Living with spousal loss: Continuing bonds and boundaries in remarried widows’ marital relationships

Rachel Dekel, Shai Shorer, Orit Nuttman-Shwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The grief literature emphasizes widows’ continuing bonds with their deceased spouses as a significant part of their grief process. Yet, little is known about what happens to those bonds when a widow remarries and there is a second spouse, and how these bonds are dealt with by the new family members. This study explored the continuing bonds of remarried Israeli widows, the role the second spouse plays in these processes, and the ambiguity and permeability of the boundaries between the first and the second marital relationships. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 Israeli remarried military widows, over three decades after their first husbands’ deaths. Data were analyzed by using thematic content analysis. Findings revealed that most of the women maintained continuing bonds with their deceased husbands, whereas a few of them severed these bonds. In all of the scenarios, however, the second husband played a major role, resulting in different levels of boundaries, from strict to blurred, between the first and the second marriages. These findings suggest that in order to obtain a full understanding of grief's impact on the second marital relationship, grief should be considered a couple-hood process in which the boundaries between the relationships are dynamic. The association between these patterns and personal and marital adjustment should be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-688
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Process
Volume61
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Family Process Institute.

Keywords

  • Boundaries
  • Grief
  • Relationship
  • Remarriage
  • Widowhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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