Question: Dear Luise: My mother passed away a little over a year ago. My father was her primary caregiver and they had been married for almost 40 years. Two weeks after my mothers 1 year memorial, my father announced that he meet a woman and that things were serious. She is a very nice lady and is very warm to me and understanding. I am happy that my dad is not alone, as I don’t think he is one that could be alone. My mother wanted him to find some one nice when she was gone and I we talked about that prior to her death. We have an open and honest relationship. My father gave me my mothers jewelry, and let me chose what ever I would like from the house. I have an older sister, our relationship has not been good for the past 5 years. My mother gave her when she was alive a set of porcelain dishes and silverer. My mother always told me when you move into your house take your set of dishes and silverware. A few others things that were in the china cabinet. Prior to the lady moving in with my father, which will be next month. I discussed what I wanted to take, with him. I spend a day looking threw things and he helped me to pack, and load the car. Yes the China cabinet was almost empty, but I did leave a set of porcelain dishes ect. I purged a few things of my own to make room, and set up a special place for my porcelain dishes and such. I was getting happy to see some of my mom’s things around my house and they made me feel good. It had been a long time since I could say I felt good. Only to get a call back the next evening with my father crying and saying I took all of mom’s things, and he was left with nothing. This really broke my heart, I was torn, cause he make me feel like I stole all my mothers things. I said there was a misunderstanding and offered to put everything back, including what was mine, just to keep peace. He seemed to me to be panicking and saying he needs platters, needs platters. I think he is just grieving and here is a new woman moving in, might be too soon. I did speak to my father prior and the new woman and they all gave me the blessing to take and I would be better to be done prior to her move. My mother had many beautiful things. I think my father is feeling that my mother was in those things. Please note that there are 2 more hutches full of my mothers treasure, in addition to the China cabinet, with items that are worth more $ and I did not take. I took memories, and had his blessing. I think there is more to the issue than the platters. I also wanted to be helpful and not have the new woman move into a museum of my mothers things. But for now I put things back, minus a few things that my father know and said was ok. I will have to let them figure out what to keep of my moms and how to display since they will be married soon too. There are a few items that are at my parents house that I would like, that mom promised to me. I let my father know, and he said he will see if the new woman would like them, if not I could have them. This including my set of porcelain dishes, this hurts. I don’t mind if the new woman uses them, my biggest worry is that if something happens to my father I may not get those few items. What do I do? S.
Answer: Dear S.: Your father is fragile and is obviously having a hard time parting with the things around him that reflect his long marriage to your mother. It sounds like he would like to be able to do that but the reality of the empty spaces was probably too confronting to him emotionally.
When deep grief is being processed, it often doesn’t make sense. The situation you are in is not about platters, we both know that; it’s about loss. The things you removed and returned were promised to you but they are part of your father’s home. He is used to seeing them there. They represent the familiar and that brings him comfort.
Talk to your dad about this and let him know that you understand. You are both in a no man’s land of loss and it isn’t easy for anyone. The bottom line is that the articles your mother promised you are now his things and are part of his home. No matter what your mother promised, it is totally up to him what he does with them. Look into your heart and see that supporting him in every way you can is more important than any material objects. That is what your mother would have wanted you to do. Blessings, Luise