Comforting the Widow

"Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables."
Hamlet, Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

Poor Alice. Her husband Bob has just died.

She's at the funeral, all weepy. Charlie, Bob's close friend, goes over to console her. They have a little discussion. They comfort each other.

Naturally, doing this with a woman whose husband isn't even cold in his grave yet is considered rather disrespectful and improper to say the least. It suggests that:

  1. Alice didn't really love Bob all that much
  2. Charlie wasn't much of a friend

Occasionally it's given a less negative spin: Overcome with mutual grief, they turn to each other and because of their loneliness and emotional vulnerability it leads to other things. But they'll still feel incredibly guilty about it, and other mourners who find out are going to be pretty disgusted.

As bad as this is, there are several sub-variants that make it even worse:

The first is a classic murder motive. The second is a way of punishing Charlie for betraying his friend (often he's the next target for the Black Widow). The third is a lesson to wives about the danger of a non-husband male friend offering comfort. While the last situation is the most common for the 3rd scenario listed above — expect a lot of angst and grief about having committed adultery without realizing it.

Contrast Romancing the Widow, which is when an appropriate time of grieving has passed, and the widow is encouraged to move on with a new romance. See also Sex for Solace or On the Rebound.

See also Death of the Hypotenuse, where Charlie had feelings for Alice before Bob died.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Soul Eater, it's Franken Stein (of all people!). Not so much comforting a widow but instead a Christmas Cake (sometimes Played for Laughs, but NOT in this instance), especially in the manga, as Marie Mjolnir loses her New Old Flame just before they reconcile their relationship again... Err...comforting in a platonic sense, by the way.
    • A significant moment for both for rather different reasons - Marie, because she's had feelings for Stein since they were in school and the BJ/madness thing complicated things somewhat, and Stein because it's the only example of him showing real empathy for another human being, aside from the odd nice gesture towards the students.
  • In Saiyuki, Dokugakuji to his own mother. Squickily justified as it was to protect his younger half brother from being beaten to the point of death.
  • Isao Tsujimura tried this in Detective Conan, with his friend Kenji Yamashiro and his wife Kimie. He also mixed it with The Uriah Gambit by using Yamashiro as a scapegoat for a big fraud, sending him to jail so he'd have a shot at Kimie, who was dangerously near to the Despair Event Horizon. Yamashiro died in prison, and Tsujimura and Kimie got married. However, it massively backfired years later, as Kimie learned the truth when Tsujimura's son Takayoshi brought a photo of his girlfriend Yukiko... Kimie and Yamashiro's long lost daughter (raised by her paternal family); she forced him confess... and later, she killed him.

  • This is a major plot point in the Sin City story A Dame To Kill For. The dame in question turns out to be a Card-Carrying Villain who kills her husband (or more accurately, manipulates the Anti-Hero, Dwight McCarthy into doing it for her, convincing him that her husband is some kind of sick, twisted maniac who has plans to torture and kill her) for his money, then plays the distraught widow to seduce one of the policemen investigating the case, just for the sake of it.
  • Happened in the backstory of the Yoko Tsuno book "The Prey And The Shadow". And then, William killed his sister-in-law and later wife, Mary.
  • The National Lampoon did a brutal comic-book parody of "Brian's Song" - at Brian's funeral Gale glances at the now ex-Mrs. Piccolo, thinking "That fine lady's gonna need some comforting tonight" as she thinks "I'll ask Gale to comfort me tonight..."
  • The porn comic Wendy Whitebread takes this to parodic levels - all of Wendy's friends show up to "comfort" her, and it becomes a free-for-all orgy.
  • Referenced in DC: The New Frontier; although not quite a widow (at least in this continuity), Lois Lane is understandably distraught when it looks like Superman, to whom she is definitely a Love Interest, has been killed by the Big Bad. Watching her flub a press report due to her grief, Rocky Davis of the Challengers Of The Unknown smarmily comments to Jimmy Olsen that it looks a good time for "a little of the old sympathy tactic". Jimmy, understandably, is less-than-impressed.
    Jimmy: [Disgusted] Rocky Davis. Ladies man. What an ass. Don't you know anything about women? She loved him, you idiot. She loved him.

  • Ghost, with the guy who killed Swayze's character putting the moves on his girlfriend.
    • Though Molly(the girlfriend) doesn't appear to feel that way about the murderer, even when she doesn't know he's the murderer.
  • Wedding Crashers had a character who went to random people's funerals precisely to do this. One of the leads, who had previously made picking up women at Weddings into an art form, is fairly disgusted. This doesn't stop him from doing it once, though.
  • Tommy. In the original Rock Opera, Tommy's father returns from war years after going missing and kills his wife's lover. In The Movie, the lover kills the father.
  • A slight variation in Pearl Harbor. Evelyn is in love with Rafe, who then goes off to fight the Nazis. She learns that his plane was shot down, so she immediately falls in love with his best friend, Danny. When Rafe returns it's, um, awkward. It doesn't help that she's pregnant (But it DOES help that Danny gets killed by Japanese troops after they crash in China!)
  • Summer of '42 — but in that case the widow (Dorothy) actually appears to need comforting, and as her husband was shot down over France, neither she nor Hermie can bear any complicity in his death.
    • Made squickier in the book by the suggestion that, in her troubled emotional state, she actually convinces herself that Hermie is her dead husband. He scolds himself afterward for having taken advantage of her, however inadvertently.
  • The Five Heartbeats has Version #3: Big Red has Jimmy killed (for threatening to expose his corrupt business practices) and then attends his funeral; when he tells Jimmy's widow that she "shouldn't be alone", she slaps him in the face.
  • In Casino Royale (1967), Deborah Kerr plays a SMERSH agent impersonating M's widow - at M's ancestral home she enters the bedroom of Sir James Bond (David Niven), demanding to be comforted (and ruin his Celibate Hero image). When he politely declines, she takes it as an insult to her honor.
  • Played with in the Ocean's 11 remake.
    Danny: Phil Turrentine?
    Rusty: Dead.
    Danny: No shit, on the job?
    Rusty: Skin cancer.
    Danny: You send flowers?
    Rusty: Dated his wife for a while.
  • Sergeant Twining from Uncle Sam enjoys informing women that their husbands died overseas so he can take advantage of them while they grieve.
  • Subverted, then tragically deconstructed in The Stoning of Soraya M. when Soraya goes to help a widower and his mentally-challenged son with house chores. Nothing happens, but her Genre Savvy husband uses this as an opportunity to build false testimony that lewd interactions had taken place.
  • The Player
  • The 2006 miniseries Blackbeard has this exchange after the titular character's mutiny:
    Cpt. Hornigold: ...and