Why don't people like widows

The lucky widower

My friend smiles: “I have a girlfriend and I'm really happy.” His wife died six months ago and I just asked sympathetically how he was doing. Our last contact had been the condolence card I had sent him after the news of his death from vacation. It had been pretty difficult to find a memorial card there. Now I'm almost a little offended. "I drive all over the island for hours to find a map with a black border, and now the guy is already back in seventh heaven ..." I think, but don't say it. "Congratulations, I'm happy for you," I reply instead, albeit a little bumpy. Fortunately, he does not notice it, because he is already in the process of describing the advantages of his new partner, who, like him, is widowed and whom he got to know through a partner search portal for widowed people.

Since my job is teaching pastoral care, I am interested in both his fate and my reaction. Because for a small, bumpy moment I had the feeling that this new love happiness not heard. Can he comfort himself so quickly over the loss of his wife? Can't he wait at least a year before falling in love again? My reaction, which is not exactly empathetic, shows how deep-seated societal ideas about appropriate mourning times are. The classic year of mourning is certainly also a protection for those affected. The social environment accepts that a person needs time to deal with the loss. But what if a person takes longer to grieve? Or just shorter? Then an aid becomes a corset that restricts people.

The new scientific research on grief suggests that people grieve individually. Mourners therefore do not need rules and prejudices on their way, but understanding and support. Incidentally, the Western European tradition is not the only way. At the jazz funerals in New Orleans, they play happy music on the way back from the cemetery. Incidentally, it could be that my friend lives both at the same time: the grief over his deceased wife and the joy over a new love. Perhaps he and his new partner share both sadness and joy, and that is precisely what makes their love exciting. In theory, all of this is clear to me, but in practice I have room for improvement, at least sometimes.

Fortunately, my friend is so confident that he can ignore social constructions and stand by his own path of grief and his new happiness, even if there were and are some people besides me who react irritated.

Looking back, I find it interesting that I was a little offended in my first spontaneous reaction. The reason, I admit to myself today, is certainly a transference and the fear of a tangible narcissistic offense. I immediately imagined what I would find if my Man after my Would comfort death quickly with another woman. Worse still: if he would shine as happily as my friend. One thing is clear: I would not just turn around in my grave offended, I would: rotate!

Pretty embarrassing for a professional pastor. But luckily nobody notices that.