You've lost a parent and are dealing with the sadness and grief that comes with death. But what happens when your other parent starts dating and eventually gets remarried? How do you deal with this?
Losing my mom was hard. I had envisioned her and my dad growing old together. My parents were in love. I feel that they were soul mates. Pancreatic cancer took my mom from her family and left my dad alone. I know she would never want my dad to be alone for the rest of his life. I know she would want him to find someone to share his life with. I understand all of that and agree with it, but it's not easy when it happens.
Living After Death
I worried about my father after mom died. She was his college sweetheart. They had so many plans for the future - plans that were cut short by cancer. I did not want my dad to spend the rest of his life pining away for my mom and neither would she. My mom is gone, and my dad deserves to live and to have a life in which he is happy and loved. I know that feeling of having a huge hole in your life that nothing can seem to fill. I know what it's like to stop living when you lose someone close to you. These are things I did and felt after I lost my mom. I can't even imagine what it was like for my father to lose the love of his life.
When Someone New Steps In
When my mom first died, my dad went out a lot. He went to dinner with friends. He went to meetings, both work related and personal. I don't think he wanted to be home alone in a house he shared with his wife for 35+ years. The house felt too empty without my mom.
About 2 years after my mom died, my dad started dating. I realized how serious it was when my dad said something about all of us going to Disney in a few years. My father is not the type of person who can be alone and I accept that part of him. It was difficult seeing another woman with my dad, holding his hand or kissing him.
When my mom first died, I would go up to my parents' bedroom, open my mom's closet, and just stand there. It smelled like her, felt like. One day I opened the closet and immediately knew something was off. My mom's scent was gone and her clothes had been replaced by those of another woman. Honestly, I was a bit shocked, but I guess I shouldn't have been. The woman my dad was dating lived in another state. She would spend weekends with him, and I wasn't naïve in believing that they didn't sleep in the same bed when she was here. I did my best to accept things as they started to unfold. But this was the beginning of big changes between my dad and I.
The Engagement and Wedding
One day we went to my dad's house for dinner with the intention of celebrating my husband's new job. However, the focus of the celebration changed when my dad announced that he was engaged, with a wedding date that was 5 days after my birthday. I didn't take the news very well and I hurt my dad. Honestly, it was a shock to me. I wasn't expecting an engagement or a wedding. It was something that hit me out of the blue. I apologized to my dad for hurting him, and explained to him how I wished he had given me some sort of heads up. But this turned out to be the first of many things where I was the last to know.
The months, weeks, and days leading up to the wedding were difficult. The woman my dad was marrying was divorced with two daughters and she had a huge family. A big difference from the small family I grew up with. I tried to become close to my new sisters, but it was hard, possibly on both sides. All I can say is that I did my best.
The day of the wedding was incredibly hard. I remember walking down the aisle of the church, with all of my dad's friends watching me. I took one look at my dad, there were tears in his eyes, and I had to stop myself from completely breaking down. As vows were said, promises made, tears filled my eyes. I couldn't help it. I was happy for my dad, but I missed my mom, and all of these feelings were twisting together in my heart.
So Much Has Changed
My dad and his wife decided to live in my father's house. The house I grew up in. In some ways I am glad that my dad decided not to sell the house, but then there are times when I wish he did. I understand my dad's wife making that house her home. She has removed all traces of my mom, and there are times when I feel like I don't even belong there. This is the house I grew up in and the place I called home for almost 20 years. It's not easy to see another woman replace my mom. To watch her cook in the kitchen my mom loved. To know that she sleeps in the bed my parents shared. To hear about the trips they take together. Sometimes I can't help but think that should be my mom with my dad. I know how different things would be right now if my mom were still alive, but I have to accept that my mom is gone and life keeps moving forward.
Don't get me wrong, I am glad my dad is happy and has someone to share his life with. But none of this has been easy for me or for my family. My children feel like they are second rate. My son calls us the second string family. My daughter feels that my dad loves the grandkids from his wife's side of the family more than he loves her. I feel like I am always the last one to know things, with my dad often saying "oh, I thought I had told you." The relationship I have with my dad has changed so much and I don't think he sees it. I know I need to talk to my dad about all of this, but it will be a difficult conversation to have. I have to find the right words and speak to him at the right time.
Words of Advice
I am not an expert on how to handle any of this, especially since I am still figuring it out. I know I've made mistakes, but I just keep trying. I guess the one piece of advice I could offer anyone in this situation is to talk to your parent and make sure he/she knows how you feel. Don't get lost in the changes. I've said things to my dad here and there, but we haven't really talked about my feelings for years. The last time I tried to talk to him did not go well, so I am hesitant to open my mouth.
It's not easy to have a new person in your parent's life. It's not easy to have a new family. I've allowed myself to fall into the background because that's where it seems I need to be at this time, but I've compromised my feelings and my relationship with my dad. I would not want anyone to find themselves in the situation I am in right now.
Don't allow yourself to fall into the background, and make sure your feelings are known in a respectful way.