(Flickr Creative Commons | Reviving Memories)
Q. In my bedroom I display an 8x10 photo of my late husband at his best. Smaller photos that include him (shots of happy family events and our many trips) are scattered throughout the house. Sometimes I wonder if I'm overdoing it. How do other widows deal with photos, and what do they do with them if they meet a new man?
In my experience, it varies. Personally, I keep my late husband's photos around as a comfort. It calms me to see his smiling face, smoking a big cigar (one of his trademarks), with a twinkle in his eyes. Occasionally, I even "talk" to the photos, especially when I'm faced with a dilemma and think, "What would you do (or say) about ---." I also want the photos on display for my young grandchildren. (My husband died before they were born.) When they visit, they often look at the photos and I reminisce about old times. I want them to know all about him. The pictures also trigger memories for my sons.
However, I think a new man in one's life makes a difference. People want to feel they're No. 1 to a partner. Who wants to face pictures of a predecessor and compete with him? One widow, who remarried years after her first husband died, put away some photos of her late spouse, and gave the rest to her children. The latter keep albums and framed pictures of their father in their own homes. It's different when her new husband sees the photos there. He has his own children and understands the man in the picture is their dad.
In your place, I'd do what makes me feel comfortable, unless family/friends say you're keeping "a shrine," and worry that you aren't getting on with your life. But if or when you start a relationship with another man, you may want to reassess the photo situation. Just as it's smart to avoid constant mention of your late spouse when dating someone else, you don't want to line your bedroom with his pictures either. Nobody wants to feel the memory of a dead mate (yours or his) is always lurking in the background. Communication with a new partner and common sense should rule. There's certainly room here for accommodation. How would you feel about his late wife's picture staring at you?
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.