Question: Dear Luise: I am 42 years of age and lost my Mom to cancer 6 months ago. She was 67. My stepfather has raised my brothers and me. So he is my dad at heart. He is younger by 11 years than my Mom. He is already dating. They were married 33 years and a happy couple. This is killing me because I think it is to soon. I feel this new women might be seeing an easy target (grieving widower.) I want him to be happy, but also want him to take it slow. The holidays are starting of course which makes this even a harder time for me. I miss her so much and don’t want to deal with this new part of my dad’s life. In time maybe, but not now. Am I wrong for feeling this way and what kind of advice can you give me to get through this? Thank you very much Shawna
Answer: Dear Shawna: I read a statistic, somewhere, that 90% of the men who are widowed remarry within the first year. I don’t doubt that it’s correct. Men who were happily married want to recreate the comfortable feeling of having a partner.
No way is it wrong for you to feel like you do! You love your dad and you miss your mom! However, it really doesn’t matter much if you think it is too soon and want him to take it slow or not. He has to do what he has to do. We can only hope that the lady in question is one of integrity, if he decides she’s “it” because he’s terribly vulnerable right now.
It’s so hard to separate your grief from his seemingly rash behavior because the two of you are handling grief differently. You want to honor your mom and leave things as they are while everyone does the best they can to heal and he wants to fill a void he probably can’t bear.
I don’t know if telling you my own story will help you or not but I was the “too soon” bride in just such a situation. Val had been single for nine months when we met and we married just before the first anniversary of his wife’s death. They had been together for 56 years. He was sure his grown children would love anyone he loved but they were suspicious and rude…for years. Apparently they didn’t think a woman 15 years younger than he was could possibly be attracted to anything but his worldly goods. How sad that they didn’t see what an attractive and vital man he was at 78. They were sure I would wipe him out and be on my merry way. They decided all of that before they ever met me.
Now, he is 95 and I am 80 and somewhere along the way his kids have come to respect me and appreciate what I bring to his life. The sad truth is that it’s just the luck of the draw…whether we marry at 20 or at 78. The only difference is that at 20 our parents are worried sick and at 56 or 78 our kids take on the job.
What your dad does is his own business. I’m sure you already know that. But you can tell him that his future happiness will always matter to you and you are afraid for him. Tell him it’s not the woman that feels wrong to you, it’s the timing. I would hope he would listen to you but I’d bet my bottom dollar he won’t. I have to tell you that I’m grateful my husband didn’t listen to the dire prognostications of his kids!
The other side of the coin is that later marriages are often harder than earlier ones. People get set in their ways and their ways can be very different. There is often the expectation, sometimes unconscious, that the new spouse will just slip into the shoes of the one that was lost and that just doesn’t work. And it’s also true that there are schemers out there who pray on bereaved singles.
Give him your loyalty, respect and if he will take it, your counsel. And pray a lot! Blessings, Luise