Having this debate could be scary. Could it be that you expect to lose a spouse? But what happens when you actually lose a spouse, does love and life end? What happens when someone who is equally caring and perfect walks through the door, should you just go ahead and date them and let the dead take care of its own? Is it insensitive to do so? Before addressing what should happen at the demise of a spouse, maybe we could look at one of the most reoccurring term in marriage – oath. This may cut across cultures. The marriage oath is a seal binding two people in union.
In administering the oath of marriage, a minister says that marriage is in good and bad times until death separates the couple. In the Nigerian traditional system, it is also expected that marriage, the bond that binds two families, lingers and unites generations of both families. The statement suggests that ideally, only death should separate a couple that married in love. Two married people are meant to stay as one and work out their differences until the end of times or end of their love, as the case may be. But that could have been half-truth too, for how can two separate individuals stay as one for so long without the thought of separation and hate? Modern society has made it easier for troubled couples to go their separate ways.
In the case of death of a partner, people look up to cultures for mourning periods and sometimes, in modern societies, they look up to written or verbal wills. I know a friend whose husband has told that she could continue with her life if anything happens to him. Such boldness! Of course, anyone with a conscience would observe a period of looking inwards and missing the absence of someone they shared a lot with. It would be insensitive to say one should mourn for a month or ten years. Cultures sometime advise years of mourning before there is another marriage. The women are affected the more in my culture. The reason is that women lose more men than men lose women. Crisis and wars claim the men more. They die in wars, when buildings collapse and maybe in fights. The women are locked up for years and most of her freedoms are observed underground.
I think that it should be open to couples to discuss the idea of how long they should be mourned in case things go left. It should not be a formal and intense discussion. I cannot imagine myself having that discussion though. But I feel it could be said over a less serious hangout, of how long one should be mourned especially when the couple involved are young and may be ambitious.
Around here, one is said to be married when they die and are buried in their husband’s compound or on a property owned by the man. Much is not said about the woman. Tradition does not permit the men to be buried on the properties owned by the women, not like it is forbidden, but the unwritten law is silent about that. But I am sure that generations would challenge that one-sided nature of the benefits of marriage soon, and of children belonging to the family of the woman as well as the man. That if a woman owns a property, it is her children’s properties too.
On the discussion about the period of mourning, I strongly feel that lots of widows and widowers who later find love are either held back by the knowledge of the period of mourning, even outside the stipulated period that culture offers. A man may be hailed if he married after a year or two, especially if he gave the excuse of the need for more children. African families are obsessed with children. The women are usually suspected of the death of their partners if they marry within the period a man could get married. A clearly written document may give couples less things to worry about from the other side.
Death is a reality. Discussing life issues and plans around it should not be scary. After the tears, realities set in. The rents must be paid. School fees of the children must be attended to and a lot more. It is like skipping the urge to buy a classic vehicle and creating a trust fund for the children so they are aided. If we make this conscious plans with funds, we can as well consider those we would leave behind when we die.
PS: How long would you love to be mourned?