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Seeking some words of wisdom...

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Bailey_, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. Bailey_

    Bailey_ Guest

    Hi All,

    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.
    taf2002 and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    Oh, Bailey, I'm sorry. :(

    I don't have wise words because I haven't been through this. I've heard of it happening before, though -- men rebounding really fast after the death of a spouse -- and I always thought it must be so hard on the kids. (Something like it happened in my congregation recently, and it was a shock -- and I didn't even know the family that well!)

    I can only offer you my (virtual) hugs, and (real) prayers. I'm glad you're in counseling. Definitely keep that up -- if your counselor's a good one, and it sounds like it, that will help.
  3. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate Well-Known Member

    I'm so sorry. I'm sorry you lost your mom. I know losing a mom isn't losing a best friend, it's more than that..it's losing a life anchor.

    One of my best friends is going through a similar situation...but not only a boat but also an 80,000 sports car...and a gf who is 25 years his junior. He also sold his business.

    I can tell you from my experience that while I seemed to grieve appropriately, I look back and know I was mad with grief and was not myself for a couple of years. Sometimes I still have that intense sadness. Yours sounds multiplied because on some level you have not only lost your mom but you have also lost the father you knew. Instead of staying away, you might want to try to know this different man. I would try to know his girl friend. On your terms though - neutral meeting places, drinks instead of a full dinner. Places you all have never been before.

    Lots of well wishes for you. it is hard because nothing will ever be the same. It's now just a bunch of changes, but remember that eventually this "different" will become the new "normal".
  4. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

    (sigh) It's hard. My fil hooked up with someone 2 months after his wife died. It threw most of the family into a tail spin. My husband has 5 siblings, so they discussed it amongst themselves and dealt with it as best as they could. The fil and the friend eventually married. It's never been warm and fuzzy.

    My mil died suddenly of cancer, and we all understood that the fil was having a hard time dealing, very much like your dad. The attachment to someone new really created a lot of bitterness. My husband's family were all adults, married with kids......but it was their mom that died and their dad didn't even wait 6 months. I know my husband and his brothers all felt differently towards their dad after this. It wasn't acrimonious, but the glue that held the family together was gone.

    I feel for you, the only thing you can do is take care of yourself and keep in close contact with your brother. The rest, will play out with or without your approval. So, don't burn any bridges, but definitely take care of you. Walk away for a while if you can and want to.

  5. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

    Bailey, I am so sorry for your loss. I had tears in my eyes reading your post.

    Please go to your temple, church, community center and find a grief support group. Find one. It will help more than you know.

    Someone commented about losing not just your best friend, but your 'life anchor'. How descriptive and those of us who have lost that know exactly how that feels. Please do not hold anything against your father. Be kind to his new companion, she is probably keeping him alive, and you should be indebted to her. People grieve in different ways and as long as you get through it, you did it 'correctly'. Your idea of correctly might not be your father's. Don't hold it against him.

    A grief support group will help so much. I attended one after the death of one of my 'life anchors'. Good luck.
  6. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    I am so sorry for your loss! I can only imagine how difficult this is-your Mom's death and your Father's behavior. It sounds to me like he was in denial before her death and now he's continuing to deny in a way by numbing himself through his behavior.

    I can only tell you what has helped me in critical situations. I still struggle with many things in my life, but I have found that talking with someone who has experience in emotional problem solving is invaluable.

    I have gone the route of seeking this kind of help through my church. I don't know if you are a church person or believe in God, etc. I respect whatever form of spiritual support you have. However, I have found incredible, transforming personal help through prayer and prayer with two ladies at my church who are trained to help this way. Two things: Just give all this burden to God. It isn't denying it's reality or not taking responsibility. But give the pain up to God. Don't carry the burden alone. And second...focus on forgiveness. This doesn't mean forgetting what happened or being happy about it. But forgiveness is about the most powerful thing there is. I know that sounds simplistic, but it isn't. It can be a real struggle and take some time. But if you can do it-your life will be changed forever, I promise you that.

    Big hugs!
  7. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    I haven't gone through this myself, but a good friend who is one of the most mature, sensible people I know did shortly after his mother died. His parents had a great relationship for 30 plus years when his mom died. His dad was a successful professional, charming and a very sweet guy. My friend was in his late 20's with a wife, kid and busy career when his Mom died.

    His dad started dating not too long after, and remarried. My friend had a hard time understanding. He was more than happy to have his dad over and involve him in the family's activities and never felt that the dad was a burden or unwelcome. He felt that should be enough for his dad to avoid the loneliness. But the dad wanted his independence and didn't want to be a burden on his son. He wanted the companionship of a wife. He told my friend that this marriage wasn't ever going to be like the first and that he'd never stop loving his first wife, but that this was the right step for his life now (and I think he was clear with the second wife about his feelings). It hurt my friend to see the new wife in "his mom's home" and using the things his mom had collected over the years, but he eventually understood that this relationship was what the dad needed and he was ok with it. I wouldn't say he was ever really happy about it, but he was happy that the Dad was happy.

