What happens when you fall in love with your dead partner’s brother, sister or best friend? 

Elizabeth Postle, author of this website, discusses this common situation. 

Sharing the grieving process with someone can lend itself to romantic feelings developing

Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness

Friends, family and colleagues often do not want to bring up the topic of your loss in case they upset you and many people find themselves with no-one to talk to about their grief. Having someone close to share the pathways of grief is a huge comfort and support.

Seeing near relatives of our spouses and getting to know them well after a loss is not uncommon. We may already know them fairly well, and the loss brings people even closer together. When that person also had a close relationship with the loved one who died and is also grieving, it makes the journey easier as you have someone who really understands what you are going through. When you do have this support, it is quite common for a close friendship to develop and even lead to romance. 

A close relative lost his wife.  In the past, the wife’s best friend had always joined them to go to a bridge club. After his wife died, he and the friend both continued to be members of the club. This involved days out and he would give her lifts. The loneliness they had both felt was eased and after a few months their relationship developed romantically and they have now been married for many years. His wife would have been happy to think that they both found love again. A friendship with someone who knew your loved one and who gives you this level of support can develop into a lasting loving bond. 

Quote - sharing the grieving process with someone - dark seascape

However, Guilt Can Cause Complications

When someone has lost a close companion the loss is tremendous. It takes time to believe the loss has happened. Then there is a feeling of shock and guilt again that they are having romantic feelings for another person.

Guilty feelings usually creep in. There is often shock that you can have deep feelings for someone else when grieving for the loss of a loved one. You never forget the relationship you had, but your life goes on and somehow you must cope. 

You Can Love Two People at the Same Time

Sometimes the children or parents of the person who died, get upset and say you can't have loved them as much as they did, but you know how untrue this is. Other relatives of the deceased spouse can sometimes be offended by the new romance and feel their son or daughter, niece or nephew was not loved as they should have been and forgotten too soon. 

People are surprised when they fall in love again. Sometimes they are confused, but then realise that it is possible to love two people at the same time and it is possible to move from despair to new feelings of motivation and hope even while still going through the grieving process. 

When a parent has children they love them all. The love you had for your lost partner is not diminished because of your new love. It is not a competition and the family may accept the new situation eventually when they adjust and you can all discuss your feelings.

It’s Good to Talk It Through

It’s common to have doubts and feelings that perhaps it is a rebound reaction. There may be anxiety about how real it is and how the family and children will react to this new situation. Life is full of emotional turmoil and especially so after a loss of a loved one.

Despite all this uncertainty many are reluctant to discuss their feelings and this is not a helpful strategy.

Talking to a trusted friend can help but men, in particular, do tend to hide their feelings. It is important to talk to children and family about their emotions too. 

Clear the air and focus on what is the best for everyone. With discussions about how the beloved lost one will never be forgotten or replaced, and how this new relationship will not change the love felt for the partner who was lost, these issues can be resolved with tact and compassion.

How Can a New Relationship after Loss Affect Children? 

No one ever said life was easy and new relationships during the grieving process especially where there are teenage children can cause emotional problems. Younger children who may have already known the new partner tend to be more accepting. Teenagers are not only going through their own gef and missing the lost parent, but coming to terms with their own maturity and sexuality.

New couples can expect many emotional scenes if there are teens involved. They feel threatened by the new relationship and feel that their parent is being betrayed. The teenage years are difficult. Added to this they are also experiencing the roller coaster of emotions due to grief. Empathy and support is essential. This situation, if handled with care and understanding, will pass with time.

A Story about Marrying a Brother-In-Law

A friend lost her husband and was left with two young daughters. Her brother-in-law had been supportive during her husband’s illness and often took the girls on outings or helped around the house. The family knew how ill he was but it was a long process during which he was cared for at home. Both sets of parents also helped with the care of the children before and after the funeral.

A few months later my friend told me she was shocked to find that she and her brother-in-law had romantic feelings and wanted to get married. At first her parents said that she could not have loved their other son as much as he deserved and they were shocked and upset. 

I talked everything through with my friend and, in time, she was able to accept that her husband would have been proud to think that his brother would take on the care of his beautiful daughters and to know that his wife had a chance of happiness again. It is a compliment to the deceased that she wanted to marry again. It had been a short but happy time. Had it not been she would not have wanted to marry again. Her new husband felt honoured that he was able to care for his brother’s children and his wife, although, of course, those feelings were tinged with some guilt for his own happiness and much sadness for his loss. 

The little girls had a secure future and the couple were married for many years. All the family went to the wedding and they remained a close knit family. Remember these relationships are very personal and only the couple can know how they feel. They should always go with their own instincts and do what is right for them. 

Can a Relationship Based on Grieving Last? 

How relationships begin and how long they last is such a complex process but if it begins with couples giving emotional comfort and support to each other during the grieving process then the reality is, it is a good start.

We like to have this support from a partner. Can it last? From meeting many couples over the years who have been in this situation the answer is, yes, it certainly can and does. This situation is more common than many people realise. People know instinctively if the relationship is good and everyone deserves a second chance. 

Finding a loving partner is a precious thing and many people are not lucky enough to find this in life. It is a new start and many find feelings of confidence and self esteem again. All life has its problems. A loving couple working together, can overcome the slings and arrows of life's misfortunes better together.

Ways to get help with relationships: 

Related Pages: 

Falling in Love While Grieving

A Story of Grief and Re-marriage

For Remembrance: 

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