I am not a person that readily accepts change. I like it and know that change is definitely a good thing! It just takes me a little longer to adapt, sometimes years, sometimes decades! I recently read a quote (and I love quotes), that resonated with me so much; I had to write about it. The quote is: “One reason why people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain”
Now I am taking you back to my life journey blog (insert) in 2016 when I lost my step-mum. Coming full-circle, my Dad informed me shortly before Christmas, that he has a new “partner” in his life. It took my Dad less than three months to move on with his life and to put it succinctly, I was shocked. I was livid that he could disrespect my step-mum’s memory. I held nothing back when I spoke to him. How DARE he move on to another relationship so soon? I told him he was being selfish and I actually stopped contacting him. I sought advice from close friends and mentors. I cried, I questioned my instincts, I researched stacks of information on line about similar topics and I wrote down my thoughts.
As a child of divorced parents, I was barely a teenager when my step-mum became part of my life. I had no say in this new relationship and as a teenager, was told to “get used to it”. When Dad shared the news with me, I reverted straight back to my previous 12-year-old self. I did not want a second step-mum, I did not even want to hear anything about her. I refused to engage. I got cranky, jealous and immature. The more I researched similar stories on line, the clearer I became in my thinking. Did you know that about 85% of widowed men move onto a new relationship in under 12 months! Some men need companionship. My Dad is one of these people. It did help me in some small way to understand the emotional dynamics of how men suffer when their wives/partners pass away.
Then I read the quote. I stopped for a minute and recognised that from everything that I had experience last year was nothing compared to what my Dad went through. Yes, I lost my step-mum, and it took me 25 years to tell her that I loved her. She was a truly remarkable and caring woman and I missed her so much. I did not want to give Wendy up. I only wanted to talk to her again, one more time. Turns out, I was still grieving and what I realised is that Dad had already done that.
So, I picked up the phone and spent at least 50 minutes talking to him about how I felt and how I needed him to give me some space to adjust. It was good to talk. He was sincere and genuine and while I certainly gave him 100% support, I was not quite willing to embrace this new “family” change.
Last week, I met Janette. Dad and Janice went on a cruise to New Zealand. They planned their first trip as a couple and it was their first ever boat cruise. They have had many firsts. Janice lost her husband three years ago and understands what Dad went through. She also knew Wendy and lives about two blocks away in the same retirement village. She was a legal secretary and is highly intelligent and positive. I met them at the airport and the most surprising thing of all; I had no concerns about meeting her, I was not nervous and I felt extremely comfortable around her. Being an adult makes things much easier and guess what, I have gained a new friend!
The following is what I want to share, just in case you or another person is going through a similar situation.
- It is OK to be angry or hurt. I acknowledged my feelings in writing and aloud. I knew I had to change and learn how to deal with my feelings.
- Be patient with yourself. Give yourself some space and time to adjust to life changes and also heal those inner wounds.
- Practice meditation. This can be guided relaxation or meditation, what worked for me was gardening, less social interactions and walking around the grass with no shoes.
- Set boundaries: Once you have a clear goal, find out more information through research and follow up on opportunities. Do you need to look at the current job market and do you need to connect with your network?
- Be kind: Always be polite to your parents. They raised you and taught you principles. Do not throw them away when there is a potential new partner on the horizon.
- Be fair: There is no point yelling, agonising or asking too many questions, it gets you nowhere fast.
- Respect others: In this scenario, I knew nothing about my Dad’s new partner. Who was I to judge? It is his life, his choices and his lessons to learn. Respect their decisions always.
- Talk: Ask for support, share with friends, ask for input and talk things through with your own partner or loved one. It might be time to lean on people for a short time.
- Look forward: The past is for learning, the present is for living and the future is for planning. I can see a bright future with Dad and Janette, and I know I can learn to embrace change!
Of all the points I have shared, the one crucial aspect is that my Dad is happy. I have never seen him so calm, cheery, healthy and alive. Sure he and my step-mum had a great life together, no doubts. What he has now is renewed energy and a new partner to go exploring with, to dine with, laugh and enjoy life with. Good on ya Dad!