This summer, some photographs were published showing the actress and presenter Paz Padilla with what seemed to be her new partner. As news, it would be something happy in any case, but a part of the people who saw it on social networks broke down in criticism of the protagonist. How dare she, it’s still too soon, she wouldn’t want him that much. What these enraged people were referring to was the fact that Padilla had been widowed “only” two years earlier. A few days ago, in an interview on the program the anthill —He came to promote the play the mood of my life—, the woman from Cádiz wanted to reflect: “How long do you have to wait to rebuild your life?” That is, at what point can a person who has lost a partner start a new love relationship?
A few decades ago, when the unwritten rules of mourning reigned over the lives of, above all, women, the answer was somewhat clearer: as explained in an article in SModa in April 2021, due to the death of a spouse they could being between two and five years old not only wearing black, but also giving up the pleasures of life. Now those customs are a thing of the past, but something remains in the social perception and how one reacts when seeing a widow start a new chapter in her romantic history. The barbs that centuries ago denounced widowed women who embarked on a new relationship are now comments that flood social networks.
Getting married again after becoming a widow or widower is still not very common in Spain, and it is even less so among women. According to a 2011 study, only 4.3% of widowed women went back to having a partner. It is also known that the younger the widow, the greater the chances of starting another relationship.
Paz Padilla, at 53 years old, enters that segment of young widows (the average age of widows in Spain is 77 years) more open to new relationships. On the other hand, among women over 65 there is a general rejection of remarrying, as explained to EL PAÍS by the sociologist at the University of Granada Juan López Doblas, who has done a lot of research on older people who live alone. “When the subject comes up, there are gender-differentiated discourses and women don’t respond with a ‘no’. They respond with a ‘no, no, no, no, no’. The rejection is deep and widespread, and it doesn’t matter if they are 66 or 96″. What they reject, in reality, is more coexistence, and the younger ones are somewhat more open to relationships in which they do not share a house (what in English they call living apart together). The reasons they give to justify why they do not want to live with a partner are also different: among the older ones there are more traditional arguments, such as not wanting to replace her husband or fear of what they will say; in the next generation, which may be 70 or 60 years old, there is more talk about not losing freedom or not wanting to care again.
What there is no data on is the time that elapses from the death of the couple to the start of a new relationship between the person who does. Yes, there is a study published in 1996 in Annals of Clinical Psychiatry which paints a very different picture in San Diego (United States) than in Spain: 25 months after the death of their spouse, 61% of men and 19% of women were immersed in a new romantic relationship. The sample was small and very specific, but the study also concluded that, in general, these people tended to show higher levels of emotional well-being. Are those two years (or less) the answer?
there are no times
“There is neither a manual for the perfect mourning nor a time for the perfect mourner, but mourning is something individual”, explains Valeria Moriconi, psychologist, psycho-oncologist and head of the Covid-19 Grief Support Service of the Official College of Psychology of Madrid. “Clinically we could say that around a year is when the loss should be accepted and emotions should be less intense, but we know that it is a general criterion, it must be adapted to the person and their circumstances,” she says.
This is what Paloma Romero, also a psycho-oncologist and psychologist specializing in grief, emphasizes: all duels are unique, so it does not make much sense to talk about times. “Mourning is going to be conditioned by the present and past of the people, by the circumstances of death, by their strengths, weaknesses, fragility… All this is going to do is give shape to that mourning, a unique way that does not it looks like nobody else’s”, he details. Deciding whether or not someone is ready for a new relationship based solely on time is meaningless, she says.
As an example of these circumstances and this necessary context, Romero indicates that, in the case of Paz Padilla and her husband Antonio Juan Vidal —who died in July 2020 from brain cancer—, there might also be an early duel. “People understand that she has been grieving for two years because, since her husband died, she has been a widow for two years. But mourning, when we talk about degenerative diseases with a poor prognosis such as oncological diseases, often begins earlier. It is a disease that progressively deteriorates the person, they are small losses that happen in front of your eyes, ”explains the expert. If you have been experiencing that anticipated duel and being aware of it, not blocking it, you have been accompanied by professionals and working on it, perhaps that moment to “remake your life” comes sooner, she indicates. “Or maybe not, it’s very difficult to talk in general,” she insists.
More than time, both mourning specialists speak of an emotional adaptation. “Mourning is not a pathology, something that can be cured or recovered, it is a process. And it is not linear, it is more like a roller coaster ride, in which there are ups and downs”, explains Paloma Romero. “The process consists in that if at the beginning there is more pain than love and you go through life with the image of the person in front of you, it is difficult to see where you are going, it is difficult to move forward. When you integrate the duel, all these particular things that this relationship gave you, what happens is that the proportion of pain and love tends to be reversed. There will always be pain, but above all there is the love of what that relationship has given you, and instead of being in front you have it next to you. It is something that does not get in the way, that accompanies you, that fills your sails and that is not incompatible with other things. Maybe there are those who want to rebuild their lives in terms of finding another partner and founding another family, or there are those who do it by resuming a profession or doing things that they have not been able to do before, for whatever reason, ”she exemplifies.
In mourning there is also a repositioning of love and the assumption of new roles. “Mourning is not over”, points out Valeria Moriconi, “there is an emotional adaptation to the loss, a repositioning of the loved one in your life. Even if I’m not physically with you, love doesn’t end. But it is redistributed and it is the axis that pushes you to reconnect in life”.
The person who has suffered the loss, the mourner, must learn to live in this new reality. “One of the most difficult jobs is to rediscover the role within the day to day, tasks that were previously shared and now you have to assume them alone or share them with another person. She stopped being a wife and started to be a widow. With this new role is when I can face society with other pillars and I can give space to others ”, she elaborates.
In this very personal and unique process, social pressure tends to always appear at some point, in one direction or the other. “The feeling that the mourners have is that whatever they do, there is someone who has to say something about it,” says Moriconi. Thus, just as Paz Padilla is criticized for having started a relationship, there are also those who feel the opposite pressure, that of having to have gotten over it, as happened to Hamlet when they criticized him for continuing to mourn his father when it had already passed. a time. “From a certain moment in the duel, between six and eight months, it is common for patients to begin to receive messages from their environment encouraging them to do things and they may have problems managing this pressure,” explains Paloma Romero.
“Supporting the pain of others is very difficult. Part of the social pressure may be intended to encourage the bereaved to be better than they are, with perhaps very silly indicators such as going out or what to wear. Because seeing them like this hurts them and they understand that they are doing it for their own good. Or there is simply the lack of context that prevents empathy ”, she adds.
This pressure, external and internal, can also cause some to embark on a new relationship when they are not yet ready. “If I get into any type of relationship as a way to avoid what I am feeling for the lack of the person who is no longer there, that is a stopper. And there are no airtight plugs. The danger of avoiding this duel is that sooner or later it might come back to face me face to face”, warns Valeria Moriconi.
On the other hand, rebuilding life does not necessarily mean finding a new partner. Moriconi prefers the expression “reconnect to life”, a new stage that can take many forms and that can be different from the previous one. “The couple does not mean that the duel is more or less over. It is not an index. It is about reopening to the world and having those roots of love with a person who has passed away. New ties can be created, be they friendship, love, professional, personal… If you want to incorporate a new partner, great, but sometimes that doesn’t mean anything at all”, he adds.