In most weddings, the vow “’Til death do us part” is included in the ceremony. At the very moment one spouse passes away, the marriage is over. It’s quite literally the simplest end to a marriage.
Grief follows, but every person’s grief is different. It will be different for the widow(er) who lost their spouse unexpectedly than it is for the person who had time (days, weeks, months) before an ill spouse passed away. It will be different still for that person’s children, parents, siblings, friends.
In my situation, I had months. Long, painful months to watch my husband fight his terminal illness. We had months to talk about the future that our kids and I had ahead of us: when I remarry (I was horrified that he brought up this topic, by the way), college for the kids, how to handle our accounts…. We even made plans of things we would do together if he pulled through. I didn’t enjoy most of these talks, but they were necessary. I was grateful later that we had them. During this time, I began grieving before he passed.
On one hand, the amount of time seemed too short. We still had more things to resolve about our relationship. On the other hand, the time seemed to drag on. It was terrible watching him go through everything while also watching our kids watch him go through it all.
It’s a strange feeling to realize how much our lives changed in that moment in the hospital. But that’s the reality of it. In that second after he passed, I was no longer a wife. Even weirder was the realization that according to the law, I was no longer technically a member of my entire family of in-laws. I still consider them part of my family, but there is a different feel to those relationships now.
The best advice I got from several people was allow yourself to grieve the way you need to grieve. You don’t have to apologize for whatever form your grief takes or however long it lasts. No one should tell another person how to grieve–even when the grief turns out to be mixed with relief.
After death did part us, I had to continue living. Living is what the living do.