The death of a loved one can feel impossible to completely grieve. How does one manage the balance of remembering but also letting yourself move on. It can be a herculean task.
A Reddit user asked widows and widowers who had remarried whether, if given the choice, they would go back to their spouse who had passed away. What was revealed was both heartbreaking and uplifting.
You can see more answers from the source on the last page of this article.
I have an American friend, let’s call him B.
B was married to a Thai woman some 10 odd years, spoke fluent Thai, and one day she became sick, and her family came to get her and she disappeared. He spent three years trying to find his wife and track down her family, even hiring a private investigator. They found nothing.
Now at this point, he had arrived at the assumption that she was dead, and through a set of extenuating circumstances he had gotten involved with a pre-op Cambodian trans-woman.
They dated for about a year and had moved in together when out of the blue his wife showed up.
He deliberated for days before coming to the conclusion that he couldn’t choose, and told them as much, and stated his intention to have both of them in his life.
The Cambodian woman agreed to this proposal, as did his wife, but it never really sat well with her.
A month or two later I saw him again, and he looked so much older. His wife had attacked him, and he barely got out with his life.
Last I heard was that he was quite happy with the Cambodian woman.
My dad died when he was 45 from a heart attack. My mom was 42. My mom started dating about two years after his death.
Before she died at 56 years old, 14 years after my dad died, she said if he were to come back she would choose him in a heartbeat. She even had dreams of him walking through the door all those years later. No one in her eyes measured up to him.
My great grandma faced an issue. My great grandfather was “missing: presumed dead” in World War 1. They held a memorial for him, then she met and started dating someone else.
In 1919, he just wanders back in at the back door of the house (with a withered left arm and a wound stripe).
Great grandma split up with the new guy and carried on with my great grandfather, who ended up dying of appendicitis during the second world war.
My fiance died at 22. If he were to come back now, several decades later, I think we’d be strangers to each other. I am a very different person now. If he turned out like his siblings, I wouldn’t even want a relationship with him, honestly.
More answers on the next page.
I was with my late husband a total of two years before he died 8 years ago. It’s getting harder and harder to remember exactly who he was.
If you had asked me 8 years ago or 6 years ago, the choice would have been obvious. I remember after he’d been gone for 6 months, that if he walked through the door and told me it had all been a joke, that I would have forgiven him completely.
But now, I have a new husband and a baby. The baby both complicates things and makes it easier–I’d stay in my new marriage (married 3.5 years now) with my baby.
Without the baby, it would be a hard decision because I’ve got this saint who’s been a perfect dead spouse for 8 years competing with a man who is living and flawed. My loves for them are completely different. But even thinking about it makes my heart heavy. It’s easy to hypothesize, but could I really look into his eyes and say no? Could I look at my current husband and leave him? I’m very glad I’ll never have to make the choice.
I’d do anything to bring her back. I’d gouge out both of my own eyes just to be able to catch her smell and feel the way she would run her stupid fake nails on my head. She was absolutely the most beautiful person I have ever met. I used to get chills just knowing she was mine. She died from ovarian cancer and as it was happening I literally prayed that I would get cancer too. I thought the world would end when she left, and in a lot of ways, my world did end. I loved her so much. It hasn’t been long enough for me to become another person. My current gf is a shrink and I know she can tell how distant I am, even after two years together. But I can’t change the fact that every memory worth saving was with her. My hometown feels like a memorial to a war I lost because her and I walked every inch of it together.
Not me, but my mom.My dad died when I was 8. My mom remarried about five years later, and has now been married to my step-dad almost as long as she was married to my dad. A few days after Gene Wilder died, she wrote this (edited for clarity and to remove some identifying details):
I keep seeing posts about Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner in the wake of Gene’s passing. I lost my first husband, A, to the side effects of cancer treatment. I was 36, he was 43. I loved him with every fiber of my being. And I grieved. Very hard. I thought my life was truly over. I was wrong. There are moments to this day that A comes to my mind and I have to grieve through something else. The famous “firsts.” It is no longer, though, the debilitating grief from the first (many) years. It is quieter and I am much more private about it. It is part of me. That being said, he is my past. M is my present and future. I love M, not as a satisfactory replacement (what a horrific thought), but because of who and what he is. He is perfect for me, the me that I am NOW. If I die before M, the thought of anyone saying “oh she is finally with A now” breaks my heart. The truth is, the widowed heal and rebuild. Some take longer than others, but we are designed to heal whether one remarries or not. So back to Gene Wilder. He remarried in 1991. Gene made it clear through the years how very much he loved Karen. And, hopefully, the woman who was his wife for 25 years and cared for him through his decline into Alzheimer’s, has her computer and television turned off right now.
