Mourning a Former Spouse: Disenfranchised Grief: Reader Comments

Mourning a Former Spouse: Disenfranchised Grief: Reader Comments

Editor’s Note: This is a rarely discussed topic, but in a country where 40-50% of couples file for divorce, it is an inevitability. Since Dr. Neimeyer addressed this in a post several years ago, we have received many comments. Here is a link to the original article:

My ex-wife passed away today. I had not seen or spoken with her in over a year due to her new husband’s wishes. I was careful to respect that, even though we welcomed our first grandchild into the world this past summer. We were married for 20+ years, had four children, all of whom are now young adults, and divorced over six years ago. I am remarried and have a little one whom I love dearly. It’s confusing, because I was not part of the later stages of my ex’s illness. I was not attendant to her death, even though my adult children were. Our family shared many good years together, endured many trials together, and made memories. I have been remarried for two and a half years and am making new memories, but that doesn’t negate everything that came before the divorce. I am struggling with a wide range of emotions and a flood of memories I repressed during the divorce, which was mainly the result of my actions. I am grieving the divorce all over again—which makes me feel slightly guilty for my new family—along with the pain of my ex’s death. Grieving from a distance is very odd and awkward, as well, as it doesn’t seem real yet. Thankfully, social media will allow me to pay tribute to her life and her role as the mom of my four older children. But I’m sure will carry all this with me for some time to come. For now, I will just focus on supporting my adult children through their time of grief as best I can.

2. Just lost my former spouse today. Fifty- nine years of relationship and 20+ of marriage. He was bipolar and the good times were fantastic and the bad were horrid. I have been in another relationship for 20+ years, but the former and I kept in touch and he had a friendly relationship with my current partner XXXXX( who also lost the mother of his grown children last year). XXXX accepts my relationship and understands the relationship with the former. It is all a part of the person I am. That is tremendous help. There are only a few family and friends who will understand my grief. Thanks to all of you for your helpful comments and for this article. Divorce is complicated, mental illness is complicated, and now the complication of death. I am in currently in a grief support group of loss of my sister and best friend. I intend to share this with our supportive facilitator. Hope all of you are able to feel connected through this sharing.

3. I married my high school sweetheart, we dated all thru high school and were married for over a dozen years. We had no children but we shared many great memories, towards the end we just had different views and our love subsided. We divorced in 199X and it was a hard divorce for both of us. It has been 20+ years since our divorce and I remarried in 20XX. I recently found out she passed away. It has been very hard emotionally for me, because we did share so many memories while we were married. My heart grieves. I don’t know what to do.

4. Wow. I lost my ex husband a year ago- I wasn’t married to him for long but we where very good friends. I have struggled so much for this past year as I have had to carry on around my husband friends and family like nothing is wrong. It made me believe I didn’t have a choice and made me disregard my own emotions! Today I broke down after a year and it was a massive melt down and then I come across this article and I have as though it is a blessing because it has made me feel that my feelings are valid that I have a right to mourn with out feeling guilt and that I hold a importance

5. I was in a domestic violence situation with 2 children, he was arrested and taken out of the Home. We were together for 25+years. 4 months ago he took his own life, it’s a confusing sad situation for us all, I can’t void 25+ years, and there were in the first lot of years happy times, unfortunately drugs got to him. The last 4 years were very bad with domestic violence. It’s a hard strange way, I’m grieving him, but it’s the old him I’m grieving. It’s very confusing for myself and my children.

6. Wow. You are the only person who seems to have addressed this. And thank you for addressing it. My husband and I got divorced in Feb 201X by my choice in hopes it would convince him to get back on his bipolar medications. Instead it pushed him over the edge and he died in a single car accident in October 201X, because he was self medicating with alcohol. He was my best friend. And it killed me. But even my parents after a sorry while thought “I should be over it by now”. I searched for articles on my situation and could find none. So thank you for making me feel a little less crazy.

7. Peggy Sapphire’s book, The Disenfranchised: Stories of Life and Grief When an Ex-Spouse Dies (Baywood, 2013), is a good resource for people who grieve the loss of a former spouse. It consists of reflections of many people who experienced this loss and their feelings and journey afterwards.


Here’s an angry, contrarian view of spouses who want to attend the funeral of an ex-spouse:

Most of you woman feel like you were cheated out of grief because the new wife excluded you from the funeral but in reality you excluded yourselves right after you filled for divorce.

