We all handle loss in our own ways.
Some laugh, many cry, and others avoid it entirely.
We all process those emotions in the way and time that is most comfortable for us, and then we tentatively step forward into the new normal.
But sometimes, other people take offense to that first step.
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Mountain_Tomato_566 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for not giving my family a heads-up that I’m dating again after my husband’s death?”
OP began with some history.
“My (45F) husband (‘Tim’) and I married right out of college.”
“We had a very happy first decade of marriage, including having two children (‘Luke’ and ‘Beth’), who are now 21M and 19F.”
“However, when in our 30s, Tim developed severe depression and substance use disorder (alcohol and painkillers).”
“His depression was treatment-resistant, and that made him unable to fight his other addictions.”
Then she shared terrible news.
“Despite numerous inpatient psychiatric stays and several stints in rehab, he passed away of an overdose 5 years ago, at age 40.”
“We don’t know and will likely never know if the overdose was accidental or intentional.”
“After Tim’s passing, I was 100% focused on helping our children be as okay as possible.”
“Despite his demons, he was a great dad when he was able to be, and losing him was completely devastating for all of us.”
“Lots of individual and family therapy helped, and Luke was able to graduate from high school with high honors and get a college scholarship (out of state).”
“Beth graduated last year with similar honors and is also now in college, several states away.”
“With both Luke and Beth now adults and away from home, I can finally focus more on myself.”
Life, eventually, moves forward again.
“It took me a long time (at least 3 years) after Tim’s passing before I could even think about wanting to date again.”
“Then for the next year, I was focused on getting Beth through her last year of high school and off to college.”
“However, once she went off to school in the fall, I started to dip my toe into dating apps.”
“It’s been slow going; I’ve probably had a dozen or so dates total, mostly first dates that didn’t go anywhere.”
“There was one guy I went out with four times, but we decided not to continue as we weren’t feeling a more-than-friendship spark.”
“So, here’s where the problem is – last week, a cousin of Tim’s saw me out on a date – she was in town for business and just happened to be at the same restaurant.”
“She made a bit of a scene (coming up to the table and demanding to know what I was doing with betraying my husband – which really confused the gentleman I was out with).”
“She then stormed out and, apparently, called Tim’s parents, who then called Luke and Beth.”
“Now everyone is furious at me because I hadn’t given a heads-up that I was starting to date again.”
“My thought was – I don’t need to give the play-by-play on my dating life, especially when it might be hurtful – I figured that if I actually started seeing someone regularly, I would let folks know, but until then there didn’t seem to be anything to tell.”
“Especially as Tim’s parents live across the country and Luke and Beth are away at college.”
“However, everyone involved (Tim’s cousin, his parents, my kids, and assorted other relatives and friends who now know) say I am a huge AH for not telling people in advance that I was moving on.”
OP was left to wonder,
“So, AITA here?”
“(Not asking if IATA for dating at all; I’ve been a widow for five years! Just if I am the AH for letting people find out without a proactive heads-up.)”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Privacy was a key issue.
“You are a grown woman with a right to a life and privacy.”
“You owe no one the details of your life, not even your adult kids.”
“Your cousin is a huge AH for the scene she made.”
“Am sure everyone still feels the loss of your husband, but that doesn’t mean they get to dictate how you live your life now.”
“Well done for being brave. Keep going“ ~ PlaneOk3184
“Listen u/Mountain_Tomato_566 I assume you are second-guessing yourself because of the uproar surrounding you.”
“Do not continue doing this. You mourned your husband truly and deeply, and your mourning period was not short by any means.”
“If people expected a heads up, that was an error in assumption on their part.”
“Can you imagine how it might go if someone in your shoes announced to the extended family chat every time you scheduled coffee or a movie with a potential date!?!”
“That would be utterly ridiculous.”
“They are allowed to feel raw about their loved ones passing, but taking it out on you in the form of misplaced harassment is not okay in the slightest. NTA” ~ pessimistfalife
“I’d probably give the kids a general, ‘Hey, I’m going to try dating again. I’ll let you know if anything looks like it’s going to go somewhere.”’
“It would allow them to absorb the idea before you got serious about someone.”
“The rest of them can go F off. They are not entitled to any information at all. NTA” ~ CPSue
Judgment came harshly for OP’s family.
“The former in-laws should have expected you to move on eventually, and the fact that they are trying to insert themselves into your personal life is crossing the line.”
“You can have some one-on-one conversations with the kids to explain your perspective and to hear them out.”
“I would write the in-laws a letter reminding them of how much you loved your husband, and you kept your vow to him until death.”
“You don’t have a vow with them, and you owe them nothing, so they need to get over themselves. NTA! WTF!” ~ Horror-College1119
“Your cousin is a nut job for making a scene like that when you have been a widow for 5 yrs.”
“You deserve to be happy and have a life of your own. Maybe you should have told your children that you were interested in dating again, but it wasn’t necessary to inform Tim’s entire family.”
“Decide if you want to maintain a relationship with your in-laws since your children are adults. I would consider the cousin persona non-grata.” ~ Scary-Conclusion-414
A matter of choice.
“The truth is that you were mourning the loss of your husband and marriage long before he died due to his issues.”
“You can still love someone and recognize the positive parts of them while knowing that the core of your relationship is gone.”
“You could have left him when he was struggling the most, and you didn’t.”
“You don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you live your life.”
“I may have told my children just so it wasn’t a shock, but the rest of the family doesn’t need to know anything.”
“Enjoy your time learning who you are and what you want!” ~ Legitimate-Dog-8618
“You are an adult who lives her own life. your family and deceased husbands family have NO SAY in if and when you date again.”
“When a spouse dies, our life doesn’t just stop cause they can’t handle it. tell them to pound sand. That cousin is a child in a grown body. live your life for you.” ~ Brief-Proof-9469
“You owe no one an explanation, you waited three years and time is ticking away, and you are an adult in control of your own life.”
“I agree that if a significant other came available, it would be nice to inform your children, but the rest of the family can pound sand!!” ~ AnnualNet7599
Some shared personal stories.
“Speaking as a widow, you are NTA – you don’t owe anyone anything.”
“Do what is right for you, with NO ONE’S permission!”
“You should discuss it with your children, not asking if it’s ok, just telling them what’s up & checking in with them emotionally.”
“Your husband died, and that sucks, but you are very much alive. Live your life for YOU. Everyone else can just deal.” ~ lasorciereviolette
“NTA- My father died of Covid in 2020.”
“My mother told me about a guy that she started seeing a few months ago, but it was only after they had been on a few dates.”
“I have a feeling that Luke and Beth may have responded differently if YOU had been the one to tell them, but Tim’s sister calling them with her narrative ruined that.”
“I think they will come around. Just give them a little time. Everything will be okay.” ~ Lupiefighter
Dealing with loss can be a slow, difficult process for some and rapid healing for others.
It is a unique journey that is taken by all of us at one point or another.
The trouble comes when you decide that you know the map of this journey better than the person on it.