My dad’s friend happily married had kids but wife dies fairly young. The kids are fairly young so he decided to raise the kids by himself. Years go by and he manages well kids grow up turn out smart and get married. He never married anyone for the shear love he had for his wife. However at age 50, he realizes that life gets lonely after the kids are all grown up and getting married so he married a widow and they are happy. They both have infinite love for their previous SOs but they are happy with each other as well.
I guess, it’s really a matter of whether or not it works as well as it did before.
More answers on the next page.
I asked my dad this in my early teens (I was less tactful back then). My mum died of cancer when I was four and he then married my step mum 2 years later. He said that he had kept himself up at night, but came to the conclusion that he is the luckiest man he knows because he found two women he would happily spend the rest of his life with and many people don’t even find one. My dad is a hero to be honest.
My late wife died about 18 months ago. I am currently engaged to be married. My late wife and my fiance have some stark differences. My late wife was 5 years older then me. My SO is 6 years younger than me. My current SO feels like is more in tune with me but my late wife was more stable emotionally. My late wife and I had more in common but my current SO is more interested sharing in our differences.
But, there is one thing that would tip the scale no matter what, if my late wife came back with my late daughter, I would unquestionably go back to them.
Lost the love of my life after 13 years together, married for 3. I haven’t remarried and probably never will, but I’ve been in two relationships after him and I would still choose him over anyone, anytime. Back when we were together, I couldn’t imagine life without him, and now that I know what that life is like, I’m glad I never could.
My late wife was absolutely perfect for me. So is my current wife. I’m also a very different person than a long time ago–my late wife would have liked me even more now but I don’t know that I would have changed for the better if I hadn’t met my current wife.
What I’ve determined is I can’t dwell on the past because that way lies depression and I’ve had enough of that.
More answers on the next page.
I haven’t been married, but I’ve suffered a loss of the love of my life. I would choose the one that died. Everything else past her has been dull and grey.
Boyfriend died about a year and a half ago at 18. Would I take him back if he were to come back right now? Absolutely, no hesitation. In 30 years? I don’t know. We might have ended up growing into two completely different people and it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. I like to think it would, but that’s just my morbid wishful thinking.
I really miss you Brandon. Hope you’re doing ok wherever you are.
One of my close friends loved his girlfriend like crazy. So much that he would buy her her favorite ice cream even if it was pouring rain outside, just to see her smile when she got home and opened the fridge.
Anyways, when she got diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, he thought to himself. Yes, she can beat it. If anyone should, it was her, because she was nice and kind, and no one like her could deserve to die. So she fought, and fought. And when she lost her hair and was so weak she couldn’t even speak, he sat with her and told her jokes. He made plans with her to go on fantastic trips around the world. I even lent him some of my travel guides so he could describe the places they were going to see together.
Well, she passed. And, he was so broken. It was awful. I would walk with him down to the market, and when he saw her favorite ice cream, he would just break down and start crying. He started purposely going the long way around familiar places, because everytime he passed somewhere where he remembered a memory of something he could feel his heart tearing into two.
Years later, after we fell out of touch, I called him one afternoon just to catch up. We were soon cracking jokes like old friends again and I could hear in his voice that he seemed to have moved on. Or so I thought… Although he hesitated, he started sharing that he was doing something he knew sounded odd. He woke up every morning and started just talking to her as if she was with him. Just telling her about what he was going to do today, and saying how much he missed her… I asked him if he went to see someone about his feelings at all and he told me no, but he was dating someone and it was going okay.
If she came back, just even for a little bit, I know he would choose her in a heartbeat over anyone else.
More answers on the next page.
Not remarried but dating someone now.
The love of my life committed suicide and no one will ever compare. He was my best friend, my partner. He taught me what love should be. Healthy love. He made me feel like everything I dreamed of could happen. We had the same views. The same passions. The same goals. It literally felt like the other half of my soul. He got me in a way that no one ever could. He was supportive and romantic. He would run me bubblebaths. Write me notes or love letters. He was the sensitive type but at the same time really masculine. He was EXACTLY what I had always dreamed of.
I recently got back together with my ex. Which is probably dumb of me. I mean he has grown a lot and wouldn’t be a bad person to settle for. But that’s just it. I’m settling and feel like no matter who I was with, it will never be who I want. I’m constantly comparing the two and I know that’s unfair but the loneliness drove me to where I am. I guess the way I see it is if I can’t have the person I want, I’ll settle for the person I know.
