Recently my twenty-six-year-old niece Kate lost her fiancé in a car accident just two days before their wedding. In addition to her deep grief, Kate also had to face many issues because they were not yet married.
First I believe she was robbed of memories. When I lost my husband, at least I had almost forty years of memories to help sustain me. Kate and her fiancé did not even have the chance to begin as a married couple.
Emotionally I feel her loss is so much tougher than mine was. Not only did she lose the future she had planned with her husband, Kate also had to deal with many horrible details. Family members–many who were already in route to a big family wedding–had to be contacted and told that they would now be attending a funeral. The services of caterers and florists had to be cancelled. Thank goodness many family members and friends stepped in to do these things, as well as pack away her beautiful wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses until decisions could be made about them.
Kate had to face the fact that she was not legally a wife. That is to say things like funeral arrangements were up to his parents. Luckily, they included her in that process which helped her tremendously, But in some cases, a partner who is not legally a partner might be ignored when it comes to funeral arrangements.
There are other things that can cause complications when a spouse is not yet a spouse. For example, life insurance may not have been transferred or even taken out with the spouse as a beneficiary before a marriage. Power of Attorney documents or living wills often don’t exist either.
The same is true for a will. If a will exists, often the spouse is not yet on that document. Most of us do not think of things like that until after we are legally married. And in Kate’s case, what couple that young would have considered a will necessary? I know at that age, my husband and I never even thought of drafting our wills.
No matter what age we are, when we lose a loved one that is not legally our partner, it can cause many complications. If is very difficult to know what to do, but perhaps couples who are in a serious relationship might consider the horrible reality that one person might die. With that in mind, getting legal documents in place is important.
As far as dealing with the emotional loss of a spouse who is not yet a spouse, it is up to friends and family members. We need to realize that emotionally, that loss is just as significant as it would be if a marriage had taken place. We need to be there and surround the person grieving for a spouse who is not yet a spouse with even more love and understanding.
Updated: October 23, 2014