Saturday, December 5, 2009

Deck The Halls....With LW Memories??

As the holidays approach, many GOWs and WOWs will deal with a W who is determined to incorporate LW's memory into the season. He may wish to do this in many different ways: candlelight memorials, grave visits, and/or dinners with LW's family. He may also wish to hang LW's or "their" ornaments on the GOW/W or WOW/W Christmas tree.

So how sensitive should a GOW/WOW be to W's need to memorialize his LW at Christmastime?

The following is my reply to a sensitive yet infuriated WOW from The Official WOW/GOW Message Board , who wrote that her W/husband has decorated an "LW Tree" every year since her death, and continues to do so into their marriage:

"I believe there is a HUGE difference between a W who considers LW items as just "things" and their meaning is insignificant, and Ws who attach meaning and memorials to every item their LWs ever owned. The former has let go of the past, and the latter hasn't. There is a HUGE difference between "moving on" and "letting go". Every W moves on - it is the act of returning to some kind of daily routine post-LW. But not every W has let go, which is the acceptance of LW's passing and an embracing of the present and future.

I hate to say this, but your W's behaviour concerns me. He continues to memorialize his LW in a very significant way, which means he has not yet let go, nor has he completed his bereavement recovery since the last stage of grief is "acceptance". Had this year been the first time he wanted to decorate a memorial tree, I would say it was a clear case of latent grief....but you said he has done this every year that LW has been gone, which leads me to believe he did this tree even before you met and then just carried on the tradition into your marriage. And by remaining supportive of this, you have subconsciously enabled him to remain stuck in the final and most critical grief stage.

When you say that you have been "sensitive" to this yet also infuriated, it sounds to me that you have never adequately communicated your feelings, and therefore, resentment has set in. I think it's time for you to speak up. Believe me, you are not doing him any favours by being the sacrificial martyr of your feelings, as I am sure your resentment is putting up a wall between you and him, and is also robbing you (and by proxy, him too) of the joy of the holiday.

You have a right to be heard on this issue. Don't go through another holiday without telling your W how his LW Tree makes you feel. In using The Three C's - communication, cooperation, and compromise - you can begin a line of communication based on honesty and trust. (I refer you to my blog at for more about The Three C's and other articles pertaining to the difference between moving on and letting go).

The marriage of WOW and W signifies a release of the past and an embracing of the present and future. Every holiday shared together shoul dbe a reflection of ONLY you and he and the life you two share. Honestly, I don't think there is any room for LW in a WOW/W holiday, unless the WOW is 100% certain her husband has let go, and is only asking for memorial ornaments to be hung for the sake of the children he and LW had together."


  1. Julie, you are so wise and you put things so well. I agree with you 100%. My W and I have been married for 7 years, and our holiday is OUR OWN, with the exception of an obligatory holiday visit to LW's elderly parents who are still very involved in his daughter's life. Thank you for constantly supporting us WOW's throughout the many stages of our lives!

  2. I also agree with you 100% especially after a conversation I had with a friend today. Grief is something that takes a lot of work and its just a shame when the W postpones it and ignores the people who care about him the most by keeping on saying, "I grieved in my on way." After the week I had, I truly believe that a W needs professional assistance in grieving.

  3. I too agree Julie. This year my W (not married yet) and I are getting a our own tree. He mentioned something about the ornaments he had in storage and I used that moment as an opportunity to express my needs for he and I to purchase our own ornaments for the tree that would represent the two of us as a couple. He was in agreement and told his 20 yr old daughter she could go through the box of ornaments that were her mothers and have what she wanted. He continues to move forward but he hasn't quite let go of LW completely.As long as he keeps moving forward than I am supportive of most issues he is forced to deal with. Thanks for your support Julie.

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  5. Thank you for discussing this topic. I am a 2-year GOW of a 3-year widower. The holidays are especially tough as his wife's birthday was in December and she died suddenly on Christmas Eve. So we basically just went through a month of misery, where he was too sad or busy with his children/family/wife's family to do things with me and I was feeling left alone during what should be a time for celebrating with loved ones. I put up with it because I know this is a tough time of year for him, but I won't next year (if we make it till then...).
    Thanks for giving me another perspective!

  6. My 3 year relationship with a W seems still confusing. He is endlessly silent about his grief. He still continues to want to spend his holidays in the holiday haunts of him and LW before she passed away and this past month while there called me by her name. I feel at times that I have a duty to end the relationship because maybe he cannot recover so long as I am around. This is so very difficult. Has anyone any recommendations?