If you know me, you know that asking for permission is just not my style at all. BUT…..I wanted to write a blog article on a topic that I get asked about a lot lately, and I needed the permission of someone involved before doing so: my mother.
I share a lot on my social media platforms about things that many see as sensitive in nature, and I continue to do so because I know me sharing my story is helping others who are dealing with similar situations. That’s always my main goal, and it’s one that I won’t be stopping anytime soon. I’m not writing for pity or sympathy; instead I am writing for purpose and positivity. When people ask me privately about different things I am dealing with, I try my best to turn it into a learning experience for them and others and share my answers in a way that could better the life or thought process of another person.
Why did I need my mom’s permission to write about the topic I am addressing today? Easy. It is one thing for me to share about my story, but to intertwine something personal happening with someone close to me crosses the boundary of “is this appropriate for me to talk about?” I wanted to be sensitive to my mom and her feelings, and I was thankful when she gave me the green light to discuss this with you. So let’s talk about the thing I get asked about the most:
How do you feel about your mom dating again?
For starters, can I just say that dating is terrifying to me. Going back into the dating scene is something that is just so overwhelming to me. I have been out of it for so long to now be entering back in it and seeing the craziness of sites like Tinder and Bumble and whatever else makes me want to go puke. Ugh.
Know what terrifies me more than the thought of me being back in the dating game? To think of someone like my mother reentering that scene after being off the market for almost 40 years. That generation knows nothing of the online dating game, the world of catfishing, or the nastiness of the unsolicited dick pic. I was terrified that the day would come when she would WANT to start looking into dating sites. In my mind she should never come head on with this new fangled way to meet people.
Let’s back it up a minute though…..
Most of you who are reading this blog are connected to me in some way, maybe through social media or maybe you are friends with me in real life, and because of that you know that November 20th will mark four years since we lost my dad. It was sudden and unexpected. He was not sick. His lost greatly changed me as person in so many ways, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. He was the greatest man I have ever known, and I am forever grateful to have been lucky enough to call him my dad.
I continue to talk about MY grief journey because it does help me keep his memory alive and, again, it helps me to share with others my experience with the hope that they realize what they are going through/feeling is normal. Much like mental illness, people don’t seem to want to openly talk about grief and their feelings, and I hope to change that.
The first instinct I had after getting past the shock of my dad’s death was simple: I have to protect and take care of my mom. I worried about her for many reasons. She had never lived alone in her entire life. Who would take out the garbage and do some of the tasks around the house that my dad did? Who would take his goldendoodle, Henry, for his daily walks? I hated the thought of her eating her meals alone… will she even be able to eat? I worried about so many things. Because of that I spent most of the two months following my dad’s death at her condo with her. New normals can be very scary, and while I didn’t know how to help her figure out hers, I wanted to be able to support her and just be there for her.
It took me awhile to realize the difference in our losses. I had lost my dad, who was my hero. She had lost her best friend and spouse since 1979. There is a difference, friends.
One of the hardest things to watch as a child is your parent truly lost. I saw that with my mother. She went through the motions of life, and her eyes always looked sad, even when she would smile. My mom is great at putting on a brave face and not complaining, but I could see that sadness day in and day out. It was hard for her to do normal things. Often she was the third or fifth wheel and felt out of place. She turned down different invitations because she just didn’t want to be around people, and I don’t blame her.
I remember a conversation I had with one of my best friends about a year and a half after my dad had died. He asked me if I had thought about what would happen when the time came that my mom started dating. I didn’t really know how I felt, and after that conversation I asked my mom about her desire to date and if she thought she would. Some women (my Grandma Rosie was one) lose their husbands and refuse to seek out love again. I didn’t know her feelings on it, but I wanted to know. She said she was not interested in dating anyone else, but deep down I wondered if she may be afraid to answer any other way.
Shortly after that my mother and I did one of our usual things…we went to see a local medium. I’ve talked about this before on the blog, but I am a huge fan of them and what they have done with where I’m at in the grief process. We always record our readings and share it with each other since only one person at a time sees the medium. During my mom’s reading the medium mentioned that my dad would help orchestrate connecting her with a man from her past. She did not say if it was romantic or not, only that this person was someone from her past. Fast forward to the end of last year.
It was a Friday night and per the usual, I tried to Facetime my mom. She didn’t answer. Immediately I was worried….she always takes my Facetime calls. Shortly after she texted me to let me know she was out with a friend and would call me later. Around 11pm that night she called me back. I could tell by the giddiness in her voice that it wasn’t a friend I knew. Also, 11pm, Mom? What a role reversal….me asking you where YOU have been. Immediately I started an interrogation. Hello, have you met me? I can be kind of intense, and above all….I am protective AF over my mother.
My mom shared she had been out with one of her old classmates, Tom, who I knew of and also knew his family. I thought nothing of it at that point…..until the next day when she said she was going to a holiday celebration with Tom’s family…then the following day when she went out to eat with him. I point blank asked her if they were dating, and she told me they were just friends. I got mad because I felt like she was lying, but deep down I didn’t really know how to process things. I opted not to react and think about things deeper.
The following week my mom and Tom hung out basically every day, so again the conversation came up regarding the dating thing. I asked her on Facetime so she wouldn’t be able to lie to me (I know the lying face, Mom). She stammered around and I think she was truly scared to admit it to me. Between my brother and myself I am clearly the more intense of the two, and I think she thought I would be a hard sell. Surprisingly, I was not.