Maybe in a few years I’ll find someone else or learn to fall in love with the person I’m with. I’m hopeful but you don’t get lucky twice.
I waited a long time to start dating again. I was in therapy. I was and still am working on myself. I gave myself time to grieve. It wasn’t like I immediately jumped back with him. I tried dating/talking to other people but when it got to the point of bringing up my boyfriend people always got weird or down right rude about it. My ex and I were friends at first and he helped me through it. He let me cry and scream. He knew when I wanted to talk about it and when I didn’t. He was the ONLY person who didn’t make me feel like I had to shove it in a box and pretend like it wasn’t something that happened. He just saw it as something he would have to learn to love about me. And I do love him. I love him very deeply. I never meant to imply that I don’t. He’s my best friend. He lets me be me and loves all the broken pieces. I make sure too NEVER make him feel inferior to my boyfriend. I do not take him for granted like I did before. I appreciate everything he does for me and the love he has for me. I’m invested in the relationship and act accordingly. He’s a good guy and I know that.
My issue comes from the fact that he is not my previous boyfriend. I feel like I’ll never love like that again and honestly attempting to date with baggage like that was awful. Being with him started because I didn’t want to be alone but I don’t stay with him because I’m afraid to be alone again. If we broke up I know eventually I would be okay. I’m with him because I do love him. He just doesn’t fulfill every need that I have and NO ONE ever would. That is something I accept. That is my own issue not his and I work on that every day.
I wasn’t married but might as well have been. We were together for 6 years and wanted marriage, just too young and waiting til we were ready for it. Then she was in a car accident. 4 years have passed, I’ve since had a couple relationships, more loves, and my life is generally happy, but nothing compares to her. If she were to come back right now, I’d choose her in a heartbeat.
In my early 20s, I was in a serious relationship, but trying to leave when he committed suicide. He struggled with depression, addiction and substance abuse and also he was manipulative, a compulsive liar and mentally abusive. I wanted to leave him, move out and start a new life.
Today, I have a wonderful husband, a happy home with our son and there is no metal illness, substance abuse, or mental abuse.
More answers on the next page.
My dad died and left my mum behind at age 40 something. She’s currently with one of his work friends after their relationship grew out of the grieving. I’m happy for her. She’s happy. But she would choose my dad every time. I feel for the guy because she’s still grieving 3 years later. All her fb posts are about him and remembering him and photos of him. I assume he’s understanding, but I still feel for him.
My first wife and I were married for 16 years and we had 5 children when she died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42. About eight months later a close friend asked if I ever thought about remarrying. I replied, “I’m a 41 year old widower with 5 kids, who’s gonna have me?” She asked me to keep an open mind. A month later I met this woman through a mutual friend. She blew me off. Then, she met my kids, fell in love with them, I got a second look and we were married 4 months later. She had always wanted to be a Mom but was unable to have children. One of the greatest parts of this ordeal is how welcoming my first wife’s family has been of my second wife. Very soon it will be 20 years for my second wife and I.
I met the love of my life in college and together we moved across the country, started careers, got married, bought a house and were trying to start a family when she was diagnosed as terminal with late stage cancer. Six months later I lost her, after being together (dating/marriage) for 16 years.
I was in my mid 30s. Not exactly the age where you plan to sit on a park bench and feed pigeons, but that’s how I felt. My friends were very supporting and kept me active, trying to bring back the spark that had died, not understanding that the spark came from her.
I even dated. It was awkward and there were some uncomfortable times like how I had to explain being single and never being divorced but having a house set up for a family. And that one really nice woman who was looking through some of my photos with me when we came across a photo of my late wife’s grave marker and there was my name next to hers (She knew I was a widower and the photo was sent to me by my wife’s sister to show me some flowers her kids had placed).
So as I was giving up on all of my life goals (loving partner, kids playing in the yard, travel, joy etc.) I met this very grounded woman who was witty, intelligent, beautiful and very compassionate. She could look at me and make me feel at ease. She could cry and make me feel like I was what made her feel better.
Today we’ve been married 14 years. We’ve adopted an awesome little boy who plays in our yard with all the neighbor kids. We’ve traveled a good portion of the world together and there is abundant joy in my life.
So if magically, out of a fairy tale, my first wife, my first true love, walked into the world right now? She’d be smiling to see that I’m happy, that a little boy is laughing and playing in her yard and that we have a wonderful life. She wouldn’t want any of that to change because that’s all she ever wanted for us.
And I don’t believe in magic or fairy tales.