Ex-etiquette: A Valentine from beyond the grave

  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

By Jann Blackstone

Tribune News Service

Q. This sounds like a movie script, but my wife of three years has received a Valentine from her deceased husband every year since we have been married. I guess he set it up with a service or something before he died, but, like clockwork on, or the day before, my wife receives a Valentine’s Day card proclaiming her deceased husband’s undying love. Sounds pretty ironic, doesn’t it? I want it to stop! What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. OK, you win. I have never heard of this one in real life — it does sound somewhat like the movie, “P.S. I Love You,” however. I have no idea how to make something like this stop, or if it’s even necessary. You have to ask what exactly is it about these cards that is upsetting you? Is it that she was once close to someone else, because most people have had past relationships. I have to say, it’s a pretty romantic gesture — and a hard act to follow.

With that in mind, I hope your wife allowed enough time to pass after the loss of her first husband before you two were married. Sometimes people just want to get on with their lives and move too quickly. They don’t give themselves enough time to grieve. A little time passes, and the grief hits them between the eyes. Then they regret marrying so soon. The fallout is tough to overcome, especially if there are children involved.

Then there are those who nursed a terminally ill spouse for months, even years before the passing and much to the dismay of family members, meet someone new rather quickly. In these cases, the surviving spouse may have done much of their grieving while their deceased spouse was still living.

There’s an ebb and flow to grief and bereavement. It goes and comes without warning — sometimes brought on by holidays or hearing a particular song, and it’s difficult on both partners to openly face that level of sorrow for one when you have already married another. One must allow enough time to pass so they can comfortably be in the present in the new relationship.

Honestly, being in a relationship with someone whose spouse has passed can be a two-edged sword. On one hand, the deceased spouse may be almost deified and if you place yourself in competition with a memory, rarely will you come out on top. If they had children, you may always be compared to mom or dad. But the good news is that people who had a good relationship prior to a spouse’s passing are more willing to marry again and are open to being close to another companion.

Finally, unless your wife is carrying a torch and sobbing into her soup every year, you could use it as a catalyst to get even closer to her. Talk to her, find out how she truly feels about the passing and about receiving these cards. Get some couples counseling together. If she feels like she has to hide her feelings, that will fester and drive a wedge between you. Be a soft place to fall and it could be helpful for your own communication and ability to stay close. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Talk to us

More in Life

Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope looks across at the Saddle Mountains in Washington’s Columbia Basin. (Richard Duval Images)
Royal Slope becomes state’s 15th American Viticultural Area

The area’s elevation and climate make it suitable for growing many varieties of grapes.

Nachos with meatballs features two crowd-pleasers packed as one hearty snack. Pork meatballs are dunked into a chunky salsa and served on cheesy tortilla chips. (Emily Matthews/Post-Gazette/TNS)
Load up the nachos and you’re set for football Sunday

They’re simple enough to make, but the right toppings and technique takes them to a higher level.

Gimmelwald, Switzerland, survives as a farming village because it’s located in a government-designated avalanche zone. (Dreamstime)
Rick Steves: For a true Swiss Alps experience, go to Gimmelwald

Protected by law from the ravages of hotel developers, the village carries on with timeless traditions.

Microwaving the sweet potatoes speeds up this version of vegetable tagine. (Linda Gassenheimer)
Fragrant dish captures the flavors of Moroccan tagine

Unlike traditional tagine, this version doesn’t require hours of cooking 0n the stovetop.

Which subject does your child struggle with most? Have them study that subject first thing in the morning, while they are still fresh. (Jennifer Bardsley)
How to manage distance learning like a pro in 7 easy steps

This mom sees the humor in trying to work from home and play teacher for her kids at Zoom school.

Dr. Paul on cultivating inner peace during a stressful year

Here’s how to reduce the tension we feel from COVID-19, high unemployment, the presidential election, etc.

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

The listings include Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest updates and REI Lynnwood workshops.

(Loren Drummond)
Before you hit the trail with Fido, train your hiker dog

Some careful prep work can help ensure you and your furry friend have a fabulous time when you hike.

Get to the nursery soon to find some ‘fall color in a can’

Thanks to our hot and dry summer, a selection of plants are already starting to sport their autumn apparel.

Most Read