in terms of your new relationship.  Your fear and guilt is setting the direction for everyone’s reaction.  There is a belief system that we should grieve for years and the measure of our love for the deceased person is in how long we appear to suffer.  This needs to be questioned as all of us would not want our loved ones to suffer for long should we depart this world and we would not see endless grief as a measure of love – in fact love means that we want the best for the other person. 

If you have been lucky enough to love well, you will be in a good position to attract this again in your life and perhaps you should now take your courage in your hands and declare this to those around you. Of course, you cannot be responsible for other’s actions – such as your sister-in-law – but a compassionate and steady response from you will keep the door open to connection if she becomes open to it.

 In expressing your honesty, both about the aching loss and in the growing hope for new relationship, you are assisting everyone who is affected by grief to move forward with their lives. There is no end to the demands of living and as long as we are alive, there is possibility and challenge.  Your challenge is to bring your partner out of the shadows of your life while being sensitive to the rawness of your family’s loss. 

This situation will take time to resolve, but you can direct the ultimate outcome by not succumbing to resentment (as the others are doing) but demonstrate the complexity of loss by giving voice to both the grief and the hope.  Your partner will need you to assist her with understanding the depth of the loss for your family as this will allow her to make allowances and practise patience in the choppy times ahead. You and she can be steady in your knowledge that this is a good relationship and this will allow you both to keep the possibility of contact open even when in receipt of barbs and accusations.

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