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How To Handle Your Widowed Father Dating With Compassion

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We were in the Detroit airport, ready to board our flight to Rome. My cell phone rang. Figured it must be an emergency, as we headed over the pond.

It was my father, so I answered immediately.  “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said.  “I just want to talk to you about something.”

“Okay, but we’re boarding in a few minutes,” I said, checking the time on my Smart Phone.

“I will always love your mother, for the rest of my life,” he said. “But sometimes I get lonely. I think I would like some female companionship.  I’m calling you first, and then I’m going to call your brother.”

Is my widowed father dating too soon?

Not our usual call. My mother died ten months before after a long siege with vascular dementia. Dad cared for her until three weeks before her death. He could no longer lift her. She moved to a skilled nursing facility within their retirement complex.

He had never asked my permission or approval for anything.  The last time I discussed anything with him was when I informed my parents I was going to graduate school. They weren’t delighted.  Their affirmation shortly came when I told them I had a job on the alumni magazine.

“Of course,” I told him. “You deserve some happiness.”  I hung up, and we boarded the plane.

Dad had kissed a few female frogs before he found a princess. I didn’t think much of it until he found someone special. His princess, four years later, is now a part of our family. They’ve stayed in their respective apartments in different levels of care. I took my time getting to know her. Now we’re friends.  I’ve learned a few things along the way that I want to share.

Related Post: How To Comfort Your Recently Widowed Friend

My advice on how to handle your widowed father’s new girlfriend

Respect her for the person she is. She is not my mother, and will never be my mother. That’s okay. I can honour and respect her for the person she is. She is someone who cares for my dad, travels with him, and takes care of him when he is sick. She makes him laugh, and he gives her flowers. My mother, like me, was clumsy.  His new friend, he likes to brag, was a “varsity cheerleader in high school.”

They often double date with my brother and his significant other. They go to the symphony, new restaurants, and drives in the countryside.

Respect their privacy.  You expect privacy in your relationship, give them privacy in theirs.  Some issues are none of your business. Period. They aren’t seventeen and sneaking someone in through the back window.

Don’t shut down the memories of your loved one. My parents were married for 57 years. His friend has her memories and her past. Neither of their histories is going away. Learn to be comfortable talking about your loved ones, but don’t forget to ask about her loved ones.  I recognize the gift of having parents in a long-term, intact marriage.

When they first had a picture taken together for her church directory, that was difficult for me. Dad did not remove pictures of my mom, much as he has not removed her from his heart. Dad added his new friend to our mix. The addition didn’t take away the past.

Appreciate her good qualities. For God’s sake, don’t compare her to your mother.  Again, she’s not your mom.  She’s somebody who bought your brother a hula skirt and made him wear it. I swear, if she had the coconut bra, she would have given him that as well. She gets Dad out of his comfort zone sometimes.

Get over yourself.  It isn’t your life. As you accept your children’s relationships, accept your widowed parent’s relationship. Make your judgment and don’t let others sway you.  Recognize not everyone is going to be happy about his new life.  Our human nature is to resist change. Adjusting to the new normal takes time.  I had a wonderful mother for 55 years, and her memory did not vanish when she passed. When a family member has dementia, you learn to accept change on its terms.

You have a choice. Sit on your behind and mourn, or move forward.

This post was written by Amy Abbott of  

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365

Thursday 25th of August 2016

Hi Amy! Good for you for seeing this was about your Dad's happiness rather than your own needs. When my mother died after a long illness, (Alzheimers and Cancer) my father who had nursed her for years, was devastated. So when he hooked up with a woman that both my parents had been friends with years before, and I saw how happy he was, how could I/we object. He was almost giddy with happiness and we were happy to see him that way. They stayed together for several years until he passed and we were so grateful for her care and love of him during that time too. I can't understand why any child would want anything less for their own father. Thanks for printing the positive! ~Kathy


Thursday 25th of August 2016

As the 'new woman' in a relationship, I appreciate your advice to grown children. I have never understood the problems adult children have with this scenario in the first place. When my mother died, I would have been delighted if my father had found a woman to enjoy eating out with and watching tv with or whatever. It may have kept him from slipping into dementia so soon. He truly didn't handle being alone so well. As attentive as I could be, I was still not with him all the time or taking trips with him. So, to your readers, I say...take Amy's advice. Give your parent some space for heaven's sake. They probably weren't thrilled with every person you dated either.

Lea Lane

Thursday 25th of August 2016

Loved this piece. So many of us have faced this situation, and it will only be increasing.

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