Burial Issues Confront Widows in New Relationships

Q. I am happily remarried after six years as a widow. My first husband is buried in a family plot I purchased when he died. My own plot is right next to his. The graves of my parents and other relatives are in the same cemetery. However, my second husband talks about me being buried with him in another state, close to his children. How can I handle this without hurting him? I love him dearly. But I have my own children to consider, and my wish is to be with my whole family.

Widows can face similar issues whether they're remarried or in a monogamous relationship without a piece of paper. And there are no simple answers. Individual circumstances can be dizzying in their complexity these days because we're living longer and divorce is so common. Three mates (or more) in the span of a lifetime are not so unusual, and it can require a scorecard to keep them and their progeny straight. There also may be questions of geography, conflicting family concerns or other considerations. For example, one widow had a much happier life with her significant other than with her late husband. She prearranged to be interred with the former, which enraged her two grown daughters. They wanted both their parents together in the same cemetery.

My own unscientific research -- statistics are not available -- suggests that widows and widowers usually rest beside a first spouse. Yet there are instances where a second husband or wife is nearby in an adjoining plot. A wife may even lie between two husbands, which is one answer when a first spouse died young, and a second marriage is the much longer relationship.

"I'll be in a drawer in Paramus next to my first husband, who wanted cremation," says a friend of mine. She would have arranged for space for her deceased second spouse in the same mausoleum. However, his children rejected the idea, insisting on another location. There is no one "right answer" to such dilemmas. It's a matter of "right for whom?"

It's a good idea to have an honest conversation with a partner about your respective wishes. But it sounds like you've avoided such a talk, which is understandable. Most of us find it daunting to discuss death and the details surrounding it. Perhaps meeting together with an understanding minister can help. He or she is familiar with the thorny issues you and your husband face, and can be objective.

***

If you have a question for Florence, please email her at fisaacs@florenceisaacs.com.

Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest SympathiesWhen the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, San Francisco National Cemetery

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