Role Changes When A Spouse Dies

grief healing Jul 10, 2022
Loss Roles


David Knapp

 The distribution of roles and responsibilities in a relationship varies from couple to couple. I have found that there have been certain jobs that she did and ones that I did to properly carry out life’s demands. My privilege of having three wives has taught me flexibility in this area and that the call for change is not always a bad thing.

The death of my first two wives forced a re-evaluation of my idea of what she did and what I did in the home and our relationships. Most widowed spouses that I have talked to have expressed that they had at least one or two responsibilities that their spouse did which they found uncommonly challenging when their loved one died.

During my first wife’s, Ruth, 7-year illness I was required to step up to the plate and take on full responsibility for the care of our four children. This included shopping for and preparing meals though she had been the expert in those areas. Upon her death, the transition to me was not as traumatic as it would have been had she died unexpectantly and suddenly. She was also the key communicator with the extended family. Now I had to do that too.

My second wife, Judith, had been widowed for five years before we met. One of her biggest adjustments of widowhood was handling the family finances and budget. Her husband had done all of it and never shared anything about the many details with her. When he died, she floundered for quite a while and finally got counsel from a family friend who was also a financial professional. Once we married, it was a relief to her as I took over that role for both of us in that area.

Other roles and responsibilities that are often a change when a spouse dies include vehicle care, house cleaning, laundry, social calendar scheduling, tax preparation, and income management. Many have found these adjustments overwhelming and very time consuming.  When added to the grieving process, life can seem unbearable.

Each one’s circumstance is different. But the important thing to remember is that help and advice can be available. Many times there are people around you who are willing and able to pick up the slack in your life while you adapt to your new normal. Recommendations from family, friends, trusted neighbors and clergy can be great sources of either temporary, or permanent aide in dealing with life’s tasks.

I also would suggest seeking out a community such as this web group to find reliable suggestions on coping with areas of life that are unfamiliar with you.

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