When An Ex-Spouse Dies

Recently one of my dearest friends told me her ex-husband had died.   She expressed her deep grief and told me that other friends wondered why she was experiencing such grief when they were divorced?

It’s complicated and referred to as disenfranchised grief.  Disenfranchised grief refers to losses that are not publicly acknowledged, socially supported, and openly mourned.

Whatever you call this grief, I believe as human beings who feel emotionally, we just need to be recognized as people dealing with loss of any kind. 

We grieve because we love, regardless of how the relationship ended.  Think about people you don’t know personally that died. You feel bad for the family, but because you don’t know the person who died it doesn’t affect you the same way.

We love people throughout our life regardless of how a relationship ends. When we grieve the loss of a marriage from divorce, we also grieve the loss of the future and the loss of a life partner.   So when an ex-spouse dies it is normal to grieve the loss.  In either case, we grieve what might have been.

Just as people feel grief differently, they also deal with it differently.  My friend felt as if she couldn’t mourn outwardly the sadness she felt, but I have encouraged her to share with me some good memories of the times they had together and to acknowledge that his life mattered and the time they were together mattered.

Often I hear from those who say because they are the ‘Ex’ they shouldn’t be grieving which is the farthest thing from reality. My hope is you will ignore those people who suggest you shouldn’t have feelings and acknowledge the loss as this person was part of your life’s journey.

When I talk with those grieving a death, it is of utmost importance to know their loved ones’ life mattered and one way we can be supportive is to talk about the person who died, share memories and be willing to speak their name.  If there are children involved, keeping positive memories alive often helps children to know that it’s okay to talk about their parent and share their feelings.  I don’t think divorce should define who we loved and who and how we grieve.

If you have an ex-spouse that died, please share your experience in the comments section below, I’d love to hear learn more about what you are feeling. – JoAnne

**With so many comments on this post, I felt it was important to provide those grieving the death of an ex-spouse a resource to help guide on how to cope with these emotions and deal with family members. **

This guide offers support, and understanding, helps you speak to others, and a place to journal your thoughts and emotions.


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