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 started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. 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, The Grief Blog 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.

  • Beatrice Sue Herlacher says:

    My husband’s first wife died 5 yrs ago. They had 3 kids. Her family is very tight. Her mother and sister were adamantly opposed to him marrying me. They are feminists; I’m not. They hoped he would marry somebody with money; I’m on disability. They did their best to break us up but our relationship survived. We did wait longer to get married the what we preferred to make his kids and her family happy, but they were not happy.

    We’ve been married 2 years. My husband still attends they late wife’s family gatherings because he was considered part of their family for 36 years and he watched his nieces and nephews grow up and he was good friends with his in-laws. I go with him because he wants me to but I feel out of place. His late wife’s dad wants me to come. He says I am part of the family (and this is because he loves my husband,) but others do not feel the same toward me, I am sure.

    My step kids are all adults and they are having a hard time getting over their mother’s death. I understand this and I know that they may feel disloyal to their mom if they accept me as part of their family. But their mother talked to them before she died about how they needed to make sure their dad found somebody to love again. He chose me. Our relationship is much more loving than what he had with his late wife. He said i give him much more what he needs than what his late wife did. While that helps me i am sure that his children also notice the difference and may resent it.

    I try to do motherly things for them, but I still feel the coolness. And of course my husband always brings up the topic of his late wife when ever he is with the kids or her late family in my presence. I smile and bear it but I cringe inside.

    What do I do? Do I pull into myself and accept the coolness and wait on them to reach out? The daughter and middle son are especially cool toward me. The daughter would not pose with us in our wedding photo. The son treats me like I’m a practically a stranger. The oldest boy likes me because I make him food. He is a single guy.

    Do you have any tips for me?

  • Dolly says:

    I was married to a Priest and we divorce for 7 years. I was ok with certain members of the his family and friend(other Priest). We have two kids born from our marriage. To my surprise I was chased away at his Aunts house during the arrangement for the burial. I was only there for the support of my kids nothing else. They are more angry now because I produced the will that we had before the divorce. am still very angry for getting married to this man. The church has also taken side of the family I hate the Priest of this church more than anything.