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Grieving spouses may need to find new life partners

Q:  My mother passed away a little over a year ago after a long illness. My father was amazing as a caregiver and he was devastated after her death. They were married for almost 50 years. My siblings and I were shocked to discover Dad has been dating a woman he met at church. Now he wants to bring her to a family dinner. I am trying to stay open minded. Some of my other brothers and sisters cannot understand how he could possibly be interested in another woman. Could you provide any insight so we can keep this from dividing our family?

A:  Death leaves a void for the spouse who is left behind. The emptiness is overwhelming for some people and can potentially lead to profound depression. Whether the marriage was “good or not so great” there are numerous issues the person faces. It could be the loss of finances, coming home to a place that was once filled with another person, feeling left out of social events because they no longer have a partner, or assuming responsibility for tasks that were once handled by the spouse. How each widow or widower handles the future varies greatly.

It may take a while to find new purpose in life. For some individuals who lose a spouse they immerse themselves in family, friends, hobbies, employment and other outside activities to fill the void. These individuals may indeed discover this is enough for them personally.

On the other hand there are those widows or widowers who truly long for companionship from the opposite sex. This may or may not necessarily lead to remarriage. Deciding to enter the dating field does not mean they have forgotten the love they once shared. People are living longer and the person may find the thought of being alone for years to come very unappealing. Companionship may be the driving force for them.

Your father apparently wants his family to meet his new “lady friend” because she is important to him. He may not necessarily be seeking your approval. It is up to each one of your siblings to decide how they are going to deal with this. If he was a good husband and father perhaps you should trust his judgment. This new relationship may or may not last.

 

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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services.