Does Time Really Heal a Grieving Spouse’s Pain?

My boyfriend of 6 months suddenly broke up with me. He’s a widower. His wife had been gone 10 months when we started dating. I was not the first woman he dated, but this is the longest relationship he had since she died. He talked about her openly and I was very understanding that he will have love for her forever. After all, they have a child together (he is 8 years old). I let him lead, especially for the big milestones in the relationship. It was his idea for me to meet his son and his brother. He also met my sons.

A trip with him to visit his late wife’s grandmother put him over the edge. He came back and called me to say that he wanted his old life back and even though I was the one he wanted for the rest of his life, he just couldn’t. He didn’t know when he would be ready or if he was ever going to be ready. He also started cleaning out “her room” that I never realized needed to be taken care of.

My friends think that he just needs time and he will call. I’m not so sure. I know that if he really wants to, he will call. But if he calls and wants to get back together, should we try again? I would be afraid that his grief will get the best of him again and the same thing will happen. I fell hard in love with him. He was finally the one who showed me how a woman deserves to be treated. Does a man who breaks your heart ever deserve a second chance?


My father passed away only weeks after my parent’s 30th anniversary.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

He was 53. My mother was 51. I was 26.

My father was my best friend, but I wanted my mother to move on and find love again. The way I saw it, she could have another thirty-year relationship that was just as meaningful as the one with my Dad.

She moved out of my childhood home after six months. Too many reminders. Too much grief. She ended up in a duplex townhouse twenty minutes from where I grew up. She didn’t date at all.

Your widower ex WANTED to be ready, but wasn’t. That’s not your fault. That’s not his fault. That’s grief for you.

Three years later, she moved to Florida, as Jews do. She always wanted to live there, but my Dad’s business prevented it. Now, she was free to reinvent herself in one of those 55+ communities with the cookie cutter houses, the clubhouse, and the big pool.

Within her first couple of years there, she met a man named Mike. Mike had retired from his longtime job to spend more time with his wife, only to see her pass away shortly thereafter. Jobless and wifeless, he moved to Florida to reinvent himself.

He met my Mom while he was walking his Labrador retriever. Mike wasn’t a conventionally handsome man — overweight, bald, big white mustache — but he was an old-school gentleman in a way that my father never was. He opened doors. He carried the heavy grocery bags. He cooked and did the dishes. He doted upon my Mom. And even though she wasn’t that attracted to him from the outset, Mike killed her with kindness. They got married. They sold their separate homes and moved in together. Both kept photos of their former spouses interspersed with photos of their children. Neither expected to forget or replace them; they were just two nice people looking for a second chance.

The reason I tell this story, Kim, is not because it’s universal, but because it’s personal.

My mother wasn’t able to even consider another man for nearly five years.
Mike probably proposed to my Mom within a year of his wife’s passing.


Both are valid ways to cope. Very often, you don’t know how you’ll react to a situation until you’re in it. Sounds to me like your widower ex WANTED to be ready, but wasn’t. That’s not your fault. That’s not his fault. That’s grief for you.

As to whether he calls and wants to get back together one day, I think this is a pretty open and shut case:

Give him a second chance and see how things develop instead of protecting yourself in a cocoon of fear.

You go live your life without him. Date. Sleep around. Fall in love. Do what you have to do. You may get lucky. You may not. It’s the nature of dating. But certainly don’t wait around for him.

And if/when he calls to rekindle things, know that if he’s a good man, he’s doing so with the best of intentions. If you’re available, give him a chance to prove himself again. Dating him doesn’t guarantee he’ll want to marry you, nor should you guarantee you’ll want to marry him. But to be closed to him because his heart was temporarily closed to you? That’s short sighted and spiteful.

Give him a second chance and see how things develop instead of protecting yourself in a cocoon of fear.

P.S. My Mom and Mike didn’t last. Nice guy; not the right guy for her. I saw it before she did, but she had to experience it for herself. She is now living with someone else in what she calls her happiest relationship yet (sorry, Dad!)