I don't normally post, but I'm seeking words of wisdom from those who may have experienced a similar situation.
One year ago, my mother was diagnosed with what turned out to be, a very aggressive form of cancer. We watched her suffer terribly until she passed away, six months after her diagnosis. I took time off work to be with her, to care for her, throughout her journey. It was the worst experience of my life, but I got through it with strength, grace, and a certain kind of peace.
My father, struggled with the course of her disease and her death. He lived with her, he cared for her, and he did what needed to be done. But, he was in complete denial of the fact that she was dying -- not years from now, but now. His denial caused conflict related to her care, resentment because he was just not present at the hospital and seemed to think mostly about how hear death was going to affect his life.
Since her passing, he has continued to struggle. He has planned several trips (during her illness and after, he told me, "I don't care where I go, I just want to get on a plane and get our of here"). He has gone through her belongings to get rid of everything (despite the fact that we had talked about doing it together, he gave away her clothing without telling me). He has given away furniture, redecorated the home, and completely renovated the kitchen. He has no time for certain things -- like work and taking care of the yard or cleaning the house (things he used to do with my mother, now he's hired people to do this for him). He bought a boat and all we hear about are his plans for the boat. And, two months after my mom's passing -- he started a new relationship. The woman is the widowed best friend of my mom's sister (her last living relative, who supported us through my mom's illness).
I'm writing because I'm really struggling now. I feel like watching my mom get sick and die should have been the hard part. But, in so many ways, life since her passing feels worse. I'm obviously grieving my mom and trying to deal with the trauma we experienced during her relatively short but incredibly brutal illness. But, I'm having so much difficulty with my dad right now.
Please know, I expect that my dad is going to have a hard time. He has been married to my mom for forty years, they did everything together, and in many ways she did many things for him. He's obviously very lonely. He's very overwhelmed with life -- from the cooking to the cleaning to the daily organization of life. He does not know how to fill his time. He has some social connections but his support network has always been his relationship with my mom. In truth, I expected him to find the first woman who came along and start another relationship. Not only can he not stand on his own right now, but he doesn't really want to stand on his own. He wants to be in a relationship. I know, this is often what men do after they have been widowed. I know that it's the sign of a good marriage -- he misses the companionship and he wants to try and fill the empty void. I know that it's abnormal for him to be alone when he's used to being with someone. I was preparing myself for this, but I didn't think it would be so soon.
I've worked very hard to handle the situation maturely in that I'm not asking him to end the relationship, I have just asked that he not tell me about her or ask me to see her (I know her because of the connection with my aunt). We have been going for family counseling (my brother is also having a difficult time but he is having a very difficult time talking about things). We have discussed some things and my dad is starting to understand how his decisions affect other people.
But, as much as I can tell my dad how his actions have made me feel, I know that it's up to me to find a way to resolve my feelings of hurt, disappointment, and anger. Life has changed and I need to find a way to let go of the past and move forward. In many ways, time heals all things. It is the one thing that I feel I have not been given.
And the fact is -- as much as I love my dad, I don't want him to be lonely, and I understand why he has done this -- I do not agree with his decisions. I'm not proud to say this, but I've questioned how much he really loved my mom because it's hard to understand how he could love my mom and move forward so carelessly. The little girl in me is tremendously disappointed that the man I thought was strong and could stand through everything has crumbled and is not capable of standing on his own -- more than that, he's not been particularly considerate or loving toward my brother or myself. I'm disgusted by the fact that he is only doing what makes him feel good, with little awareness or regard for other people's feelings. I'm angry and him (and at her) for not giving us more time to grieve my mom. I'm just tied up in knots about this... There are times when I can intellectually understand and accept what is happening. And then there are days like today, when I drive by his house and see her car parked next to his in the driveway -- where my mom used to park -- not like she is visiting but like she lives there.
What to think, what to do? In truth, I would prefer not to see or talk to him because I'm so much happier when I can just focus on my own life right now. I don't know if that will help or hinder our relationship in the long run. I'm just looking for kind words from those who may have experienced a similar situation. And -- please don't tell me "until you have walked a mile in his shoes..." because although I may not have walked in his shoes... he is not walking in my shoes either... feeling like I've lost my mother, looking at my father sometimes wondering "who is this person" and "where has the family that I thought I knew gone?" There is nothing about this situation that is easy.