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When Your Widowed Parents Wants to Remarry

“We Just Can’t Keep Our Hands Off Each Other.”

By: Chuck Henderson

My father had been with the Lord for five years when mom began dating a man.  I didn’t think a whole lot about it – I was in school full-time, working full-time, and married with two kids of my own.  But then she burst in, giddy as a teenager, and pronounced they were getting married.  She announced, ”We just can’t keep our hands off each other!”

It feels weird for your mom (or dad) to be getting married (again) and seemingly throwing away every memory you may have of your deceased parent.  An occasion like this brings up old feelings of loss and possible resentment at your living parent for their moving on so… happily!  It can even cause bitterness when she begins to ignore the grandchildren because all her attention goes to this new person.  Then what do you do when she wants him to be called dad or grandpa?  The cherry on top is the inevitable conversations you and your spouse have about what’s going to happen when one of you passes away – Who are you going to marry when I’m gone???

It’s impossible to make blanket recommendations for everyone, for each marriage and family has its own relational dynamics, but allow me to offer some brief thoughts.  For ease in writing, I will simply use “mom/she” below, but you can certainly substitute “dad/he” throughout.

  • You simply must separate your feelings over the loss of your parent from the emotions that stem from the arrival of the “other.”  If you need help by talking with someone, then humbly seek it.  But don’t impose your feelings of loss on your mom and thus wrongfully rob her of her joy.
  • Though she may be acting like a child, you simply must respect the fact that she’s not; she is your mom.  So be very careful in both what you say as well as how.  Fulfill the biblical mandate to honor your mother and father.
  • That said, loneliness can breed foolishness.  Therefore, if she is marrying a non-Christian or you genuinely feel she is making a mistake, speak the truth in love and seek to intervene.  I’ve seen it happen before when the parent realized her folly and broke the relationship off.  To be sure, if it’s just that you don’t like the boyfriend, you will have to be the one that makes the adjustment.  But if it’s a violation of Scripture, then it’s incumbent in the law of love to step in.
  • As in any relationship, appropriate boundaries will have to be drawn.  Finances, living arrangements, appropriate titles that are used, and the amount of time spent together – these are just examples of areas in which loving, tough conversations may be held.  Again, the key is to be humble and gentle in one’s tone but firm and steadfast in what you know is best for you and your family.
  • Be very careful in your own family to talk about the “what ifs” regarding the hypothetical death of your spouse.  The reality is that none of us know what the Lord has in store, and we must not presume what our spouse might or might not do.  To put it succinctly: resist borrowing trouble over a purely hypothetical.
  • Finally, be open to how God may be using this person to actually bring deeper healing to your family.  Often, in our mourning, we don’t realize that we’ve basically stagnated in the grieving process.  But when a new person is introduced, we are aware of how much we haven’t really let go.  Turn to the Lord with your grief, realizing anew the joy that awaits when God will wipe away every tear.

My mom and “that man” ended up being married for 17 years, and the one my children actually remember as “Poppy.”  He was as different from my dad as a man could be and still be a Christian, yet it ended up well.  But I did have to tell her, “Mom, I really don’t want to hear about whose hands are where…”