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When Your Parent Loses Their Spouse

Published: January 6, 2019

“And the two shall be as one” just rolls off our tongue. But think about it. What does it mean to the one who lives when their partner has died? Are they now a half? Families are interesting in that we tend to “know” our family member as their role relates to us. Mom is mom, dad is dad. We kids typically don’t really see the couple side, or the work side, or the friend side of our parents. 

So how must it feel to lose your life partner? Try to step into your parent’s shoes. Pretty quickly in a marriage the jobs are assigned. She does the laundry, he cooks the dinner, she manages the household budget, and he manages the retirement plan. Sure, they have separate interests but look at all those shared interests. Are they lost with this death? What happens to their couple activities?  Do friends still invite them for bridge or to join the bowling team when they become a single? Life changes drastically when death parts a couple.

If your parent begins to date, it is not so easy to move from your point of view to understanding and accepting theirs. For a child it may feel too soon, like your living parent is replacing your deceased parent. Perhaps this new wife or husband is stepping in a way that you thought you would. She is going to the doctor’s appointments with dad or cooking dad dinner when you expected to fill that role. He is mowing mom’s lawn with dad’s lawn mower no less! It’s hard.

Consider working on changing the way you look at this budding relationship.  How hard would it be to live as a half when you have been married for 35, 50, or even 60 years? Maybe this new relationship is a search for the happiness they had with your deceased parent? Try to understand that as we age, time really is limited and precious. And honestly…maybe they can’t wait. Maybe they need a partner, or another half, to be whole again. 

 
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