Question from a Reader: My dad died 11 months ago at the age of 55. My mom is 50 and looks a bit younger. I know she’s a young woman and has lots of life left in her but she’s got a boyfriend! I cannot understand how she can do this. I told her to do whatever she wanted as I didn’t want to see her lonely but to have some respect for us as we were still mourning our dad. When I talk to her on the phone all she knows how to say is US, WE, ME, and it is driving me crazy. I get so upset that it takes me an hour to get over a call from her. She doesn’t understand why we are so upset. She is now living with this guy! My thoughts are if you can physically sleep with another man, then stop crying over the first one. She will cry when we talk about Dad but yet is able to be with this other man. Do you have any thoughts on this?
My response: I’m so sorry to learn of the death of your father, and my heart goes out to you. The feelings you’re having toward your mother in the aftermath of your dad’s death are understandable. When one parent dies and the remaining parent begins dating someone else, it can be very hard for the adult child to accept, no matter how soon after the death it occurs. Partly that is because you may be feeling a need to remain loyal to your father and respectful of his memory, and you may be worried that your mother will cease to remember and love this irreplaceable person you both have lost.
It may be helpful for you to keep in mind that you and your mother are grieving very different losses, and the relationships you had with the person who died are very different too. Your mother has lost her spouse, while you have lost a parent. I don’t know how long your parents were married, how close they were to each other, or anything else about their relationship, but I do know that however your mother reacts to your father’s death depends on many, many different factors, some of which you may not even be aware of.
In her insightful book Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads, author Clea Simon observes that daughters of the newly widowed sometimes have trouble “balancing the real vulnerability of our newly single mothers with respect for them as adults.” She goes on to say that:
Accepting and encouraging our mothers’ independence can be awkward for us . . . . Particularly in the social arena, we are not usually accustomed to seeing our mothers as women. We knew them as our mothers, not as fellow adults who raised us, who worked in the house or out to keep a family together. We do not usually picture them as women like ourselves, as partners enjoying or leaving relationships, as people like us who have lived with the mixed consequences of their actions. Unless our mothers had been alone for a long time before the death of our fathers, we tended to see them as part of a unit, as teamed with our fathers (or stepfathers or partners) in their roles as our mothers, not as women. Now fate conspires to show us the other faces of our mothers, and makes this time full of discovery for us both. For many of us, this can be an uncomfortable transition. If our mothers start dating, for example, we have to accept them as sexual beings. If we have not faced it before, we are now confronted with the reality that the tight parental unit – the monolith of parental support, discipline, and security that protected our childhood – was comprised of two humans, one of whom is now single and lonely as we have ever been. Some of us may experience this discovery as a betrayal . . . After the death of a parent, particularly a father, this . . . may become most pronounced when a widowed mother becomes sexually active again . . . (Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads, by Clea Simon, John Wiley & Sons, NY, 2001, pp. 140-142).
There simply are no hard and fast rules for deciding when the time is right (or wrong) for a widowed person to begin dating or falling in love with someone new. For some it may be several years while for others it’s only a matter of months. But in the end, it is up to the individual to decide if and when she is ready to love again, and it is not our place to make that determination for her.
To gain a clearer understanding of what your mother may be experiencing as a newly widowed person, it may help you to read what other widows have to say about dating and remarriage. See, for example, some of the excellent books you can find online or through your local library, such as Widow to Widow by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, or PAST: Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman’s Journey As The Wife Of A Widower by Julie Donner Andersen.
I also encourage you to get some help with all of this by talking to a therapist or professional bereavement counselor, so that your own feelings about losing your father and your current difficulties with your mom can be expressed, worked through and resolved. You may have no control over how your mother chooses to lives her life in the wake of your father’s death, but with help you can find more effective ways to manage your own reactions and get on with your own life. Your community library or your local mental health association will have good grief counseling referral lists, or you can use the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory to call your local hospital or hospice. Ask to speak with the Bereavement Coordinator, Social Worker, or Chaplain’s Office to get a local grief referral. I hope you will think of this as a gift you can give to yourself, and I hope you will follow through with it.
