My Husband Wants To Be Buried With His First Wife


Please, can someone help with this? I lost my husband of 14.5 yrs to colon cancer in Nov. 2003, he lost his wife of 37 yrs to cancer in Sept. 2003. He has a burial plot with a combined tombstone with his late wife’s name, etc. on it and his name and DOB on it. He insists he wants to be buried next to her as she was “his first love”.

My late husband was cremated and I still have his ashes. I had thought of scattering them at our camp, but have been unable to do so. He says he will put me on the other side of him – this is a definite NO for me. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute

This is a difficult situation but one that more and more couples will be facing as second and subsequent marriages are becoming the norm. I know exactly what you mean when you said a definitive NO to being buried on the other side of your partner, and his late wife. This doesn’t seem to be an option especially since your immediate reaction was such a strong NO. There are obviously no easy answers here. You need to ask yourself what you would ultimately like to see happen once you’re both gone and also how important in the scheme of things, this issue is for you. If he insists on being buried beside his late wife, will this be a deal breaker for you in terms of continuing with the relationship? Although he said that he wanted to be buried next to her because she was “his first love”, that may be true, but it doesn’t mean that his feelings for you are any less and he probably doesn’t realize the impact of those words on you. He may also just be being practical and can’t imagine going back and undoing the arrangements he made with his first wife. He may also consider this to be an action that shows disrespect or a lack of loyalty to her as they made these plans together. Also, if he has children from his first marriage he may also want to keep things as is, for their sake. You do need to talk with him openly about this. Find out what is going on for him, express your feelings to him and more importantly your desire to come up with a solution so you can proceed with the more important task of building a life together, if that is what you indeed want.

Ask yourself this question – is there enough about this man that I love and that I want to experience with him in this life, that I would choose to marry him even if it means not being side by side in the next life? It really does come down to how important this issue is to you. No one is wrong here. Also, are there other possibilities or options that you might be able to live with. For example, if he is buried alongside his first wife, would you be interested in arranging ahead of time to have a special service created by the two of you, or a memorial plaque in place for him where you choose to be buried, to commemorate your lives together and the important place you both had in each other lives. It isn’t exactly the same as joint burial plots but as I said before, there are and will be many more people facing this same situation. I would even suggest speaking to professionals in the business of making these arrangements, to see what other people have done or are doing under similar circumstances. There may be other creative alternatives that you aren’t aware of at this time and that you could plan for together.

I wish you all the best as you discuss this matter openly and seek a resolution together.

Reader Response

Yvonne, thank you so much for the encouragement and options. This man is very important to me, we are getting married in Vegas on October 1. I never thought to ask my good friend who is in the funeral business but your suggestion of another plot for me with a marker with his name on it sounds very ‘do-able’.

We have talked and talked about this matter and as the wedding date draws closer I’m starting to get a little more concerned about this issue. We talked again the other night and I told him I would agree to have him placed next to his late wife but couldn’t come up with an option for me. My late husband was cremated, I want to be cremated and had thought of putting Tom’s ashes in with mine…ok, changing names now seems to be creating another problem I’ll have to try to resolve. Oh well, at least I have an option to go with now and if I do scatter Tom’s ashes, it will solve another problem.

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute

I applaud you for being able to talk at length about these issues so early in your relationship. Many people make the mistake of not addressing things until they are well into the marriage, and then the problems become intensified. This bodes well for your relationship in the long-term because you are communicating about the tough issues and trying to get resolutions before going any further. Good for both of you.

Having thought about your options a little more, I had one more thought I’ll share with you. You should feel comfortable deciding now what to do with your late husband’s ashes, as you’ve given your new partner permission to do what he must in relation to his past wife. You had said at one point that you had wanted to be cremated as well; one suggestion might be for you to be cremated and for your ashes to be buried along with your first husband’s when the time comes. Then you could also include a plaque to commemorate the life that you and your new husband are about to share. I think the important thing here is that everyone wants to honour the lives and the commitments they had with their life partners, in the most respectful way that fits for everyone involved. You are wanting to do the best for everyone and that is honourable. I am confident that once you know all of your options, that the two of you together will make the most fitting choices. I wish you all the happiness as you pursue a life together.