Six months ago, my mom died. Four months ago, my dad started dating.

And I’m not okay.

Last June, my mom went into the hospital for a colonoscopy. She’d been having bleeding problems for a while, and her doctor sent her to the ER. She had had many health problems over the years, including a Hepatitis C infection from a blood transfusion in the late 80s and a stroke in 1995, but we didn’t have any reason to think she was critically ill. After the colonoscopy, however, the doctor told her that, even though her lab work was not critical, she would probably need a liver transplant. The next day, my dad went into the hospital to find her in convulsions and unresponsive. She was rushed to the ICU and put on a ventilator. I flew down the next day, and she died two days later. She was never conscious while I was there, and I never got to say goodbye. She was only 60.

The following weeks were incredibly painful for me, but I was glad for the support of my family. My siblings, my dad’s children, came down from Detroit for a while, and all of the family was there for the memorial service. For a couple of months, it seemed like something positive might come out of this horrible pain. My dad, who got divorced from my siblings’ mom when they were children and was distant from them for most of their childhood, talked about spending more time with his kids. He planned to rent a cottage in Michigan for the summer, planned to make more visits to Detroit to see his grandkids. For all the sorrow and loss, we thought at least we would get some quality time with our dad.

Then a couple months later, my dad tells me he’s been seeing someone named Mary from church, that he’s been going out to dinner and movies and taking dance lessons. The news hit me hard, and after a week or so I told him as much, that the idea of someone sitting at the dining room table where Mom used to sit made me want to cry and scream and throw things. He was genuinely upset to hear this, and he told me he never wanted to hurt me, but that he felt happy for the first time in a long time. He promised to keep the lines of communication open.

But gradually, the phone calls turned less and less to how he was doing and more to what he and Mary were doing. My sister and I planned out the holidays so he wouldn’t be alone, and he flew to Detroit to spend Thanksgiving with them. But he was on the phone five times a day with her, and he flew back a day early because she was sick – not because she needed to go to the hospital, but because she had been laid up with a kidney infection and hadn’t had time to go shopping for party supplies for her daughter’s baby shower. My sister called me a few days later, a little disgusted by his behavior, but we agreed to reserve judgment until after we’d all had a chance to meet her at Christmas.

My family and I few down to spend four days with him right before Christmas. I could tell he had changed quite a bit since this summer. He’d lost weight, he’d bought a Miata, and as my wife put it, “I’ve never seen your dad so happy. He’s positively glowing.” She didn’t mean it as a compliment.

My wife and I went out to dinner on the 21st for our anniversary, and while the original plan was for my dad to watch our kids, my grandmother offered to watch them instead. So right after we left, my dad left to go have dinner with Mary and “do some last-minute Christmas shopping.” My wife and I got home about 11:30, and Dad still wasn’t home. He walked in at 12:15, hair mussed, shirt unbuttoned. Yes, my dad did a walk of shame.

The next day, Dad picked up Mary and we all drove to my grandma’s house for dinner. Mary was polite and good with our kids, but they spent most of the night petting each other. Dad either had his hand on her thigh or around her shoulder the entire time. My daughter, who is 7, didn’t seem to notice, but my 11-year-old son, who was very close to my mom, did notice, and didn’t like it. We made pleasant small talk and the evening ended without incident, but we spent the rest our time down there mostly in an awkward silence.

Originally, my dad was going to fly to Detroit after Christmas and spend a few days with family, but since Mary’s family is in Grand Rapids, she invited herself along. They flew into Detroit on Friday around 5, but my siblings didn’t see either of them until almost 9, when Dad invited them to the hotel bar. (Originally, Dad was going to stay at one of my sisters’ houses, but after he told them Mary was coming as well, they told him it would be best for him to get a hotel.) There they met up with Dad and Mary, who were drinking brandy – very unusual for him – and they left after an hour or so. The next day, after going to brunch with his siblings, Dad went to my sister’s house for dinner. She had invited him over around 5, but they didn’t show up until 6:30, and they left around 10. Even though they were spending the next day in Detroit, he told them he was planning to show Mary the sights, and they wouldn’t see him again before he left. They drove to Grand Rapids and now they’re in Chicago, “on vacation together”. What was supposed to be several days of quality family time turned into about six hours total of face time between my siblings and our dad.

