Widower Wednesday: My Widowed Father is Rushing into a New Relationship

The following comment was posted last week on a past Widower Wednesday column.  My response follows the comment. (Note: For readability, I've broken the comment below into paragraphs.)

So I would like to get some input on this matter. I am the adult child of a recent widower. My mother and father were married 45 years, the last couple of which were rocky due to some mental and health issues of my Mom. Having said that I can assure you that my parents loved each other until the day my mother died. My mother died completely unexpectedly after a successful surgery 11 months ago.

My father's now girlfriend was a friend of the family before my mom's death and she began pursuing my father 1 month after my mother died. Within 2 months after my mom died they were dating and a serious item and by 10 months after they sat the adult children down and told us they planned on being married 2 weeks after the 12 month anniversary of our mother's death. Needless to say this rush to nuptials did not go over well with me. I love my father and don't want him to be unhappy or lonely but there is no chance that my father (nor anyone else that loved my mother) has had time even adjust to her passing let alone be prepared to have some one absorb her space so quickly.

Thankfully they have moved the wedding date back a couple of months but my father has broken every foundation of grief counseling. Within months he has emptied the house of most of my mother's belongs (clothes, decorations, furniture, possessions) by either giving to myself, my brother or family or donating. He has redecorated, resurface, pack up or passed on most of the fingerprint my mother left on their home and has jumped into a new relationship with 2 months of my mother passing.

To be fair, I can honestly say I really like my Dad's new girlfriend and can see that she makes him happy. I would never want to ruin that for him. I do have difficulty with the fact that they have no boundaries when it comes to my parents house. They don't have any concept of how inappropriate if feels to have this new woman absorbing my mothers space in her house. I have gotten to the point that I don't even feel comfortable in my parents home anymore. Yesterday while I was at my parents house visiting family his girlfriend was actually tending and rearranging my mother's flower beds!!! She doesn't even live at the house yet. My father keeps referring the house as "his house" to make the point to me that she is gone but just because she died does not erase her life. I am well educated enough to know how unhealthy my father's approach to his grief is.

Rather than deal with the sorrow and loneliness of the loss of his 45 year relationship (no matter how trying the last few years were) he has chosen to remove physical reminders of my mother and jump into this new relationship, become consumed with all these new loving feelings rather than deal with the loss of the old. I get that this is how he has chosen the deal with his grief by trying to barrel past it at mock speed. What he doesn't take into consideration is that he is forcing all the rest of us to keep up his break neck pace by forcing this new relationship on us. I don't want him to stop dating this great lady I just want some respect and appropriateness (within a reasonable time frame) where it comes to my mothers last standing footprint on the earth......her home.

--Can't believe we have arrived here already

Can't Believe We Have Arrived Here Already,

Losing a parent is hard thing for anyone to go through and seeing your father move on so quickly must feel like losing your mother all over again. But just because he's opened his heart to someone else so soon after her death doesn't mean he no longer loves your mother or that he's not ready to start a new life.

It seems like your biggest complaint is that their home no longer feels like their home. Since your mother passed, it's no longer their home but his home. He can do with it as he wishes. You say you don’t feel comfortable in your parent’s home anymore. Think about how you’d feel if you were or engaged to a widower only to have to live in a house that reflected the tastes of the late wife. Would you feel comfortable living there?

I'm curious as to what grief counseling rules you believe your father is breaking. I remarried 15 months after my late wife passed and have been married to Marathon Girl for 14 years. When I got serious with Marathon Girl, most of my late wife's things were either packed up or given away to those who wanted them. Though the length of time it takes someone to move on from the death of a spouse varies from person to person, those who do have successful remarriage almost always put physical reminders from their first marriage away in order to make room in their life and their heart for their new spouse. I see nothing wrong with your father’s actions. It seems like the healthy way to start a new chapter in his life.

I sincerely hope your father is ready to move on and that he's not rushing into a relationship he’s not emotionally ready for. There are too many women who date widowers and end up with nothing but a broken heart. But this is his life and home—not yours. I’m glad that you like the new woman. Be happy that your father has refused to dwell in sadness and misery for there is too much of that in this world. Your mother lives on in you and your brother. She also lives on in your father and the sweet influence she was in his life for 45 years. Just because the house she lived in doesn’t look like her house doesn’t mean she’s been erased from your father’s life. There will always be a special place in his heart for her.

Hope this helps,