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How often should I visit my spouse’s grave?

by Legacy Staff

Is visiting the cemetery once a year enough?

Q. How often do widows visit the cemetery? I go to my husband’s grave, which is a 90-minute drive from my home, only once a year. I wonder whether others in my position visit more often.

It’s only human to ask, “Am I doing the right thing?” However, frequency of cemetery visits is not a barometer of love for and devotion to a mate. In my own unscientific survey of widowed friends and acquaintances,  I found visiting patterns seem to vary, depending on what’s going on in our lives, geography (proximity of the cemetery), whether we’ve remarried or have a new partner, family traditions, and other factors.

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One widow I talked to lived only 20 minutes from her mate’s cemetery until she moved recently. She drove to his grave quite often, especially in the first year. Her husband had died suddenly, and the visits brought her great solace. She tapered off as time went on and she became more engaged in her new life. However, I know someone else who also lost her spouse unexpectedly — and goes to her husband’s grave only on his birthday. 

Choices can differ, too, for widows who find love again. One woman, happily married twice and widowed twice, does not visit the graves of either of her husbands. (She plans to be buried with her first mate.) On the other hand, a business acquaintance of mine lived with a widower for many years after her husband died. She and her significant other agreed to visit the graves of their spouses together. Many people ask a friend or relative to accompany them to make the visit easier. 

I personally go to my husband’s grave once (and occasionally twice) a year with my grown sons. The drive to the cemetery (one hour each way) is a “trip” in more ways than one. It’s a bonding experience. We’re able to talk about family business and generally “hang out” without interruption or distraction. We return feeling renewed, connected, and comforted in knowing we’ve checked out the condition of the grave and the plantings around it.  

Cemetery visits can be very healing, and people used to make them often. In the Victorian era, it was actually common to hold picnics at the graves of loved ones. But today our busy, stressful lives make demands on us. We all have our own rhythms, histories, and logistics to contend with. And we do whatever works.


Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes and Eulogies. Have a question for Florence? Send her an email.


 

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