It’s something that is kind of insanely difficult to think about. You’re working on getting past losing one of the most important people in your life, and now you have to think about them being replaced. Now stop: that is the last time you get to have that thought. That is the number one worst thought you could have about your parent dating again.
My parents were the most “in love” couple I have ever seen, and I thought that when my mom died, that would be it for my dad. Honestly, I think he did too. While the thought of him replacing my mom tore me apart almost as much as losing my mom did, I didn’t want him to spend the rest of his life alone. I knew that he wasn’t going to start dating again until he knew it was okay with all of his children. The only thing that made me feel worse than the idea of him replacing my mom was the idea of him being alone for the rest of his life because of me. I couldn’t be the reason that he had no one to share his life with. That thought is what pushed me forward into becoming okay with the idea of him dating again.
In believing that he could ever replace my mom, I did myself and him the biggest disservice I could have. I started the conversation wrong, I went into the situation with the wrong mindset. He wasn’t replacing her by any means. He never could. And I can guarantee that your mom or dad isn’t going to be replaced either. The number one piece of advice I can give is to lose that way of thinking. Thinking that your parent is being replaced is the best way to never make your peace with your other parent dating. For me, it made the process a lot easier. I got to move on, I get to look for someone to share my life with, why shouldn’t he?
It is easy for me to sit here and tell you all about how great I feel now that he is dating again and how easy it is for me still to have him dating, but if you’re reading this, it’s because your parent hasn’t started yet, is starting soon, or just started, not because you have already made your peace with them dating. It’s even easier for me to sit here and make you believe that I was totally on board with him dating from the moment he asked how I felt about it. But I wouldn’t be being honest.
I felt a strong sense of responsibility towards making sure my dad was happy and had people around him to talk to. So, when my dad approached my brothers and I asking us how we would feel about him dating again, I so desperately wanted to be okay with it, even though I wasn’t at first. I took my time deciding how I felt about him dating again. If we’re being completely honest with each other, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with him dating for a few months even after I told him I was okay with it. There were a few months where I felt very separated from my dad because I didn’t know how to talk to him about it. I felt like there was no way for me to voice my concerns without him stopping dating immediately. Eventually, I had no choice but to talk to him about it, and we were able to work through my concerns together and now I am one of the biggest forces pushing him into dating and meeting people.
I’ve given you my story, so now comes my advice. Don’t hide your feelings for your parent’s benefit. They know something is wrong, even if you don’t think they do. Be open, be honest. If you aren’t comfortable with them dating, tell them, but don’t use that as an excuse for never letting them meet someone new. Don’t do what I did and say you are okay with it, even though you aren’t. As children who have lost our parents, we are all very good at throwing ourselves into things that are different, scary or uncomfortable for us. It is completely normal to be worried about the parent you lost being replaced, but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. There is no easy time for your parent to start dating again. It doesn’t matter if it’s two months, two years or ten years. It is going to be hard.
Something that helped me a lot was thinking about it from my dad’s point of view. He thought he was done dating, he had found the love of his life. But he came to me and told me he was ready, and if he was ready, I could try to be too. He was ready to have a person he could talk to about anything again, and by thinking about it this way, it was all that much easier to want that for him too. This is not to say that you should be ready for it just because your parent is. You need to follow your own timeline. Just like grief shows itself on some days more than others, so will your feelings about this. And that is more than alright. It has been a few years now since I had those conversations with my dad, and there are still some days that the thought of him dating is hard for me to handle.
The last thing I am going to leave you with is what I see as the most important thought you can have about your parent dating, and that is the reason I have said it so many times in this article. Your parent dating again is not, in any way, shape or form replacing the parent you lost.