You see, when you filled for divorce you caused him and his family great pain. If you had kids he had to pay child support and often you talk about your ex becoming your fiend and being civil. In actually that was forced because he had to deal with you and he wanted to keep your drama to a minimum. He often talked about you behind your back as you talked about him with your friends. He disliked even picking up the phone when you called. He gritted his teeth every time you had your new husband spend time with his kids. He hated you for taking that part of his life away.

Eventually, he probably remarried. This woman decided she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him and unlike most of you she loved him. She became his one and only and might have had a child with him.

So, now he is dead and you feel guilt and rightly so. His family dislikes you but smiles and say they understand when actually they hope you spare them the embarrassment of having to tell you to stay away from the funeral and showing. The newer wife remembers all the stuff you pulled during the divorce and his dealing with you and she is secretly glad she doesn’t have to see you again. The only thing she wants at that moment is to be alone with her grief with the man you do not love but she will miss. His family are still hurt by your rejection and they don’t want you around.

But, you didn’t take the hint, showed up, was treated like you were yesterdays pizza and now you feel sad, alone and rejected. HMMMMM kind of like what he felt when you filed. You new husband is scratching his head trying to figure you out. You talk about how supportive he is but really he wants to minimize your drama too.

Moral of the story? Everything you do in life has consequences. You divorced him saying that you didn’t want to be his family anymore. He moved on, you moved on. The consequence of your decision is that you don’t get flowers or consideration. Accept it and move on.
And yes we all do roll our eyes when we see you “grieve”


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2 thoughts on “Mourning a Former Spouse: Disenfranchised Grief: Reader Comments”

  1. Hello Dr. Neimeyer,
    I work in the field and I have enjoyed hearing you speak several times. I am writing to you with my personal experience of grief and loss. I lost 2 siblings young, one sister died of suicide when I was 18 and my brother died of cancer when I was 39 (I am now in my 50’s). I believe I have since processed these losses but dealing with new. My mother died 1.5 years ago, we were very close. I experienced a lot of anticipatory mourning with mom. A colleague doctor, Dr. J, cared and took excellent care of her. My dog died 6 months ago while I was in the process of packing up and moving to another city. I picked this location because I have some family here although they are busy and I do not get to see them often. I wanted to leave the sad memories of my old town and leave before my last remaining biological relative, my dad dies. I think I have been doing rather well. Since I have been here, my mom’s doctor and I have become friends. We had lunch and dinner 3 or 4 times. I send many of my friends gifts and I sent him some as I would any of my friends and he acknowledged that is who I am (nothing too expensive). We spent a few times together, it is strictly a friendship no more, he has a boyfriend. He became very busy and I didn’t contact him for 3-4 months. I recently sent him a package for his birthday and he sent me a text saying he felt uncomfortable with the gifts (but he told me his shirt size as we had talked about this gift). And “all” of the communication (I did not even wish him a happy holiday). The last time I communicated with him was 3 or 4 months ago. This is a huge loss for me. I felt very connected to him with my mom. And I always thought my brother would be here to help with my mom’s loss, of course my brother wasn’t but my colleague/friend was and he told me he would always be here for me and to call him anytime. He knows of my grief and loss and I had shared with him my concern of having a friendship if there was a chance it would be short-lived. I don’t understand why he couldn’t just tell me and we would have a discussion about it. A friend told me I had not processed the loss of my mom, which I believe I did. Her death brought up a lot of past loss. And my dog, which I have work to do. Now this loss with my friend is just so heavy. And I feel hurt and betrayed. I did what my friends said which was to write him a letter but not mail it. This isn’t a death loss but it is really really hitting me hard. And I really took time before jumping into a friendship with Dr. J because I knew it would be devastating to me if the friendship ended.
    Thank you.

  2. That last poster was clearly bitter, jealous, resentful and angry about the fact her husband had ever been married before she existed. Men file for divorce too dear. Please seek anger management for your issues. His wife has moved on, you can’t erase her, their children, or the years they were together. Some ppl should only marry ppl who were never married before. Don’t try to destroy the memories and relationship his children, (yes, his, not “yours”), had because of your insecurity. It’s cruel, and it permanently destroys relationships between them and their father. What did their children & grandchildren ever do to you? Now they will never even know him. Jmo.

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