What does the term for the in-law relationship become when someone is widowed?

For example when someone is divorced, I have heard the relationship dubbed ex-in-laws. Is there a similar term or phrase that I can use in a widowed relationship?

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    This is a comment from a similar question on Genealogy SE : if a person's wife dies, she does not become their 'ex-wife'. By similar reasoning, your brother-in-law is still your brother-in-law whether or not your wife is alive. The marriage (thus the relationship) has the same legal strength whether or not either, neither, or both parties are alive. – Nigel J Apr 25 '18 at 15:29
  • Above comment is from Genealogy SE. – Nigel J Apr 25 '18 at 15:29
  • As the answer from @KarlG implied, you are not obliged to call them your inlaws, although you may if you want to. You are not obliged to have any relationship at all with them (except for some states where grandparents have legal rights to see their grandchildren), but of course you may if you want to. – ab2 Apr 25 '18 at 18:04
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    I've always said "ex-in-law," even in the event of an involuntary dissolution of marriage. In my mind, "in-law" has a specific legal meaning—which would no longer apply. Perhaps, if I wanted to say something other than "ex," it would be, for instance, "mother-in-heart" or "mother-in-spirit." – Jason Bassford Apr 26 '18 at 6:58

In common usage, the parents of a deceased spouse remain one’s in-laws:

Even though they might be expected to be especially supportive of their grieving daughter- or son-in-law and grandchildren, not all in-laws are helpful to the widowed.

Widows in Zimbabwe are routinely evicted from their homes and land, and their property is stolen by in-laws, Human Rights Watch says.

Increasing numbers of Japanese widows are taking advantage of a procedure by which they can sever ties with their in-laws in a form of “posthumous divorce.”

A majority (21.60%) of widows [in India] had received help from their in-laws or in-laws' relatives. The next largest group (16.80%) of widows received moral as well as material support.

Question: Do I owe it to my children to keep in touch with their grandparents (my in-laws) after the death of my husband? Although they are nice people I don’t agree with their values and I just don’t have the energy to keep in touch with them.

In social situations where a widow/widower is called upon to introduce the parents of their dead spouse, how they are addressed depends on how much information is required to avoid awkwardness. “My mother- and father-in-law, my late husband’s/wife’s parents” probably wouldn’t offend anyone and wouldn’t elicit the question, “Oh, and is your husband/wife also here?” from someone too clueless not to ask. After someone remarries, depending on the relationship, they could be introduced as “my first in-laws” or as one’s children’s grandparents. It all depends on cultural and familial expectations and how the relationship plays out in that context.

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  • I agree that it depends on the family. I've been divorced for 10 plus years but I'd still refer to my wife's sisters as sister in laws. Nothing takes away from the time you spent together, that you shared your steps through things, saw their children born, grow and get married - that shared experience doesn't mutate even if it might end. But rarely does an introduction not allow you more clarification - 'my inlaws, through my ex-wife Joyce" – Tom22 Apr 25 '18 at 16:48

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