For most of my widowed friends (I know far too many women who have been widowed), they have a ton of happy memories to hold onto. Some find ways to honor their late husbands. For example, one woman took their wedding rings and had them remade into a beautiful pendant.
For widows like me who don’t want to hold onto much from him, it might seem harsh to others when we seem to erase those memories.
But when those memories are painful or destructive or triggering, we should be okay with letting them go. Personally, I don’t want to keep anything that will upset my kids. I kept a few photos up and some of his things out for a year or two after he passed. But during that time, my kids and I began to process what life had really been like with him. It wasn’t happy and fun and joyous. Why keep the reminders of a time full of pain?
Not long after he died and when I began dating (I’m still in that committed, loving, happy relationship, BTW), a friend gave me a lecture about how one of her other widowed friends remarried. Her new husband demanded that she erase every single thing related to her late husband. The woman divorced the new husband and continued the legacy of her late husband by starting a foundation in his name.
I’m not sure what her point was telling me that story. Was she warning me that I shouldn’t date? Was it a warning to be sure my boyfriend didn’t demand irrational things? Or that I should always carry on the legacy of my late husband?
What was his legacy anyway? He didn’t have any causes that he loved and supported. He was addicted to alcohol and porn, was so ashamed of how he perceived himself that he took it out on us, was a bigot and a bully… He tried to fix his behaviors after he found out he was going to die, but he didn’t try at all to fix his relationships with me and our kids. Why would I want to hold onto that kind of legacy?
No one has the right to tell us how to grieve, how to remember, or how to heal. If we need to get rid of his things because that will help us heal, then we can do that. If we want to keep his memory in any way, that is also our right.
I’ve come to terms with the reality that my widowhood mourns the relationship my children should have had with their father. They were his legacy, and he let them down.