Thursday, September 19, 2013

New widowers: proceed slowly when introducing mom's replacement

New widowers: proceed slowly when introducing mom's replacement

Last week, Tony, a 60-year-old widower of about six months, asked for an opinion about informing the stepsons he helped raise, that he wants to bring a new companion to family holiday functions this year.

Tony said, almost defiantly, "I don't want to give control of my remaining life to my stepsons…"

He put his question before this forum, which consists of nearly 2,000 Champs, and, as Champs always do, they responded resoundingly with sage advice.

Let me say this upfront. New widowers are special people, good people, loyal. Most were devoted husbands for multiple years. They are facing a jolt that is hard to deal with. Not all of them try to date too soon; heck, many of them never date again. Tony is a good man. He's concerned about his stepsons' and step grandsons' feelings. He's just trying to curb his loneliness.

Here's what the Champs said about his wanting to bring a new person to this year's family holiday functions.  

Deborah said, "I dated a widower last year. NOT a good idea. I was so excited because he was such a great man. Yet, it all fell apart 10 months later because he wasn't ready."

Karla emailed, "I'd be uncomfortable going to family holiday events with a recently widowed man. I'd prefer a quiet breakfast or lunch before he goes to be with his family. That would show he cares enough to be with me for part of the day."

Ann Marie stated, "As a widow, I advise Tony to not even ask his stepsons at this point. Those first holidays are so difficult for families and should be spent with families, with memories remembered and love shared.   

"To bring someone else into a family at this early stage is to deny the family (and, Tony himself,) this occasion of celebration and healing.  He would be doing a disservice to himself and to the family, and I can guarantee that feelings would be irreparably damaged even if the stepsons agreed."

Marsi said: "It has not been a year of grieving for him or the family, so I feel it is a little too soon and the family may feel it is disrespectful to their mother's memory. To bring a date just for the sake of not being alone for the day, I would pass. It won't hurt him to go alone for one function. If the relationship progresses, the following year would be more appropriate."

Ann shared, "I became a widow several years ago and can look back and recall how I felt. It is still very early in his healing process. The first-year holidays are highly emotional. The family is grieving for at least a year, also.

"Bringing a new woman into the family will be very awkward at best and could create a lasting rift in the family. I know because I made the mistake. My family did their best to be polite, even gracious. Of course, my friend was equally uncomfortable. My reaction was completely unexpected. 

"I wouldn't want to live through that day, or the days following, again. Emotions are still very tender, but given time, we gain equilibrium. My friend and I eventually found that we weren't compatible"

Two men chimed in

Chris, "Tony should give it more time before bringing a new lady to the coming holiday functions. The stepchildren and grandchildren are going to spend their first holiday season without their mother and grandmother, respectively. This is a particularly hard time. To suddenly have a new lady taking her place will not go down well. He should go it alone this time and not mention it to them. Next year it will be easier.

Joel added: "She may not be in your life very long. It's a good idea to wait quite a while until you find your way through the thicket. This woman seems great now but the likelihood the first one or two will be permanent is slim. You will be faced with explaining why you show up with someone different, questions from parents about how this looks to children, etc."

Three more women's opinions

Patricia, "Better to take the time to heal before introducing a new woman into his still grieving family or he will lose the stepson's families as well. They are not ready for this and neither is he!"  

Julie, a widow, added, "it is too soon to bring someone else to the family holiday events. Take time for the family to heal and grieve together; develop new traditions; bond in a new way.

"If this new companion cares about him, she will graciously allow him time alone with his family. If not - red flag!"

Mindy, however, felt otherwise, "You would think adult children would have compassion for the living parent. Tony mentioned bringing a companion, not a fiancé! He has found some comfort in this new woman, that his stepsons cannot provide. We cannot predict down the road whether this relationship hits the brakes, but the bottom line is that this is his life, his decision, and the adult kids need to deal with it!"

In summary, while it's a good thing that our Champs don't always agree on issues, 90 percent of them quoted today feel it's not a wise idea for this new widower to bring a woman to the first-year holiday functions. I agree. New widowers need to realize that the families are grieving as much as they are, and the widowers should be considerate of those family members.

It should be noted as well, that these Champs are not saying Tony should not date; they are merely saying he should not expose a new woman so soon to the family he loves.

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