Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
For the past few weeks I have followed your articles, which focused on the pain and trauma of widowhood. Only someone who has been there can understand the loneliness. Additionally, there is guilt that the widow or widower has to deal with. As your last letter-writer indicated, we who are left behind, tend to second-guess ourselves with three haunting words – could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. I know because I have been, and am, still there.
I commend you for the response that you gave in your last column to the widow who was plagued by these very same thoughts. I found much comfort in your words, and I am certain that many of your readers echo my feelings.
I am writing to you because, as comprehensive as your response was, there is an aspect to the problem that has yet to be addressed. The letters that you published all dealt with the problems of widows. But the feelings and emotions of widowers have yet to be discussed.
I am a widower and it is already almost a year since my wife passed away, but my pain has not abated. We were married for 44 years. We had our ups and downs, but on the whole, ours was a wonderful marriage. We have five children; four of them are married, while one son is a confirmed bachelor. It broke my wife’s heart to see him waste his best years and be bereft of a family of his own. But there was nothing we could do. He wasn’t willing to listen to us.
As I said, my other children are, thank G-d, married with beautiful families. They all live in the Tri-State Area, so visiting them and their visiting me, is not too difficult. But following the first few weeks after Shiva, their visits became less and less frequent.
I am writing to you now because I feel that your readers should be made aware of the huge difference between a widow and widower. My wife was always the one who took care of the house. I never even made a cup of coffee for myself – she spoiled me and attended to my every need. My laundry was taken care of without my realizing it. My suits, my shirts, were always all in order. Even when we went on vacation, my wife packed all of my things. She knew what I would need better than I did.
It goes without saying that I never cooked for myself. I took it for granted that when I came home from work, a delicious dinner would be waiting and for the Shabbos meals, my wife really outdid herself. With her illness, all that changed. I had to rely on takeout food, which, to say the least, was a far cry from my wife’s cooking. I had to learn to depend upon a housekeeper for my personal needs, only to discover the annoyance of not finding my suits or shirts in place.
I could go on to describe a thousand-and-one more frustrations, which suddenly fell upon me from nowhere, but that was nothing compared to the devastating knowledge that my beloved wife’s days were numbered. I watched her fade before my eyes. From day-to-day, her condition worsened. I couldn’t stop crying, but I knew that I had to hold back my tears.
As I said, it’s been almost a year since her passing. People have suggested that I go out and make a new life for myself. As you well know, there is no shortage of women. Even while I was sitting Shiva, some single women tried to be attentive to my needs and sent me homemade food regularly. It was very nice and considerate, but then I realized that they were looking for a shidduch! I felt badly, but I wasn’t even remotely interested in remarriage.
But as the weeks have turned into months, I have come to feel a need for companionship, and just recently, started to date. To my shock, my children have not been supportive. A month ago, I was introduced to a divorcee with three children. Two of them are married and have their own families, while the third, a girl, is still single and has her own apartment on the Upper West Side.
My lady friend has confided to me that she doesn’t know how her daughter would react to her having someone in her mother’s life while she has no one, so she has been hiding our relationship. I, on the other hand, did tell my children, but they were not happy to hear the news. They became very sentimental about my beloved wife and made me feel as though I had, G-d forbid, betrayed her memory.
To be honest with you, Rebbetzin, and it pains me to write this, I never saw that much devotion to their mother on their part. Yes, they came to visit in the hospital, but not as often as they should have and there were other things as well, so I’m hard put to understand their reaction.
In short, I would like to know from you whether, despite them, I should consider remarriage or just resign myself to a relationship with my lady friend. In one sense, it would be easier, since both of us have problems with our children, but on the other hand, I do not think it is the proper thing to do. I know that our Torah would not be supportive of such a relationship. I discussed it with some friends and received conflicting answers. Should I marry and risk upsetting my children or should I content myself with a relationship that is based on companionship?
Best wishes to you, as I await your reply.