© 2011 by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC
Hello my father passed 2 years ago. I am having a issue with my mother. She had started dating which is not the issue. The issue is she starting dating months. After my dad passed away. My father passed in the house i was raised in and i found out my mother was seeing the neighbor next door . this man use to talk to my father. And she sees nothing wrong with it. Now she is dating someone younger than her and she lost a lot of weight and is acting like my feelings don’t matter. I would love for her to meet someone that was equal to her. This new man has tried to jump on her and wont allow her to spend time with her grandchildren when she comes to see her grandchildren he constantly calls and argues with her in front of me and my children. We have had a issue with him calling my home because my mother was taking to long spending time with my children her grandchildren. And my husband and him got into it and he knows i dislike him. And so does my mother she reunited the fire of my dislike by bringing this man over my home. I was so mad i cried i asked her why would you bring this man over my home. She was very calvilar about it and said Oh yeah sorry i could of screamed. My husband told me to just let her go because all she is doing is hurting me. We just got back to talking because me and my husband were renewing our vows my sister which we have different fathers she never got alone with my father. Invited people to our wedding we didn’t know we were paying for everything when i would not allow my sisters guests she refused to come. She has always treated her better and i would have my husband and father in my corner now my dad is gone and my sister is happy and i found out she is the one who set her up with this new guy. I am tired of hurting i think my husband is right i should just distance myself from everyone.
Dear Shawna, I’m so sorry to learn of this situation, which clearly is causing you such distress. It seems to me, however, that since you are powerless to change any of it, you would be wise to follow your husband’s advice and distance yourself as much as possible. If you find that too difficult to do by yourself, I hope you will seek the support of a qualified counselor or therapist to help you deal with this.
My mother lost her husband (my Step Father) almost two months ago. They were in a fatal car accident on the way home from the casino. My mother is the type of woman who can’t be alone. She is on her was as we speak to the casino with a man who was partly responsible for my parents marriage ending. My brother & I are struggling. Not only have we lost the man who helped raise us for 13 years. Our mother is moving on with a man that was the reason my Mother cheated on my Father. We are so lost. Heartbreak don’t describe our road we’ve wound up on. How do I cope? How do we stand by as our family falls apart? Before my Mother met my Stepfather she completely shut my brother & I out. Any interested man came before us. I feel like now, myself at 26 years old, am reliving my childhood.
I’m so sorry, Tessa, that this is happening to you and your family. Unfortunately I think you know as well as I do that we simply cannot control another person’s behavior. The only behavior we have control over is our own. So I urge you to do whatever you can to take care of yourself in this situation, including a session or two with a qualified grief counselor ~ someone outside your circle who can empathize with you, support you as you air your thoughts and feelings, and find a way to come to terms with it.
Hi there, my dad passed away three years ago due to cancer that he battled for 20 years on and off. My parents were married for 33 years and were literally relationship goals and were my idea of love growing up. My dad basically spent the last few months of his life in that bed. And basically died in that bed. Everything in that house is a representation of my dad he built most of our furniture. He upgraded it so much and everything. He worked so hard for our house and I grew up in that house. And I went away to Australia for a year and my mom tells me she’s seeing someone a few months ago, then the other day I find out he was staying the night at our house… in that same bed. I’m absolutely disgusted and I don’t even want to come home and feel uncomfortable in my own house. I confronted her and she says all I’m doing is making her feel like she can’t do anything right and that everyone deals with things differently. An she’s an adult and can make her own decisions. When all I said was if you’re going to spend the night with him do it at his house in respect of dad. Like his ashes out in our house how can I look past this. I’m so hurt.
My dear, I’m so sorry that you’re finding this so difficult to accept, and I hope you will read again the content of the article above and take its message to heart. The home you describe that your parents built, the one you’ve known since childhood, and the one you felt free enough to leave when you left for a year in Australia to live a life of your own, belongs now to your mother ~ just as the life she is living now, in the absence of your father, belongs to her as well. The hard truth is that, although your father passed away three years ago, life is for the living. Your mother has not died, and just like you, she is a grown-up woman who has every right to continue to live her life and to enjoy whatever happiness she can find. I hope you will find a way to celebrate that ~ and if you cannot bring yourself to do so, I urge you to seek the counsel of a qualified therapist or counselor who can help you sort through and come to terms with all of it.