I really had taken a lot of time to digest that my mom was out in the dating world again after that first “date” with Tom. To be honest, I think all my days focused on personal development helped me get to that moment. When I constantly share with you all the my PD time each day is the most important part of my routine, I’m not lying. I have grown so much as a person because I have chosen to work on the areas in my life where I struggle, and this was proof.
For a long time I was hell bent against my mom even thinking about dating. Fortunately she wasn’t interested in it, but it took me awhile to realize that was me just being selfish. I was the one who didn’t want her to date because I thought it would disrespect my dad. I was the one who didn’t want her to date because in my head I assumed the person would try to take the place of my dad. I was the one who was scared that my mom may start dating and the person would take up all her time and she wouldn’t have time for me. I, I, I……when I thought about my mom dating it all came back to how I FELT.
I want to share with you a few things that helped me accept the situation and hope if you are going through it they help you.
FIVE THINGS I DID TO GO FROM HATEFUL TO GRATEFUL
1. REALIZE THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This is about your parent and their life, and you must make that mindset shift. It’s not about yours. When I started to think about my mom’s life, I knew I wanted one thing for her. I wanted her to be happy again. Like really, truly happy. I didn’t want her living her life just being happy for everyone around her.
2. BE HONEST WITH YOUR CONCERNS. I told my mom straight up that I had two concerns with her dating someone I didn’t know well, and that I was openminded with the situation as long as those two concerns did not come to life. The first concern I had was simple. Would this man come into my life and try to replace my dad? I knew of situations where that had happened, and I was afraid of that being the case. The second concern: I didn’t want whoever came into the picture to disrespect the relationship that my parents did have or my dad in general.
3. UNDERSTAND THAT DEATH WAS NOT A CHOICE. My mom did not choose to be widowed at 56 years old. She did not choose for my dad to die. However, it happened, and as I have said a million times, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Death happened to my family. Becoming a widow happened to my mother. She should not be punished by living a long, lonely life as a result of that. She deserves to have happiness and still live life to the fullest. Reacting with an open heart and mind is how you get past a really tough time.
4. REALIZE THAT A NEW RELATIONSHIP DOESN’T TAKE AWAY FROM THE RELATIONSHIP THEY HAD. I know how much my mom cared about my dad. I know how much my mom cares about Tom. Caring about someone new does not take away from the relationship she had with my dad, and for a brief time I was worried about that. It is different, but yes, you can love two people at the same time, and yes, it is ok.
5. READ PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. I know I already mentioned it, but I have to again. I started reading books and blogs about grief when my dad died. When my mom started dating Tom I started to shift my reading to things related to that subject matter. I wanted to do everything I could to REACT to the situation in a POSITIVE way. YOU MUST DO THAT. You must move forward with your life, not backward.
Yes, I hated the situation initially, but that was fueled by anger. I was still angry that my dad was taken from our family with no notice. It’s important to realize that and confront those emotions head on. Did I cry when my mother told me she was dating Tom? Yes, I did. I hated how I FELT at that moment. I felt instantly that my dad was being erased, but that was the furthest thing from the truth.
I waited a few months before I met Tom face to face. Even though I knew of him and knew his family, it still had been a very long time since I had seen anyone with that last name. I was extremely nervous to meet him, as I am sure he was to meet me after the warnings I KNOW my mother gave him about me. The minute I saw the two of them together all of the nerves and anxiety and fear disappeared. It was apparent how much Tom cared about my mother, and it was apparent how happy he made her. For the first time in years my mom’s eyes were no longer sad. She smiled a little bigger, and her smile was not forced. Most importantly, she seemed to enjoy life again.
Since that day I’ve gotten to spend quite a bit of time with Tom and my mother together. He accompanied us on our family vacation, he’s watched wrestling with me (major points scored there), he was my accomplice for her surprise 60th birthday party earlier this year, and he has welcomed me into his family, too. I have loved getting to know him and thankful he has the same sense of humor as me…..that makes life a lot easier. Beyond that he will listen to me when I talk about my dad and supports me, which means a lot.
I go back to what that medium said long before my mom ever reconnected with Tom. My mom was reconnected with someone who she knew since she was a very young girl…someone who my dad liked and respected….and who liked and respected my dad. That respect also means a lot to me.
I won’t lie when I say there are still some hard moments. I cried when I opened my birthday card this year and saw “Mom and Tom” on the card. I didn’t cry because Tom is in our lives now because I am thankful he is; I cried simply because it was another reminder that my dad wasn’t. Truth be told I will ALWAYS have moments like that, and it has nothing to do with the people who come into my life but everything to do with the simple fact that my life has changed.
I know it is hard to think about your parent being with someone other than the parent you lost. I really never thought I would be happy to see my mom with anyone else. But here I am, crying as I write this because I am so incredibly happy that she has a new form of happiness in her life. She deserves to be happy, and I am grateful she is. There is no simple way to navigate this happening in your own life though, and, much like how we all deal with grief differently, you may feel differently about your parent dating, and that is ok. Again, I share my experience because it helps me heal and also helps others see a different perspective.
Grief is the weirdest thing one can ever go through.
Online dating and those dick pics are a close second though…..thankful my mom avoided that nightmare.
To all my friends struggling with grief this time of year, I’m sending you lots of love, hugs, and strength. I’m always here for you.
And to my mom and Tom…..I love you guys. I’m so happy you have found happiness together ❤ .