I feel that many can relate to this issue. Even I can.
My mother passed away about six weeks ago. Not COVID-related. My parents were married for almost 47 years. What I find appalling is that even before the shloshim was over, I was getting calls from ladies in the neighborhood trying to set up my father with women they knew! One woman I don’t even know called and straight out asked me for information about my father for herself!
I know my father needs to move on with life. I even know he may want to date and maybe eventually marry again. But I can’t even think about this now. My mother’s death is still so fresh. You can’t just erase almost 50 years together in two months! My brother said I may be too sensitive, and that this is very normal for people to begin calling about my father, who is in good health, baruch Hashem, and is good-looking, as well. What do you think?
Thank you for your email, Shuli.
I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I can certainly relate.
Even when both my parents were alive and well, I would hear of a widow or widower moving on with life after a couple of months, and I, too, would think, “Wow, that was fast.” But I now know that I was wrong in thinking like that. It isn’t that anyone is trying to forget or erase the spouse who has passed away, but spouses left behind need to move on with life, and whether it’s dating two months or two years after their loved ones passed, who are we to judge?
I knew a very sweet and kind woman who was approached by a few gentleman callers during the shloshim of her husband. She was a woman in her 50s, good looking, successful in business, loving family – and she married one of the men within six months of her husband’s passing. She found a new life with someone who had been in her social circle, whose wife had passed away a few years prior. But her children and grandchildren were very resentful and angry at the new step-father and step-grandfather. They felt that their mother (and grandmother) needed time to mourn and to reflect on the life she had. They wanted her to have a chance to miss their father, but according to the children (with whom I have spoken), their step-father just moved right in. They considered him an opportunist, approaching their mother before their father had been buried for 30 days.
This woman knew what her family thought of her new husband. Even the new husband knew how the family felt, because they did not keep their feelings to themselves; but she explained to me that it wasn’t as if she didn’t love and miss her deceased husband every day – but this was a new type of life. She had many things in common with her new husband – who was very different from her husband – but they both got along and knew they would be good for each other. She knew that her family thought it was too soon for her to move on, but she couldn’t live her life according to her family’s plans for her. This woman and her second husband were married for close to 15 years before her second husband passed away.
I can write of three other similar stories like this – both of husbands and of wives moving on before the first yahrzeit of the deceased spouse comes around. But who are we to judge? We love our parents, and we only want what’s best for them. But is it best for them to live alone for a certain period of time? Is it best for them to stare at pictures on the wall, remembering the good times, and to see their married friends continue with life while they feel as if their life stopped? Yes, they should get out and be with friends, but who are we to say when the time is right, and the immediate grieving process is over?
I can write so much about this – widows and widowers finding new groups of friends who are in the same position as they are, and they have found each other because they don’t want to tag along with their married friends – even friends of 30 years – to feel like the third or fifth wheel. Birds of a feather flock together – and there is nothing wrong with that.
We as children may think there is something wrong with seeing our parent with someone other than our other parent, but we have to understand that part of their life is over. And that part of our life is over, as well. It’s a new life for all, but especially for the spouse left behind.
Someone wrote to me about a year or so ago telling me that she was now her father’s shadchan and she felt odd about it. She went about thinking of it in a very practical way. She wrote that she knew her father had to move on and so she was willing to help him find a partner and happiness. As hard as it was for her, she went about it in a very objective way. She took her personal feelings out of the equation because her father’s happiness was so important to her.
Shuli, your mother’s death is still very fresh for you, and I’m sure it is for your brother and father, as well. You will always carry that with you. My mother passed away five years ago and I find myself missing her every day; I find myself talking to her in my head sometimes, and staring at her phone number in my cell phone because I can’t bear to remove it from my Favorite List because then it seems so final. But I want my father happy, and when and if he finds someone who can make him happy, I will be happy for him, because I have watched him try to live life for the past five years, and at times it’s been hard to watch. Yes, some people did inquire about what he was “looking for” even before the shloshim was over.
I remember my sister calling me, saying, “Can you believe it, _____ just called me to say that her neighbor may be good for Abba! It’s not even shloshim yet. What is she even thinking?” So I told my sister what I thought this person was thinking, “She’s trying to get in early on a great catch.” It may seem crass, but that’s what’s going on. We can’t judge others and what they have been through or their loneliness. Don’t think it’s an easy call to make when you find out of a “new” widow, widower – but they, too, have needs. A child will always have strong feelings about this, and that’s natural and expected. But she has to weigh if her feelings take priority over her living parent’s quality of life. It is very hard. We love our parent but we will be loyal to our deceased parent and the marriage and relationship that the parents had.
Is three weeks, three months, three years the right amount of time to mourn/grieve before shidduchim start being redt? Who are we to judge? Even as children, we can’t judge. It’s up to the individual and each situation is different.
Shuli, this may not be the answer you were seeking, but it’s the only one I have, and ultimately the choice is your father’s to make. He may take your feelings into consideration, but you have your life and your family, and you aren’t a little girl anymore. Being his daughter does not mean that you get to run his life and tell him when to stop grieving, when to start dating, whom he should date. All we can do is love and support our parent through this time, because it’s not easy for him or her either.
Hatzlachah to you all.