My siblings are pissed, and I’m pissed. We’ve tried to talk to him about all of this, but he keeps saying that we should be happy that he’s happy. Yes, it’s true, I’m glad he’s not horribly depressed and withdrawn, but this is anything but appropriate. The rest of my mom’s ashes are still in the house, in a box in her art studio. I asked Dad more than once to please wait for me before spreading the rest of them, and I had originally planned to do it while we were down there, but I told him I couldn’t do it. It would feel too much like getting it over with now. I asked him to wait until next summer. I don’t know if he will.

Dad says he felt like this was an opportunity he couldn’t afford to miss, that if he let Mary pass him by, he didn’t know when he would find someone. But frankly, my dad is a wealthy, retired bachelor living in a big house on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mary is a high school English teacher working two jobs, and I think if he had told her he wanted to take things slow, she would have waited. I wouldn’t be so concerned about the financial aspect of it except for things Mary herself has said. She told Dad his house was so big, it needed two area codes. Dad told me this as an anecdote to demonstrate her sense of humor, but I don’t think he realized how it sounds. And when they were in Detroit and talking about going to Chicago, she jokingly told my sister, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend all your dad’s money shopping!” I can’t believe she doesn’t know how that comes off.

So now we don’t know what to do. My sister plans to tell him how upset she is, and I need to talk to him too, but I don’t even know where to begin. For those of you who managed to read this far (thanks for your perseverance) and can relate, how did you deal with similar situations?

Eesh… I’m sorry to hear about this. I don’t have any experience in this at all, but I do think your father is acting more than a little inappropriate. To start dating a month after your mom died is a bit too quick, but even worse (IMO) is basically to blow off any family time while you and your siblings are still going through your grief and you really want and need him for the family to heal.

Maybe that’s the best tact to take, in the end. Appeal to fact that y’all need him right now.

Jeez, let your old man be happy.

Old people don’t have time to wait around

How long were you planning to wait before giving him permission to date?

This situation is much to be preferred to the situation which happens much too often; the widow/widower spends the rest of his life alone and depressed.

I can only relate to this tangentially.

Everyone deals with this sort of loss in their own way – some are more graceful than others, but I believe that’s luck more than anything. Death has a way of making you feel like a drunken moose skittering across a frozen pond. People just muddle their way through it, I suspect.

Picking up someone that quickly after a loss is certainly something that may cause eyebrows to arch, but some people will do anything to silence the miserable, gnawing feeling that stalks your soul when your partner dies. It never gives up, and it never goes away completely, and it’s damn well on an entirely different level compared to what we’d classify as textbook suffering. The more you loved them, the worse it is.

From my limited perspective as a widower I find it difficult to blame him, but I would say that his public behavior is terribly insensitive, going by your account. While it’s good to see him enjoying himself, he’d do well to remember that loss is often a shared experience: he’s not the only one involved.

I think the only thing I would do is let him know exactly how I feel, and try to accept that this development is probably part of his grieving process, however unpleasant it may be for those around him.

Get out of his way; let him be his own man. Your response sounds like the hang-ups a late teenager or twenty-something would have.

Seconded. Resolution carries.

It’s not about you. Your mother died. Your father could die tomorrow. He’s happy. It doesn’t matter what you think is appropriate. Don’t like it, don’t see him.


Your dad may have done a lot of his grieving before her actual death. He stuck by your mom, and loved her, but he may have been emotionally prepared to let go when the end finally came.

First of all, I’m very sorry for your loss, and for the pain of the current situation you’re dealing with. I can’t directly relate, but I do have some understanding of what it’s like to suddenly end up in a relationship again shortly after the unexpected end of a marriage.

I don’t know if there’s enough information in your post to have any idea if your dad’s relationship with Mary is a way for him to avoid grieving, or if he’s able to grieve at the same time that he’s enjoying Mary’s company. But I imagine that anything you or your siblings say to him about his relationship is going to make him feel worse or want to avoid you. I think it’s wonderful that you all want to spend quality time with him, but what he may be missing most right now is the companionship of a romantic partner, and that’s not something his kids can fulfill for him.

