‘We lost our mum last year and dad’s already seeing someone else – how can he move on so fast?’

‘We lost our mum last year and dad’s already seeing someone else – how can he move on so fast?’

The problem…

“My mum died in August last year and my dad was devastated, as they were so close. She was only 67 and was sitting next to him in a chair when she had a heart attack and died. It was a shock to us all, but what has been even more shocking is the way my dad has behaved since.

“He said at the funeral that mum was the love of his life, so we are finding it really hard to understand the fact that he started dating a lady in November – just nine weeks later. It’s not even like she’s an old friend or something – he met her online.

“She seems like a nice person, although she’s older than him, but my brother, sister and I feel so angry with my dad. How can he get over losing our mum quite so quickly?”

Fiona says…

“You’re finding this all very painful and confusing – you are still mourning the death of your mother, whilst it must seem to you that your father no longer cares. I’m sure that’s not the case though – I’m sure his grief is still very raw, and he possibly feels he just can’t face it on his own.

“It sounds like you’re torn between feeling loyalty to you mother and respect for her memory, as well as concern that your father will stop remembering her as the person you’ve both lost.

Remember you are all grieving differently - and that's OK

“While you wouldn’t want your father to face loneliness in his old age, his new lady must feel like an intrusion to your family unit. She doesn’t need to be though, and whilst this is hard for you, you can choose how you cope with the situation. Either you go on feeling angry and struggling to cope, or you try to find ways to help yourselves accept it.

“Try and remember that the three of you siblings, and your father, are all grieving very differently. Your grief is for the loss of a mother, whilst his is for the loss of a spouse. This new person is not, nor ever could be a replacement for your mother. I’m sure your father isn’t comparing the two of them, and nor should you be. Your mother will always be your mother no matter what, no matter who else comes into your lives, or your father’s life.

“It may sound odd to say this, but it is, in some way, a testament to how close your father was to your mother that he feels the need to build a new relationship so quickly. 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. Some people will take many years before they feel ready again – for others, like your father, the need for renewed closeness happens almost immediately.

“It is up to the individual to decide what is right for them and I’m afraid it’s not your place, or mine, to decide that for him. I suspect this woman knows full well that she is helping your father recover from his grief, and that you may be finding things difficult. It might help if you try to get to know her better and find out more about her. It’s possible that she, too, has faced loss and that she and your father are helping each other.

There is no right or wrong time for a widowed person to start dating again

“If you can establish friendly relations with her, you might start to feel more comfortable with her being around. If you try talking to her about the loss of your mother and the grief you feel, it may be that she can show you she’s no threat at all. I am sure that will help you feel less anxious and hopefully you’ll be able to accept her for the person she is – a close friend and helpmate to your father, not a replacement for your mother.

“It might help you to come to terms with your grief and loss by talking to a bereavement counsellor too, and I would suggest you contact Cruse Bereavement Care (cruse.org.uk) for help. They can also help you talk through your feelings about your father and perhaps help you to understand his behaviour better.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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