My dad passed away on 2011 and it was a really hard time for us all x a year after my father diéd my mother married another guy and he abused us all and he abused me emotionally and physically 😭 I had a very rough time then and struggled to trust any man again and now my mom has a bf and I asked my mom to go slow in this relationship as she always took things to fast to early x but now My mum doesn’t even smile or pay attention to me and is always very rude to me and I’m seriously depressed and having frequent anxiety attacks and my mum doesn’t even know about it cause I don’t want to tell her. I really don’t like this guy with who she is dating now cause he looks really suspicious and as I have mentioned I don’t trust any man my mum dates as I am scared to be hurt again and I am still in pain and not over my fathers death. I am now 17 and I miss my dad every day and I can’t let go of his death and can’t deal with the past years without him in this world 😭 I am to scared to ask for help from my mum as I don’t trust her anymore, I know she tries to do her best and keep al 3 her children happy but really I am the one who is t happy and don’t know why… what can I do to reduce my anxiety and anger towards my mum and her new bf and to deal with my past ?
Cara, my dear, I’m so sorry to learn of the difficulties you’re having with your mom ~ and if you feel too scared to share your thoughts and feelings with her, I urge you to find someone else you can trust who can support and guide you. That could be someone in your family ~ a trusted relative or close family friend ~ or someone you know at school, such as a favorite teacher or high school guidance counselor, or a clergy person or pastor if you belong to a church community. This is too much to bear all by yourself. You need and deserve wise counsel from someone who can help you understand, sort through and cope with what’s going on in your life, and I hope you’ll make an effort to find it. ♥
My father died 3 years ago. 10 months after his passing i found out that my mother has a boyfriend (our neighbor) i borrowed her phone and i accidentally read a message from her boyfriend i was mad but i did not show it. i texted my older sis about it. she confronted our mom because I couldn’t. That day i promised myself that i will not talk to my mom again until she realizes she’s hurting me(im the youngest btw). My older sisters are already married so I’m alone. I don’t have friends to talk to and i was depressed. I dropped out of school , having suicidal thoughts and hurting myself. How funny she didn’t realizes it at all. She’s still doing what a mother does.
What pains me is the fact that she’s hiding it from us.
Her boyfriend now is an abuser to his former wife and that’s one of the reasons i don’t like him for my mom. He also have a gun which scares me the most.
I want to take care of my mom but i think she don’t need it.
Miss my mom even though she’s here beside me.
I’m so sorry, Jen. You don’t say how old you are or whether you’re still living with your mom, but clearly this situation is having a negative impact on you. You say that you’ve dropped out of school, you’re depressed and having suicidal thoughts, and you’re hurting yourself. These are serious indicators that you are in need of professional support ~ from a qualified counselor or therapist. I urge you to confide in one of your older sisters and enlist their help in finding the support you need and deserve, and I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Much as you’d like it to be so, you cannot control your mother’s behavior, and despite your wanting desperately to take care of your mom, your first responsibility right now is to take care of yourself. You are worth it and you deserve it, and I hope that you will take this advice to heart. I am pulling for you, and I wish you all the best. ♥
My husband (John) suddenly lost his father in January of last year. His parents were married for 30 years and we’re very happy together. Less than 3 months after losing his father, his mother informed him that she has found a companion. John had his own reservations but understood that he had no way to understand the grief she was feeling. He let his mother know that although he didn’t understand her decision, that he respected that it is her life. He communicated with her that it would take some additional time for him to be comfortable around the new man because of his own grieving. His mother’s response said that she understood but her actions proved otherwise. She began distancing herself from our family including our 3 young children that were severely impacted by the loss of their grandfather. My husband and I tried to talk with her about the way John was feeling about the loss of his father and the struggling relationship with his mother, but she had less than zero compassion for her son and got upset about the way he was feeling instead. Since then, we have tolerated the distance between our family and her and her boyfriend. We see each other occasionally and have had some pleasant moments with them. The anniversary of John’s father’s passing was the beginning of this year. John’s mother planned a gathering with her late husband’s family for a surprise announcement of her new engagement. Although certain people are going to think it’s too soon, no one is upset about the engagement because it is her life. The main concern at this point is that we feel like she is being extremely inconsiderate of how the people around her feel. We want to be happy for her but the way she is handling things, (especially having a surprise engagement announcement party for her late husbands family) feels really disrespectful. I just want to know if we have a reason to feel this way. We have all tried to be understanding, supportive, and compassionate. Several people in the family are debating on whether someone needs to talk to her about this or how we should handle it. It’s gotten to the point that she is ostracizing herself from her late husband’s family and no one wants to see that happen just because she doesn’t seem to realize how she is affecting them.
The response here completely disregards the narcissistic attitude of the mother on phone calls!