    It's hard enough to deal with the feeling of loss and grief that comes with losing a parent, but when you mix in other emotions as well, it just makes things harder. If you need to take some time for yourself, do it, but try not to say or do anything that will permanently damage the relationship with your dad. Ultimately, I'm sure you want him to do the things he needs to do to be happy, it's just hard now to think objectively because you are still grieving.
  8. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Bailey_, others have had some good advice. I'd like to add that your father needs to hear you, too. Please call him, ask him to coffee, and tell him what you told us here. Things like "I was surprised that you made so many changes in the house. I would have loved to take some pictures before the demolition started." and "I was disappointed that you gave all of mother's stuff away without involving me."

    Please make it about you, not about him. Let him know that you're confused and a bit lost watching all the changes in his life. Perhaps after you've listened to his side, you may be able to make more sense of it.
  9. susan6

    susan6 Well-Known Member

    My stepdad was dating another woman less than a month after my mom died. She's pretty much a clone of my mom (similar style, makeup, hair). He also re-did the house pretty much immediately. But I was well aware that he is the kind of guy who CANNOT be alone. Put that together with the standard psychological responses to loss of a loved one (avoidance, denial, and in the case of older people, a fear of death and wanting a caretaker), and you get a recipe for a person who is going to move on quick.
  10. CanuckSk8r

    CanuckSk8r New Member

    That is so heart breaking Bailey. I have no advice for you, I'm sorry.

    My sisters and I are currently going through a similar situation, although our father waited a reasonable time. The timing isn't the issue. It's the making this woman the centre of his universe despite how she treats him, and expecting all of us to go along with it all as if it's a-ok.

    Good luck, take care of YOU.
  11. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Bailey -- sending hugs. Tough, tough circumstances.
  12. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    I don't have words of wisdom to offer from experience, but I am really impressed with how thoughtful you are about the situation, and how you are trying to be fair to your dad even though he has done things that have been very upsetting to you.

    I second the idea about seeking some sort of support - there are some excellent ideas earlier in the thread. Also, do you have access to any kind of employee assistance program through your work? The companies that offer this sort of help can either work with you themselves or refer you to a professional, and your employer usually covers some or all of the cost.

    The idea of talking to your dad and expressing how his actions have affected you is a really good one too. My only thought would be to work with some sort of support or counselling before taking that step. That might help you figure out what is most important for you to say to him and also how to deal with his reaction - I suspect he might be defensive or angry, as in "you just don't want me to be happy", and you might need to know how to best manage that while still getting your message across.
  13. A.H.Black

    A.H.Black Well-Known Member

    I agree with overedge. Your feelings are honest ones and appropriate. His feelings and actions are also honest ones and, as you acknowledged, understandable as well. You are taking appropriate measures to deal with them with the counseling. I bet you counselor has told you it will take a good deal of time to deal with all the emotions.

    All we can do is extend support and understanding. I believe you will come out the other side. I find that peace is more important to me than understanding and I wish you continued moments of peace now and whole days and weeks of peace in times to come.
  14. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    All great advice given. I would just echo this point you made:
    I would give yourself permission to establish some boundaries and give yourself some space for as long as you need it. Your father is doing what he needs to do to take care of himself. You need to give yourself permission to do the same. If that means not seeing or talking to him for awhile, then that's what you need to do.

    FWIW, I don't think it will create a barrier in the future from your dad's perspective. It will likely come down to your comfort level.

  15. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Of course, you should be honest with your father.
    Please, be as gentle as you can, though.
    It sounds as though he had no idea of how to cope without your mother; and is surviving the best way he can.

    People don't act predictably in these situations.

    Case in point:

    I had a close friend who picked out her husband's next wife before she died.
    They married shortly after her death.
    The new wife rejected all of her husband's friends and associates.
    They moved away and we never saw them again.

    He died not too long afterward.
  16. Bailey_

    Bailey_ Guest

    Thanks all for your posts. I reached my breaking point this weekend and it was just time to seek support and know that I'm not alone in this. Your kind words helped me to feel better and regain perspective.

