Have you heard that Patton Oswalt is engaged? Widowed fifteen months, he has found love again and plans to remarry. The media is aflutter with a bevy of congratulations and support along with criticism that he did not grieve long enough. How do you judge, or should you even judge, how long a bereaved spouse should grieve? Is one year satisfactory? Eighteen months? Or will only several years be acceptable? Is it not permissible for a bereaved spouse to continue living their life and find happiness again?

My mother had a strong opinion on this topic. Widowed twice by the age of forty-six, she once told me that it was a compliment to the deceased spouse when their bereaved spouse chose to re-marry. She felt it demonstrated that they had a good marriage; they miss the love and companionship of a partner and want to feel the joy of the marital experience once more.

While I agree with my mom in theory, it can be hard for family members and friends who are still grieving to face a surviving spouse’s effort to move on when their own grief is still fresh and preventing them to do so.

There are factors to keep in mind when a bereaved spouse begins dating. One widow shared that her husband told her daughters in his final days to be supportive of their mother as he did not want her life to end with his. Her daughters were then prepared and understanding when she met someone at a college reunion and eventually remarried.

If the deceased was terminally ill, it is possible the spouse did their grieving over the course of the illness and death might even be a relief. And during a marriage, couples may have discussed their wishes should their spouse survive them. Keep in mind a bereaved spouse may not be prepared to live a life alone. They might seek a partner, not only for companionship, but to help in handling the myriad of life’s responsibilities.

Is it fair to consign the bereaved to a life of sorrow? Whether you are pleased or uncomfortable with the news of a remarriage, the kindest thing to do is to wish the couple well. 

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store

Photo: Gage Skidmore Patton

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Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 20, 2017 at 9:39am

Thanks for sharing your story Michael. I'm gad you found happiness again.

Comment by Michael Smith on July 20, 2017 at 9:31am

Wow. I was just thinking about trying to put my story into words. I am a bereaved spouse that has remarried. I dislike the move on and usually say continue living. My wife Melanie fought colon cancer for 2.5 years before she went to heaven. I had no idea how to survive without her. We have three boys who were 22,18 and 12 at the time of her passing. I struggled with most everything. Her best friend started to call and check on me. In the beginning i received calls from a lot of people but as most who have lost know at some point people stop calling. Well she continued to call and we learned we had more in common than we ever thought. I asked my boy's if they had a problem dating and they all said no, you deserve to be happy. We started dating and fell madly in love with each other. I asked her to marry me and she said Yes. the announcement came with mixed reactions. my older boy's didn't think it had been long enough and that I was disrespecting their mother. Melanie's family was almost too happy for me.  My mother said it was to quick but has came around since then. We got married eleven months after Melanie passed. Some may say it was to fast but it felt right for us.

Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 20, 2017 at 9:25am

Sara, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Comment by Sara Murphy on July 20, 2017 at 9:04am

I have to admit, I don't understand it.  I lost my husband 18 months ago and I can't imagine EVER, EVER starting another relationship.   Just the thought of it makes me sick.  That being said, I'm always happy for other widows/widowers who do find love again.  I think it's great for them, it's just not for me.

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