How Do I Handle In-Laws After Death of Husband

Adrianne writes in: Do you have any audios in your archive that deals with how to handle your in-laws after your husband dies? My husband died 2 years ago from cancer. Prior to his passing, his siblings became angry with him because he set limitations on visits during his battle due to his chemo. They felt they should come and visit with him as much as they wanted. But it wasn’t what my husband wanted.

So due to the anger of that situation other things were brought to the surface. By the time my husband was hospitalized he was finished with all the fighting and refused to see them after he was hospitalized. He died without saying goodbye.

Now that he’s gone I don’t hear from them.  I’m ready to see them …. however I’m not sure how to go about making it happen.  If you have an audio on the subject I’d appreciate it if you could instruct me on how to acquire it. I hope I will hear from you soon.

Dr. Gloria Horsley responds: Dear Adrianne: In-law relationships are very tricky especially when the biological family member has died.  I am so sorry to hear about how difficult your husband’s relationships were with his siblings prior to
his death.  You of course had no option but to respect his wishes.  You did not say whether you had children.  I assume you do and that makes for a strong connection with in-laws.  Anyway, your desire to now connect is admirable.

I would suggest that you proceed very carefully.  Connect with a family member that you feel comfortable with and don’t take them on as a whole.  Check it out and see how safe the environment is.  You don’t want to end up splitting family members into
those who support you and those who don’t. Be kind and loving and understand that some family members may be very slow to warm up to you.  Recognize that there will be some family members you just don’t have a life contract with.  Connect up with other widows as they will understand and support you on your journey.  Also, get my book, The In-law Survival Guide.  Lots of great advice on dealing with in- laws. Unfortunately we do not have an audio that deals with how to handle the in-laws after your husband dies. We filmed one for YouTube on in-laws that should be out in the next couple of weeks.  When it is available, you can find it at Thanks for contacting us and good luck in your

Dr. Gloria

Gloria Horsley

More Articles Written by Gloria

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, "Healing the Grieving Heart," which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.


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  • Sandra Sucku says:

    I was married to Bob (one of 4 siblings) and have one child, the oldest of his generation. Bob died. Dennis had 2 baby mommas and one child with each. Dennis has also passed. Gail had a baby daddy and a husband and one child with each. And then we have Gary, who had one wife and no children when Bob died. She was the only one related to my husband before his death. Then Gary divorced wife no. 1. He married wife no. 2 and had one child and ended up in divorce court. He later signed custody of his child to his ex as her new husband wanted to adopt him. Then he married wife no. 3 and had 3 children. They divorced and he married wife no. 4. He had 3 children with her and they divorced. Then he died. My question is, am I related to any or all of the 4 ex-wives and 2 baby mommas and 1 baby daddy and their 11 children? Four of these children have, collectively 6 children. Am I sister-in-law to the 4 ex-wives, one baby daddy and one baby momma currently living, an aunt to the 11 children and a great aunt to 6? The husband of my sister-in-law has passed away, as well as one baby momma. Is this a conundrum, or just a sticky wicket? I assume my son is related to everyone, or is he. And . . . the last and . . . are we related to the boy who was adopted out of the family? I’m expecting to meet with about 20 of the above next month (spouses included-yea! Spouses!). A reply would be greatly appreciated. Sandie.