I’m a woman (age 36) who’s father has been a widow for 5 years now and won’t get over my mother with whom he was married to for over 35 years and he won’t get back on the dating scene, even though he’s the most eligible bachelor in his age group.
He loves my mom and talks about her every day, I’ve told him to date, he considers it, women throw themselves at him, but he’s never that interested. I know that my mother made him want to do everything life has to offer. He was always motivated and happy to do anything she wanted to do as long as they were together.
-Hunter (named changed)
Thank you for your question and for providing me additional information in a follow-up email. You’ve said that your father seems to “thrive on female companionship” and that he’s experiencing health issues, letting the housework go and in general isn’t functioning very well all alone.
It sounds like he’s still grieving for his wife, your mother. Five years may seem like a long time to you but it may feel more recent to him. The constant references to his wife aren’t that uncommon for widowers; he misses her and is not ready to let go. As much as you want to make him better, there’s not a lot that you can do. It has to be his choice.
You want him to date, but does he want to date? If women are indeed throwing themselves at him and he’s not responding then he’s not ready. What I think your father needs right now is less of a push towards dating and more of a nudge towards some type of therapy. He has significant health issues and is under the care of a doctor. Has the doctor evaluated him for depression? Would he consider seeing a therapist who specializes in grief counseling?
I understand your concerns as a daughter and the one who, it seems, is tasked with taking care of him. If he were to ‘replace’ your mother there would be another person to share the task of keeping him motivated, in better health and engaged in activities. It’s a dilemma we all face as our parents age and experience the loss of a spouse. And, it’s a tough place for you to be. You care about him and want him to be well…and on some level I suspect you’re worried about the impact on your life.
Rather than push him to date, why not encourage him to join some groups in the community? Programs at the local Senior center, classes at the local college, book groups at the public library, a widow/widowers support group, an activity group based on his hobbies, church, or volunteering in local schools or nonprofits are all areas where he might find women and men also looking for friendships. He needs to get out of the house which is full of memories of your mother and their life together. Who knows, in one of those activities he might meet a woman and start dating.
In my personal opinion, as a woman who has dated a widower, your father is not ready to date. He needs a “wife” in the traditional sense of a woman to help balance his life. But he’s probably not ready to entertain the thought of someone stepping into your mother’s role. Your father must be around 70 years old and is of the generation that led a traditional, i.e. old-fashioned, life where women ran the house and men did… “men things”. He needs someone to help him get organized and motivated but he may not choose to enter the dating world.
Here are a few resources to get you both started.
- National Widowers Organization
- Getting On With Life After a Partner Dies- a 2010 New York Times article by Jane Brody about her life after the death of her husband
- Widowers Stick Together- an article in AARP