As for you, I don’t blame you for being bothered by his behavior. I know that you were seeking more of his time, rather than less, but I think you may just have to tell him that you can’t mourn and heal in the way you need while having Mary in what seems to be your mother’s place. Ask him to do his best to respect that, and you do your best to respect his choices right now. But unless you have reason to believe that he’s actually causing himself real harm (which I am not getting from your post), I’m not sure what else you can do.

I wish all of you the best of luck.

You lost me when “He’s positively glowing.” was a bad thing. They’re newly in love and still in the phase where they screw like rabbits. I wouldn’t deny that to anyone.

The guy lost his wife. Not a small deal. Maybe he’s trying to adapt the best he can. Maybe he’s relieved it’s over. Who knows? The only thing I know for sure is that trying to dictate someone else’s relationships is a fool’s errand, even moreso at this stage when the blinders are on.

I agree there are some issues with impropriety.

I’m so sorry you lost your mother so young - what a horrible tragedy.

That said, I think you need to cut your Dad some slack. People grieve differently; things don’t always happen at the exact time you want them to happen. I’d try to be happy that Dad found someone he likes to spend time with, so he’s not alone all the time with his grief. And maybe that’s part of it - some people find being alone when they’re grieving to be very difficult. Even if Mary doesn’t turn out to be a long-term thing, she might be just what he needs right now to see him through this. He wouldn’t be the first person who doesn’t do well without a mate.

It does seem like he’s acting a little teenager-y, but heck, I could put up with that if I knew he was happy.

At least he didn’t start dating 9 months ago. Give the guy a break.

My Mother started dating about 6 months after my Dad died. I thought it was great. If she started 2 months after the funeral, I’d still think it was great.

Everyone has their ways of dealing with such a tragic loss differently. Been there, done that. I started dating very shortly after the extended (years) illness and ultimate death of my wife at age 30.

First of all. Please, PLEASE keep lines of communication open with your father. Next. let him know (very politely and respectfully) that it bothers you a bit that he is seeing someone, because its too early for YOU to get over the loss of your mother. But, understand that this is him and his feelings. He isn’t over the loss of his wife, and will never be over it. He isn’t disrespecting his wife, nor is he forgetting her. You don’t know that he talks about your mother to Mary, or shares with her his pain of losing her. Mary listens to him and supports him in ways you can’t. She is there for him to make him feel better in times of sorrow. He’s been grieving for years, he will grieve for the rest of his life. Let him have some joy in between the bouts of grief that show up when no one is around.
Your frustration and bad feelings are about you coping with the loss of your mother, not about him coping with the loss of his wife.

Just as aside, do you think it’s possible your mother and father discussed his moving on and that she would want him to be happy?

I don’t know. While it’s a little skeezy how quick he got back in the saddle, you say your Dad was always kind of distant. You hoped that your Mom’s death changed that. Clearly it didn’t.

How dare your dad not spend the last few years of his life completely miserable and alone just to make you feel better.

It sounds pretty uncomfortable all around. I can see both points of views, and I see bup’s comments about grieving over all of this time. Your mom has been sick over 30 years, he’s probably been well aware and very prepared to accept this. I know that doesn’t make it any easier for you though and I am sorry for that. I hope for his sake that this woman is the real deal and not out for his money and they are truly happy because he does deserve to be happy. Grief does strange things to people. It will make you angry, act out, upset, all kinds of things except the “right” thing some times. It seems that maybe no one really has a clear head right now but every one is dealing with it the best they can.

My advice is to just stick by your dad, don’t be too upset with him. He’s grieving in his own way, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. And also, sorry to hear of your loss.

I was slightly more restrained; I started dating 6 months after my wife died (who had been terminally ill for 9 months before that). I know that my kids were very conflicted – they wanted me to be happy, in a general sense; but not necessarily specifically and deeply attached with anyone.

One thing I heard during my grief counseling, was that men who were happily married tend to jump right back in again quickly. So take your father’s behavior as a compliment to your mother.

Apparently he neglected your half-sibs when he married your Mom. Now she’s gone & he’s moved on again. Because he’s that kind of guy.

I don’t blame you for feeling bad. Let him know you’d like to spend more time with him but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen.