After 27 years of marriage, my husband passed away unexpectedly in January when he had a heart attack at work. Three months ago I started dating Ronnie, my high school sweetheart, whose wife passed away two years ago. Although I loved my husband very much, Ronnie and I are in love and we believe that God has blessed us by bringing us together again. We plan on being married at the end of November. We have reserved the church and we have been participating in premarital counseling with my pastor. Our parents and our five adult children (three are mine, two are Ronnie’s) approve of our relationship and are happy about the marriage. My daughter is excited about the wedding and is helping with the arrangements, and my mother has been sewing the bridesmaids’ dresses. However, my brother refuses to accept Ronnie and he says he will not be attending the wedding. My brother and I have always been close, and I am hurt that he refuses to acknowledge my fiancé and will not participate in celebrating our marriage. He thinks I should still be grieving. As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say anything about how long the mourning period should be, does it? He says if I had truly loved my husband I would not even consider being with anyone else this soon after his death. I do still grieve for my husband, but Ronnie has helped me to understand that God wants us to find comfort in our loss and hope for our future. Furthermore, my brother said that getting married less than a year after my husband’s death is unacceptable and he believes I am making a huge mistake. When I ask him why he thinks I am making a mistake, he just keeps repeating, “It’s too soon.” Our mother has tried to talk to him, but he just won’t listen. How do I get him to change his mind and be happy for me?
The Widow Bride
I am glad that you are finding comfort in your loss and I wish you and Ronnie a long and happy life together. It’s regrettable that your brother currently does not wish you the same. Family relationships can be very complicated. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers, but I can offer some suggestions. You are correct in that the Bible does not say how long the mourning period should be. Each culture, social system, and religion has its own customs and rituals regarding how long the mourning period should last and which behaviors are acceptable during mourning. Furthermore, these customs tend to evolve over time. When a time period is mentioned in scripture, it tends to be short and related to the cultural customs involved at the time. For example, Genesis 50:1-14 tells us that the Egyptians mourned Jacob’s death for 70 days. Afterward, Joseph took Jacob’s body to the
where they mourned an additional seven days before burial. The mourning period for ancient land of Canaan appeared to be 30 days, as was the case for Aaron (Numbers 20: 29) and Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8). It would appear that these were official periods of mourning. Individual mourning is personal and unique. Each person grieves in their own way in their own time, and there is no set time. Genesis 37:34 simply says that Jacob, when he believed that his son Joseph was dead, mourned “many days.” Ephraim also mourned his sons “many days” (I Chronicles 7:22). The Bible does not tell us how long these fathers mourned, nor should anyone determine for you how long you should mourn. Israel
It would appear that your brother believes that you have violated your culture’s norms. It would also appear that the rest of your family and your pastor do not think that you have violated your culture’s norms, or if you have, it is irrelevant. Since your mother has already attempted to persuade your brother to accept your upcoming marriage, perhaps your pastor might be willing to speak to him. However, you should try to understand your brother’s point of view. His objection may go beyond his concern about violating cultural norms. There could be a many reasons why your brother objects to the marriage beyond his belief that it’s too soon. If your brother had a close relationship with your husband, your brother may still be grieving the loss of his brother-in-law or having difficulty accepting Ronnie as a “replacement.” Also, since Ronnie was your high school sweetheart, your brother probably knew him then. How did they get along back then? Your brother may share his concerns with you if he believes you will be receptive. However, your brother will be less likely to be open with you if he feels as if he is being pressured. Instead of trying to persuade him to change his mind, it would be best to acknowledge his concern and let him know that you value and respect his opinion, whatever that may be. Regardless, this is your decision to make and you should do what you believe God would have you to do. In time, perhaps your brother might accept your new marriage.