Skip to main content

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column to which readers contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: My mom passed 14 months ago and apparently my dad is already dating someone. They were together for 35 years and this just seems too soon. How can I tell my father that this upsets me without upsetting him?

Your father needs a new bond

It is a testament to the strength of your parents' relationship over 35 years that your dad is trying to develop a new bond. Tell him you miss your mom, that you're still mourning, and gently encourage him to talk about her too, but do so with full appreciation that he may want to develop a loving partnership in the future. That desire in no way diminishes his own grief; it speaks only to his struggle to live fully.

TJ Harrison, Toronto

It's his life, not yours

There is no magic number for how many months – or years – a person should remain celibate after the death of a spouse. Having had a female companion for 35 years, your father is needing more of the same. It is his life, not yours, and your concern reeks of self-indulgence.

Marjaleena Repo, Saskatoon

Remember and move on

My two daughters told me that they would understand and support me if I ever found someone to share my life. No waiting period was mentioned. In fact, I started to spend time with a family friend well within your father's apparently unacceptable limit. My present wife and my daughters form an alliance to keep me happy. We all remember Cynthia with love and respect, and grief. I wish your father the same good fortune.

Mick Mallon, Iqaluit, Nunavut

The Final Word

You are allowed to miss your mother, and you are allowed to miss your parents together and you are even allowed to feel your father is moving on too soon. But what is it you will be trying to accomplish, exactly, by laying all these painful feelings at his feet? Here's what's not allowed, and I think deep down you know it: to attempt to police your father's personal life via emotional blackmail.

We are all somebody's children, and when we're in pain, we regress, instinctively looking to our parents to make everything better. True adulthood occurs the moment we grasp that the people who raised us do not exist solely for our comfort and reassurance. From that point on, the steady stream of unconditional love and support we've expected from them all our lives has to flow both ways.

Put yourself in your father's shoes. Unquestionably, your mother is irreplaceable. But imagine having spent the last 35 years of your life with daily, loving companionship. Now imagine what it must be like to wake up every morning to the desolation of an empty house. If you're presently in a happy, committed relationship yourself, do your best to wrap your head around what it would be like to have that yanked away after relying on it for 35 years. Have you even been alive for 35 years? Then don't presume to dictate how your father should comport his social life in the wake of such radical, devastating change.

Your pain about your mother's death, and the loss of your parents as a unit, is yours to grapple with – not your father's to ameliorate with his solitude. As fellow adults, you can grieve together, but your father needs your support as much as you do his. What he doesn't need is a guilt trip.

Lynn Coady's latest novel is The Antagonist.

Next week's question

A reader writes: I have a work friend I've known for three years who I have lunch with. Five years ago her husband left her for one of her friends and she refuses to move past the victim role. She dwells on the past and spends most of her time away from work in bed, neglecting her three teenagers when they're in her care. I left my own husband, not because of infidelity, but because we grew apart. I am now in a good relationship and am finding my friendship with this woman difficult. How can I move on without adding to her depressive state?

Let's hear from you

If you would like to participate, e-mail us at