My ex and I divorced over 8 years ago. That goodbye was hard enough, as we had been married for over 17 years and had two children together. Never did I think I would have to permanently say goodbye to him when his unexpected death took our whole family by surprise over 3 years ago.
How do you deal with the death of an ex, specially when biological children are involved? Additionally, how do you fold your new family into this mourning process when you have remarried?
Here are some questions I wrestled with:
- Will I attend the funeral of my ex?
- Knowing more about his assets than anyone (including his immediate family), what was my role in helping the family with his estate?
- How will I mourn the death of my ex when I’m married to another?
- How will I support my biological children during this time of mourning?
My situation with my ex’s death was quite peculiar. He passed away a week prior to my planned marriage to my current husband. My ex’s death was totally unexpected, happened on Christmas Day, and my children and I discovered his death. So, for me personally, I had a lot of difficult decisions to make quickly, as I had a wedding in one week. My fiancée and I had the church, photographer and honeymoon reservations already made. My boys were in pain, and I was in shock. We didn’t know what to do.
After talking with my boys, immediate family, fiancée and some members of my ex’s family, the decision was made for me to skip the funeral. Many, but not all, felt I needed to leave the past behind me and continue on with my future. In lieu of going to the funeral, I sent forty-nine roses, forty-seven red roses for each year of his life and two white roses for our two sons.
Still today, I often feel guilty for my decision to not attend the funeral and keep to my selfish wishes of getting married, but at the same time, I do not regret my decision. On one hand, it was appropriate for me to let that life be my past and start my future with my new husband, but on the other, it was bad to not honor my ex at his funeral and show this support to my children. I can only hope my boys understood my feelings at the time and if they harbor any resentment towards me, forgive me for this today.
After my ex’s death, we discovered he did not have a will. Being his wife just four years prior, I basically knew his assets, how he handled finances and what his wishes would be if he did pass. I was able to assist my boys (legally adults at the time) about how to handle their father’s estate. I established a new relationship with my ex-in-laws, and we all supported the boys during this time of mourning. This wasn’t pleasurable in the least. Wrapping up his estate took around two years total and brought back many sad memories for the boys and I. Many of my ex’s personal belongings, which I thought I would never see again, entered my house and stared me straight in the face.
My advice to everyone on this is to make sure you have a will, plan on how your children will be able to attain and use your assets/insurance benefits and who will have custody of your children. If you don’t state your wishes legally prior to your death, someone else will do it for you. Unfortunately, those wishes may not be what you wanted.
As all this was going on, I was in the midst of getting married and starting a new life with my best friend and love of my life. How can I mourn my ex while showing commitment to my husband? This wasn’t easy, and I don’t think I even realized I was in mourning over the permanent loss of my ex. Even today, I often think of my ex, his choices in our marriage, his love for the boys and the last few years of his life. I feel sorrow for his decision to leave our marriage and break up his family, as I feel this was part of his downfall and possibly led to his death. At the same time, I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the ability to love again and share my life with the man I love.
My ex’s death freed me from the past and the ongoing bad memories of our marriage. I rejoiced I didn’t have to deal with the nonsense of my ex anymore, but felt guilty about it at the same time. In hindsight, my husband and I look back on the turmoil these past three years have brought with his ex and are thankful we only had to deal with the antics of one ex and not two. I thank my husband for his unending support, listening to me talk and holding me while I cried during this mourning period.
Lastly, I felt the fear of being the only biological parent left and knowing the responsibility that brings. To me, I feel no one loves your kids the way you do, and the boys lost half of that love when their father passed away. I felt responsible to double-up on the love and support of my boys. As they mature into young men, I feel sadness for what my ex will not experience like holding our granddaughter, meeting our daughter-in-law/s, seeing our boys experience life changes and overcome challenges. I’m sorry my ex never met another woman to share his life. The best I can do today is honor the good memories of my ex, share with the boys and my new family our good and bad family stories, tell my boys what their father would do in certain situations and love them without boundaries.
Some questions you may need to address that I didn’t may include:
- Is your ex re-married, and how will that new wife react to you attending the funeral?
- Does your ex now have assets with this new wife, and what are your children entitled to get (more reason why a will is important)?
- Did your ex have additional children in this new marriage, and how you will keep visitation open for the siblings and even the new wife?
- What if custody needs to change for you? For example, you only had limited visitation, and now you have full custody.
- How will your new family (if applicable) react to additional children in the house?
- What happens if you lose child support now that your ex has passed?
My hope is none of you has to encounter the above, but if you do, please know you are not alone. Lean on your family and friends for support and know there is light at the end of the tunnel. May you always have love and blessings in all that you do and no regrets.