Archives for September 2013

How to Maintain Relationships With Your In-laws After Losing Your Spouse by Jennifer Hawkins

My husband Mark passed away in his sleep unexpectedly from a heart condition we did not know he had. He was forty-nine years young. I was thirty-nine. Our two boys were three and five. It was without question the hardest day of our lives.

And, it was the hardest day in other people’s lives as well. I’d known my husband for almost ten years when he died. His family had known him all of his forty-nine years.

Many weeks later, I came out of the shock of losing my mate. I looked around at what had been ‘our’ life that was now ‘my’ life and realized there were deeper and new responsibilities everywhere.

There was the business, our finances, our kids, and, the daunting task of our family. Our family, I’m happy to say, is quite large. Both of our parents had re-married and so there are grandparents and aunts and uncles everywhere. When times are tough, I have support coming out of every crack and crevice. But keeping up correspondence and relationships by myself seemed an overwhelming task.

At first, I didn’t know how to handle Mark’s side of the family. A few of them had been calling to check in on us, while others I hadn’t heard a word from.

After wading through several tough issues, including probating the will, financial support and just plain heartache, I came to some conclusions.

First, in many real ways, my in-laws’ loss was greater than mine. I lost a husband, the boys lost their father but they had lost a brother and son.

Second, I knew I couldn’t handle their pain until I was partly healed. I took time to take care of myself. This was no small task. Life pulled and pulled on me. I could have let it crush me. Instead I made time for myself, for being with friends, for exercising, reading and on some days just enjoying a cup of tea. I learned how to nurture myself again.

Third, I made sure most of the major fires that needed to be put out were handled enough so they were not burning in my face, before I began.

And finally, I thought about how to keep Mark’s family in our lives.

I thought back to how Mark used to communicate with them. He called. He didn’t email, he didn’t text or send letters. He called on a normal basis. And he asked them to come visit until they agreed.

So that is what I did. I started not only returning calls but also initiating them. I tried to talk to each person by myself, but also I called at times when the boys could get on the phone, and made sure they did.