When marrying someone who has lost a spouse to death, it is often difficult to deal with the grief that still exists in that persons mind. That grief for the dead is often complicated by others that love the person in many different ways. Widowers often find themselves torn by the allegiances they forged in the past with adult children and a new spouse or love interest.
Stan Winters was 57 years old when his wife Karen passed away from Lupus two years ago.
Now at 59 he has found a new lease on life; a love that will make him happy.
Only thing is, his adult kids, all moved far away and with lives of their own, feel differently.
"They think I am betraying Karen," he said sadly during a recent interview. "They don't seem to understand."
Winters (not his real name) was married to Karen for 36 years. During the last 20 years the Lupus she had took her from a viable, physically active woman to a person who needed care almost around the clock. In the last few years she seldom went anywhere, except for a couple of visits with her kids on the east coast. Winters was tied to caring for her and at the same time his professional career was in flux; a company he had worked for for years downsized, he bounced around trying to find a fit with other companies at much less money.
"I even worked at Home Depot for awhile," he said, piggybacking on his substantial wood working hobby abilities. "I loved that job, but just couldn't make enough money doing it."
Then came a job with a financial institution he liked about four years ago. He was making progress with them and loving every minute of it. But each day Karen got worse.
Then one day he came home and there she was laying by the bed nearly unconcious, in convulsions. He called the paramedics, but she was nearly gone by the time they got there.
Suddenly for the first time in almost four decades he was without the woman he had been in love with since their high school days. Eventually he found work taking a lot of his time and then he started to visit with old friends from school days he hadn't seen in years. He began the long healing process known as grief.
Church, too, played a big role in his life. And it was partly through church that he met Charlotte, a woman just a bit younger than he who had lost her husband many years ago.
One of the first things they began to talk about when things got serious between them was who would move where. Stan, a Utah native, had only ever lived outside the state in one place, Canada. He had served a mission for his church there in the early 1970's. She lived in Georgia, owned a business and owned a home. Finally they decided that the long distance thing was getting old and presently she is in the process of selling both her home and business to move to Utah. Their marriage will take place sometime in September, they are not sure yet what day. There will be no large reception or party, just a dinner the night before they get married.
"I guess we will have dinner with what family shows up," said Winters sadly. "Then we will get married and be off on our honeymoon."
It bothers him that the kids are so negative; they have not even met Charlotte. The reason they don't want him getting married is unclear. They state that he is dishonoring the memory of their mother. But could it be more than that? Could it be emotional feelings about giving dad up? Could it be that they can't stand the thought of another woman living in their parents house? Could it be they fear financial repercussions when their dad's life ends?
The question many who stand outside the situation ask is, if it what makes their dad happy, why shouldn't he get married?
Second marriages after a death are often a perplexing problem for the families involved, on both sides. There are a lot of opinions on this subject. All one has to do is to look on the Internet and put in "widowers with adult children" and horrific stories of battles between grown children and their "stepmoms" will emerge. It is a common problem It is not unusual for a family to not want their father to marry another woman once their mother is gone.
But while some of us might vi lify children that don't want their fathers to remarry, if one looks at the situation it is easy to understand, especially in today's litiginous environment.
Children, first of all, are usually protective of their father, especially since they may have cared for him since he became a widower. They may not feel comfortable with somone else taking over their role.
There is also the threat of a person taking over for the deceased parent, or taking on their role. And for some kids it is hard for their kids to think of their father being sexually active with another person, especially if the person is somewhat younger than he. While they may be 30 years old and having physical relations with someone 18 might seem way out of wack, they forget that their 60 year old father who is dating a 48 year old woman is not facing the same thing. As people get older the differences between age, within a certain realm, expands.
Kids need to remember too that the choice of a mate is really solely that of the parent; but he will also be influenced by children's thoughts on the matter and certainly their actions toward the situation. Adult children should be aware that the more accepting they are of the change, the easier it will be to deal with the problems that come about no matter how good relations are. Regardless of children's judgements, they can help the situation by being welcoming and looking to establish new parameters within their relationship with their father.
Of course financial considerations should always merit attention, but adult children should try to think of things differently. While a father might have quite an estate to contribute should he die, it should be up to him as to what he wants to do with it. He can do that through a will or a pre-nuputual agreement. Don't be surprised that he feels he owes the new woman in his life through either of those instruments. After all, he is planning on marrying or has married her.
Probably the biggest thing to do is to let the small disagreements and differences with dads new partner fall by the wayside. Everyone does that in almost all other relationships. We know our brothers, sisters, kids and spouses faults, yet we still love them. Why can't we do the same thing for a person who has come into the life of someone we love, that they love?
For adult children there are some things they can do, regardless of whether they are in favor of the marriage or not.
*They need to put themselves in their parent's shoes and consider how difficult it is to be caught between kids the love and a new person they care about. They also need to think about the loniness their father must feel without someone in his life.
*A widowed parent has the right to chose who he wants to be with because he is after all, an adult.
*Never force an either/or decision on things. Both the new person and the child(ren) are important to the parent. Don't make them choose. They will only resent it.
*When mad about something stay away from issues of inheritance and possessions. It seems to be one of the things angry children move right to to argue their point because possessions are concrete and can be held.
*If a father loves his children, that will not be lost in a new relationship unless kids make it so. Communication about problems means that the dialogue is honest and that not everyone has to agree on everything to make things work well in a family. Adult children should find happiness in the fact their father has found someone who makes him happy. Maturity and selflessness are important here.
Stan and Charlotte obviously have a lot of work to do in convincing his children that she is not taking him away from them or replacing their mother. She cannot make that very clear to them because of the possible trust issues involved. He, however, needs to make sure that he communicates his love for his kids and that they will always be part of his life, no matter what their age or the circumstances.
(Some of the ideas for this article came from Gloria Lintermans' book The Healing Power of Love).
Books to read
*Making Adult Stepfamilies Work: Strategies for the Whole Family When a Parent Marries Later in Life by Jean Lipman-Blumen and Grace Gabe (Paperback - Jul 28, 2005)
*When Your Parent Remarries Late in Life: Making Peace With Your Adult Stepfamily by Terri Smith and Robert Stahmann (Paperback - Jun 2007)
*Step Wars: Overcoming the Perils and Making Peace in Adult Stepfamilies by Grace Gabe and Jean Lipman-Blumen (Hardcover - April 1, 2004)
*Adult Children of Divorce: How to Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy Love, Trust, and Intimacy by Jeffrey Zimmerman and Elizabeth S. Thayer (Paperback - Nov 2003)
*Becoming an Adult Stepchild: Adjusting to a Parent's New Marriage by Pearl Ketover Prilik (Hardcover - Jan 1998).