Losing the In-Laws: How to Cope with One More Divorce Loss

When getting a divorce, you expect to split from your partner. Although it’s not easy, you are working through the grief as you work through the legal process. What you may not expect is the loss of other people in your life: your in-laws.

For years, you attended their weddings, funerals, children’s school, and sports events. You may have lunched with your mother-in-law or gone fishing with your father-in-law.

Two women celebrating
Photo by Tony Alter.

If they have become your family, it may come as a shock to find out they de-friended you on Facebook and no longer take your calls. Suddenly there are two sides, and they’re definitely not on yours.

Here is how to cope with the awkwardness that may follow:

  • Don’t expect anything. Each divorce is different, and your in-laws might be the ones who call and ask how you are doing. They may understand that it takes two to tango and two to divorce. But they might not.
  • Reach out — gently. Depending on your relationship, it is probably OK to send a Birthday or Get Well Soon card. Calls and lunches might be put on hold for a while. But if your relationship with them is strong, those things may return in time.
  • Keep it classy. Don’t send a long email full of emotion and dirty laundry about your soon-to-be ex. Even if they are rude to you right from the moment they hear about your split, it’s still best for you to remain calm (at least on the outside) and treat them how you would like to be treated. If you have children, this will set a good example for them and it will help pave the way for peace at family events down the road.
  • Remember: change is constant. Even if you and your sister-in-law are best friends and remain so after the divorce, life will continue to change. What happens if your ex-husband remarries? If you remarry, you will have a new set of in-laws to take into your family.

Have more questions about the emotional upheaval that comes with divorce? Join us for our workshop next month to hear from a therapist who handles divorce issues.

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  1. How do I help my sister who recently was divorced deal with the loss of her in laws. Her husband had an affair and decided he didn’t love her anymore after 36 years of marriage. She is devastated. His family turned on her.

    1. This is a prime example of one not just suffering through the loss of a spouse during divorce. We recommend that your sister seek out guidance from a qualified family therapist in the area to help her cope with this issue.

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