After her husband died, Kate found out her husband was having an affair. How do you cope with your husband’s death — and forgive him for cheating on you while he was alive?
Here’s my reader’s comment:
“Nobody has addressed being married to husband who died, then finding out he cheated with a coworker for the entire marriage, or most of it,” says Kate on Help and Hope When You’re Living Alone After He Dies. “You’re left to grieve your husband’s death and the ‘loss of your life.’ You also have to recover from being cheated on, but not finding out until after he died. This is even more unbearable than the death itself. How do you cope with that?”
Finding out a terrible secret after a loved one’s death is difficult. Rebuilding trust after your husband’s secret affair is painful. And the combination of those two losses is devastating,
How do you forgive your dead husband for cheating while he was alive?
By weaving forgiveness and acceptance into your grieving process. Forgiving and accepting your husband’s affair with his coworker won’t be easy, and you’ll never “get over it.” You’ll always carry a shadow of sorrow in your heart, for both your husband’s death and his secret affair while he was alive.
My tips won’t miraculously heal your wound, but they will help you move forward.
5 Ways to Cope With Your Husband’s Affair After He Dies
My “She Blossoms” articles are broken up into five different categories, for a holistic approach to life and relationships — whether I’m writing about forgiving your dead husband’s affair or falling in love for the first time. I write about the whole woman: Spirit, Heart, Soul, Body, and Brain. The separate Blossom Tips help you identify which works best for you.
1. Spirit Blossoms – Decide you will forgive your husband
You don’t need to forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive for his sake. You need to forgive him for your sake. It won’t be easy, but the healthiest way to cope with your husband’s secret affair is to choose to let it go. You must decide to move forward, even though your heart has been broken by his betrayal.
Forgiving a husband who didn’t ask for forgiveness — or is too dead to confess and repent — isn’t like rebuilding a marriage with a real live man. Rather, it’s about reconstructing your current understanding of your relationship. It’s very similar to starting over after a sudden abandonment or unexplained rejection. I learned how to do this when my sister suddenly cut me out of her life over 10 years ago, and it wasn’t easy. But I learned how to forgive someone who can’t or won’t be part of the process of starting over.
And if I can do it, so can you.
2. Heart Blossoms – Renew your relationship with your husband
Even though your husband is dead, you still have a relationship with him. You were married for years, and a marriage doesn’t just disappear. Death changes a relationship; it doesn’t erase it. When your husband dies your marriage isn’t completely over; it’s just one-sided. Sometimes, in fact, some widows feel their husbands’ presence and life even after he dies.
My ideas for forgiving your husband for cheating while he was alive are based on that thought: renewing and rebuilding your relationship with him. If you can reformulate how you thought about your marriage, you will be able to move on — even after discovering your husband had an affair before he died.
3. Soul Blossoms – Find supportive, trustworthy companions
Don’t rely on the internet for personal support. It might be helpful to search for tips on forgiving someone who broke your heart and healing your heart without relationship closure. The internet is a great place for finding information and tips, but it’s not good for getting personal advice or learning how you can forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive.
An online grief group can show you that you’re not alone. For example, a widow in a group shared this:
“After my husband died, I realized how little I actually knew about him,” said S. “I found out he’d had multiple affairs while he was alive, and one of his girlfriends actually stayed with us for a week when her basement flooded. After six years I finally forgave my husband for cheating on me while he was alive. The bitterness I felt was eating me up. We have to let go of the past or it will kill us. Sometimes rituals help with letting go. Write your feelings down and then burn the paper, or tear it up and toss it in the air, then vacuum up the pieces and throw them away. There is no changing the past.”
Online support is good, but don’t rely on it. Talk to someone you trust in person. Express your grief and shock, and explore different ways to heal the pain.
4. Body Blossoms – Take good care of yourself physically
Grieve the passing of your marriage as you knew it. Your husband died, and so did your understanding of him and your marriage. This grief and sorrow — of losing what you thought was true — needs to be woven into your grieving process as a widow. Grief often involves feelings of shock, anger, disbelief and numbness.
The grieving process also involves physical responses, such as exhaustion and illness. Your body is telling you the truth: you’re shocked and devastated. Instead of pushing yourself to learn how to forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive, give your body time to adjust. You’ve experienced two horrible shocks: your husband’s death, and the secret affair he had while he was alive. Give yourself time to recover.
5. Brainy Blossoms – Learn when you’re ready
In Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back, I share 50 “Blossom Tips” to help women walk through loss and move into a new season of life. The biggest thing that helped me forgive my sister’s sudden rejection and let go was changing how I saw myself. I couldn’t forgive her — or myself — when my self-identity was based on who I was as a sister. It was only until I founded my identity on God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice that I could freely forgive and joyfully move forward.
When you’re ready, start incorporating activities that will help you forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive. Learn thoughtful strategies for picking up the pieces of your broken heart. Console yourself with comfort and hope after your husband’s death.
May you find healing and forgiveness. I can’t imagine how you feel, and my heart is broken for the pain you’re feeling. I pray for strength and comfort, and that you find people and places that will help you move from pain to peace and joy in your life.
What do you think? Your comments – big and little – on how to forgive a husband for cheating while he was alive are welcome below. I read every comment, and would love to hear from you. And don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk!
If you need a virtual hug, read When You Miss Him Like Crazy.
Take good care of yourself. You are already walking into the next season of life, and blossoming into who God created you to be.
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