Opinion is divided on when widows and widowers ought to move on
Quite inadvertently, actor-cum-businessman Dan Kinyanjui has become the poster boy for the discussion on how long a widowed man should take before he can begin dating again.
His wife died on May 23, 2017, hours after delivering their second child. He has been raising the two boys with the support of his mother, regularly posting images of him and the children on social networking site Instagram.
A few days ago, Mr Kinyanjui, popularly known as Dan Sonko, took to the social media site to announce that there is a new woman in his life.
“Wednesdays are made of this!” he captioned a photo of him and the woman in a car. “Ua na jabali lake (A flower and its bedrock),” he posted.
A reply from one of his fans sparked the discussion.
“I think you have moved on so fast,” she wrote. “I miss your wife.”
A barrage of condemnation followed, with a number of observers wondering how long Mr Kinyanjui, who is based in Mombasa, should ideally have taken before falling in love again.
It is an age-old question that marriage counsellors have debated on for a while.
“Life must go on. You cannot just sit and watch life go by. Yes, you might feel as if a part of you is gone, but you have a thousand other reasons to live for,” Bishop Philip Kitoto of the Kenya Assemblies of God replied when asked that question in a previous interview.
Rev Kitoto, a Daily Nation columnist, was quick to note that during counselling sessions, he advises individuals to take time to heal first and not rush into remarriage.
Mrs Bertha Mwangi, a widow and national chairperson of the Muungano wa Wajane Organisation, also urged widows not to rush.
Discussing the topic last month ahead of the International Widows Day, Mrs Mwangi said a bereaved woman should work hard to have a solid financial base so that the man she gets will not gloat that he is there to support her.
“You can’t start looking for a person to come and relieve you of your (financial) problems. You need a person who will be your companion in friendship,” said Mrs Mwangi, who also chairs the National Council of Women at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa.
Mr Kinyanjui, after the Instagram comment, posted his reply to the commentator, who some people have termed “insensitive”.
“Matters grieving are different and unique to every individual. I loved Dru (Druscillah Walowe) dearly and it has been over two years now. If the time is short for you, then maybe when you go through a similar ordeal, you can chart your own path,” he posted.
“I have moved on after I made peace with God and Dru. That is what matters most,” added Mr Kinyanjui.
The issue is not limited to Kenya. In the US state of California, comedian-cum-actor Patton Oswalt was a subject of the same discussion in 2017.
His wife died in April 2016 and in July the following year, he proposed to actress Meredith Salenger.
California-based publication The Mercury News, while reporting the story, ran a poll with the question: “Is it too soon for Patton Oswalt to be engaged again?”
To date, 63.75 per cent of those who have cast their votes agree that it was too soon, with the other 36.25 disagreeing.
One of the people who defended Mr Oswalt is Erica Roman, a blogger who lost her husband in April 2016, three days after Mr Oswalt became widowed.
“Who gave you the position to judge when it’s ‘too soon’ for a person who has suffered the worst to be able to find happiness and companionship again?” she wrote. “It’s been 15 months! How long should a widow sit in isolation before you are comfortable enough to release them from their solitary confinement?”
Our conversations with various individuals revealed the tinderbox that is the issue of moving on after losing a spouse. Especially for young widows, judgemental eyes lurk in every corner, ready to read disloyalty to the deceased spouse.
From our research, most churches do not have statutes on how soon a person should remarry after the spouse has died, mostly because wedding vows cite death as the only thing that can separate couples.
The existing statutes we found are to do with remarriage after divorce. Nairobi Chapel, for instance, says that divorcees “must remain single for the rest of their life or reconcile”.
The position statement on its website adds that in the case of one cheating spouse, a seven-year separation period is mandatory before the marriage can be annulled.
“If after seven years (of reconciliation efforts) no progress is evident or possible, then we will free the second spouse, under the exception of Matthew 5, to remarry if they so desire,” the church states.
Rev Kitoto said in a past interview that remarrying after death is usually easier for men than it is for women.
By Elvis Ondieki, Sunday Nation