Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships in the wake of loss, one of the hardest things I’ve battled since losing my mother. I think this is something many people who are grieving have to face at some point.
I know my dad and I have both struggled with this over the last year, him more than I. Though in recent months, I have come to realize I am more like him when it comes to relationships than I ever thought.
Trauma affects all aspects of our lives, very often we don’t even realize the extent of how these events shape our lives and how we grow from them until much later in life. As my dad begins to date whilst simultaneously still grieving the loss of the my mother; he is processing all the trauma in his own life, just as I am processing my own trauma. We learn to navigate relationships in so may different ways, but the ways in which we respond to trauma and grief can sometimes take a toll on our relationships.
In a conversation my dad and I had recently, he told me that I was just like him. After that I began to realize just how true that was, not necessarily in our personalities but in the ways that we love and treat others in our relationships. We both love strongly and fiercely, yet sometimes that becomes our downfall. We are quick to forgive and forget when our partners are less than kind or hurt us, we don’t take our time to process the situation at hand.
This last year, we both have found ourselves in what one could only describe has toxic relationships. Now, let me clarify, this is not because either of us are toxic people, nor is it because we were dating particularly toxic people. However, we got into “relationships” whilst vulnerable and grieving, and fell hard and fast for people who weren’t entirely right for us. Both of us have had extensive back and forth between our partners in these relationships, where communication has been fleeting and then consistent again, where our vulnerable, forgiving nature’s has gotten us into situations where we feel like we owe it to our partners to stay when maybe the right thing to do is actually walk away.
Opening your heart to someone after a significant loss like ours, is not a feeling I would ever wish anyone nor is it something you want to do too much. You get tired of hearing the I’m sorry’s when telling your story. Whilst we will never not miss her, and she will always be in our hearts, the loss should not define who we are whether in a relationship or not.
As hard as dating without a mother is for me, i can only imagine how hard it is to date after losing your wife, i.e: my dad. He will never replace her, nor does he want to, but anyone who dates him now or in the future will have to embrace that. He’s raising us, three daughters, who are now navigating adult life without a mother. So to anyone who wonders what it’s like to watch your dad date after losing your mom/his wife, this what I wish for his future partner:
- Embrace my mother for who she was: a fierce, strong, loyal, beautiful and funny woman who created meaningful relationships with every single person and instilled all those qualities in us – her daughters.
- Be open to hearing us talk about her, because we- his daughters – will never stop talking about her and sharing memories, we want her memory to live on within us, and our future families.
- Embrace us and everything we have to offer as our fathers daughters, even if we may be a lot to handle at times, because even though we may be adults, we will always need our dad.
- Understand that him dating is a whole new concept to all of us and we may take time to warm up to you. – it is NOT personal. We just have no idea how to handle it and are still processing losing our mom too.
But most of all? Cherish him. Our dad is an amazing person who loves deeply. Be understanding to the fact that while he may fall for someone new and love them with his whole heart, he will always grieve for her and the life he lost when she left us. That will never change, grief comes and goes with each season of life and as we know; some seasons have heavier storms than others.