    I actually went over to my dad's tonight. We had the best talk we have had in a long time (maybe that counseling is helping because we haven't been communicating well this past year). My aunt is causing a ruckus and my dad wanted to know how upset I was -- because my aunt is asking them to end their relationship and his new girlfriend has said if we (the kids) are equally upset then they should consider doing just that, even though it's not what they want. I was able to tell him that I wanted him to continue seeing her if that is what he wants, but again repeated that it was really hard (told him about the car and he felt badly). I asked for a little more time and distance and a lot of understanding as this journey is very up and down - I was surprised with the intensity of my reaction this weekend because I thought I was getting used to the idea. I felt like he heard me and understood -- something that I haven't been able to say much this year.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you all for sharing your time and your words of wisdom. I will hold your comments close and refer to them often during the tough times that are sure to continue to come along in the coming weeks and months. Much appreciated. I'm always amazed by the warmth, support, and wisdom that is shared on this board.
  17. HisWeirness

    HisWeirness pork cutlet bowl fatale

    Thanks for the update Bailey_. So glad to hear you are making progress in your relationship with your father. :)
  18. victoriajh

    victoriajh trying to ignore rod and find the eurosport feed

    Baily (hugs) I can only imagine ( and I honestly hope never have to go through this)
    First off, I think it is important to note thet your dad needs are different than yours, I also found that many people who see a spouse die then go quickly on to live themselves, almost like they wake up and say ' I could die tomorrow I better get living!!!" and it is hard for those around them
    A friend once described it as like being in a car going REALLY fast, when you are in the car you think hey this is pretty fast and it feels good! Yet those aound you are worried because you are going SO fast and they all think you should slow down, but you don't feel it because you aare the one driving .
  19. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    A thought just occured to me...My Dad is a real hero. But, he is being very non-realistic about my Mother's dementia and treatment. As in-she has none because she refuses to go to a doctor and he won't make her do so. Whatever-this is about me and my Dad. I have noticed over the past year that Dad has started treting me like an equal age-wise and talking to me less like someone younger and more like a partner or equal in terms of experience. I think he needs someone to lean on. There is a definite shift in terms of closeless and sharing of intimate thoughts. I didn't anticipate this-maybe since Mom is retrogressing into being non-communicative, Dad needs someone to connect with on a more personal level. Maybe offering this would be of help.
  20. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

    Good. :)

    May this continue, one step at a time. TLC for yourself, some counselling, and hang in there.
  21. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    Bailey, it already sounds like you are acting with wisdom, you are respecting your father while honouring your own feelings and need to set boundaries.

    There is no 'right' way for a person to grieve. Some people are like your dad - they immediately get into another relationship. I can understand that to you, this seems incredibly disrespectful to your mother's memory. But more importantly, did he love her well while she lived? If so, that counts for something. And perhaps what he is doing is what he needs to do to keep going. He may grieve silently in his own way. Not everyone wants to share their grief or can articulate it.

    The alternative of staying alone is not better. My dad sat in his apartment for 14 years after my mother died, getting more and more withdrawn from the world and disinterested in life. When he did show emotion, it was usefully tears about losing his wife. However he was far more loving towards her after she died than he ever was when she was alive. It was really hard for my brother and sister and I to deal with him all those years because he became to a large extent pretty an empty shell of a person living for nothing.
  22. Bailey_

    Bailey_ Guest

    This happened initially when she was sick. Then, it became a definite role reversal in that he just checked out (ie. the day the oncologist asked to speak with us to tell us if she would continue with chemo or palliative care my dad told us he had to work and asked us to meet with the doctor). It was a role reversal in so many ways, and that is not healthy. That is what we are trying to do right now is set some new boundaries and right this ship. I will also say that his "sharing of closeness and intimate thoughts" has also crossed boundaries in that sometimes I think he looks at me like my mom. He has shared things with me that he should not - things he has not shared with my brother - and the pressure and expectations are different. This is hard because I want to be his daughter, not his wife. So, I've had to step back and set some boundaries here too. It's a part of the whole, not communicating well that has developed over the year...

    Thanks again for sharing your stories. It helps to hear that so many people have had struggles redefining relationships after a death. It helps to hear your advice about dealing with grief -- particularly from his perspective. I particularly like the analogy about the car. Without a doubt, he has seen his life flash in front of his eyes. If I hear "I'm only 64, I'm young, I have a life to live and I don't care what you think, I'm going to do it" one more time... It's true, but it sounds terrible when I'm so burdened with grief. And, I know this is not exactly reasonable - but it doesn't seem fair sometimes that he can start a new relationship and fill that void (although I know my mother will never be "replaced") while my brother and I have lost our mother, our "anchor" (I like that too) forever. He may have a new girlfriend and be able to live his life, but we will never fill the void left by a mother, even though life goes on in many other ways...

    Anyway, just tough times. I was really encouraged last night -- it was the first time we came close to a healthy conversation in a long time. I think maybe he is learning a few things and coming out of his grief stricken-haze just a little...