The Coaching Situation

The issue I'd like help on is the feelings of sadness that I'm having. My father has met a woman (I hooked them up by giving my neighbor his email address and they've been writing, calling and now have gone on one date together) and I'm all of a sudden missing my mother and am feeling sad. She's been gone (she passed away) 4 years this month.

I'm just wondering why I'm feeling confused with my emotions. On one hand I'm absolutely happy that my father has someone to do things with other than my sister and I..but on the other, I'm sad.

I sent a few questions to get more information:

1. What was your relationship like with your mother? My mom and I were close. We had our moments where we'd fight (mainly as a teen), but I always knew I could tell her anything and she'd never judge me.

2. What is your relationship like with your father? As of the present it's good. I now tell my dad just about everything except I'm still scared to ask him details about his personal life when it comes to dating or wanting to date and be with someone. Otherwise I think we have a much closer relationship than we did when I was growing up. I pretty much told mom everything and she passed the information onto dad. Now-a-days he and I talk at least 5 times a week on the phone.

3. Please describe the grieving process you've gone through since your mother's death. The week before and the days following her death I pretty much showed a strong front. I'd cry every night before I fell asleep and then again in the mornings before my dad would wake up. (I spent a week with dad while she was in the hospital and passed on.) It was hard because I was suddenly the one who took charge. I talked with the doctors, I did most of the speaking when we made the funeral arrangements. And I'm the youngest. My dad was too sad and my sister was extremely emotional at that time because of other reasons. So..the second week after my mother's death was hard. I cried openly then.

Thanksgiving was lousy because I missed her so and spent the day crying. My sister wanted me to suck it up and be strong for dad..but I just couldn't. A month after mom's passing my family and I were in a car accident and I suffered a concussion which sent me to the hospital on Christmas Day. Thereafter, I was angry all the time and in rotten moods almost always. In the spring of that same year I decided to go to a therapist to sort out my feelings. I went there for about 3 or 4 months going once a week. I sorted through my grief and actually thought that by the end, I was ok. I went from anger to sadness to a soft anger at my mom for leaving me to have a relationship with my dad and sister whom I never really felt close to while mom was living. The last 2 years I haven't felt so bad. I have my moments when I think of mom, but otherwise I've been doing well. It wasn't until Dad met this woman that I felt really sad. Now I'm missing mom a lot.

4. Did you experience any sadness prior to your father's meeting this woman? Not too much. Just certain memories or events would trigger some sadness, but I always seemed to get over it.

5. Describe the sadness for me, along with the associated thoughts and physical sensations. It's just a strong feeling of missing my mother and wanting her to be with me. More than anything I just want to talk to her. To hear her say that everything is ok. That I'm doing things right and that she's happy for all of us.

6. Can you think of anything else which may be contributing to your sadness? I don't know. I'm wanting so much not to feel this way, but rather be ecstatic for my dad that he's met someone who he connects with. I feel like a baby in that I want my mom to be here to tell me everything will be all right.

7. If you are currently in a relationship, how are things within it? I've been married for many years and things are going well right now. The year mom passed away was a rough one for us, but the last couple of years have been good. We have our moments like most couples, but over the years I've learned to stand up for myself and be more open about my feelings. I used to keep my anger inside so as to not cause conflict and I probably still do that a little to this day.

8. Do you feel any other emotions other than sadness? This goes back to wanting my mom here to tell me everything is all right. I'm not sure if that's more than sadness or just wanting reassurance. I regret that I didn't ask her more questions about relationships or children or just life in general while she was around. I miss not having my mother here to ask her about things like that. I try to be so honest with my own children about things and am constantly telling them (especially my 12 year old son) that there's nothing he can't talk to me about, because I suppose I’m missing that with my own mother. I never got the chance.

The Coaching Response

You're dealing with unresolved feelings around your Mom, combined with fears about how to interpret those feelings and still remain open to your father's new relationship. You can use the sadness, fear, and confusion as an opportunity to grow in a few ways. The best way to get through this is to establish a relationship with your father’s new friend. Ask your Dad for her number so you can arrange to have her over for lunch or for coffee. When you arrange this, explain to her that having her in your father’s life has brought up emotions for you and if she's willing, you’d appreciate being able to talk to her about some of these feelings.

If she agrees, you’ll be able to accomplish two things. One, in talking with her, you’ll separate your feelings around your Mom from those triggered by this woman entering your father's life, allowing you to clear them away. Second, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this woman and in developing a relationship with her, you’ll fill the need of having somebody to talk to about your sadness and other emotions.

What will likely happen is that the need to have your Mom around will dissipate, because you'll be pulled out of the past with a new focus. Now, this woman may not be open to getting to know you so intimately and quickly. If she isn’t, don’t judge her for it; the prospect of it may be frightening. If your father continues the relationship with her, the two of you will get to know each other naturally over time.

Give yourself permission to go through this additional grieving without judgment. It'll eventually pass and you'll go through it faster if you immerse yourself in them rather than hold them back for fear of being judged or feeling like you should be over it by now. If others do judge you, be firm in your understanding that this is what YOU need, and that’s enough to make it okay. What other people think of your grieving is irrelevant. Your grief is unique to you and there are as many ways to experience grief as there are people on this planet.

When a person close to us dies, it leaves a hole in our heart and psyche. For many years, it’s common to feel almost “shaky” about life. Lower your expectations of how you should be feeling this amount of time after your Mom's death. Understand that your need for her is not a reflection of how you're handling life or your ability to function. The need for reassurance comes from not knowing how to understand or deal with this emptiness.

Allow the tears to flow and allow your heart to ache yet again. I recommend you do the following:

  1. Talk to your Dad about your fears and new emotions. Let him know how happy you are for him. When you do, you’ll be able to replace some fears with deeper intimacy. Nothing would be more healing than to be able to cry with your father as you both recount memories of your mothers love.
  2. Ask your father what it’s like for him to be with someone other than your mother. Get him to share his emotions, his hurt, and his fears. By giving him the opportunity to show his emotions, you'll help him. Whenever we reach out to help others, the bonus is that we also help ourselves.
  3. Find a diary that suits your feelings, something that feels good to you. Find one with a soft, textured cover, that gives you a warm sensation. Then start writing to your Mom as if she's listening, and even record what you imagine she'd say back to you. As you write, picture her sitting there, listening, and talking to you. Pour out your heart, your worries, your fears, and your loneliness.
  4. Sit in a soft, comfortable chair in a room with dimmed light. Close your eyes and visualize her snuggled with you, squished into a chair as you both giggle over doing this. Feel her arms around you. Picture her standing by the chair or you sitting at her feet while she softly strokes your head, absentmindedly playing with your soft hair. Allow her unconditional love to pour into you. The amount of love she has is infinite, your pain is deep. Let the love in even if it feels like the hole you feel is bottomless. And cry until there is no more. Let all that hurt out into her soft, warm, capable hands and heart.
  5. When you are done letting out your hurt and letting in her love, sit with that feeling of reassurance and comfort for as long as you want to. Bask in the security of her love. Be gentle with yourself over the next few days as you process this experience.
  6. If feelings of missing your Mom come up again, tap into what you felt when you did the exercise. Redo the exercise as often as you want. Indulge yourself repeatedly. You’ll find over time that the need diminishes as it gets filled more permanently.

You may have some fear around seeing your Dad be intimate with this woman, even if it's just to hold her hand or give her a loving glance. Be prepared by talking about it with your Dad. Always express your fears, so they don’t have the chance to build up and feel real. If you do feel anything when you see the two of them together, take the risk of saying something out loud like “Wow, I didn’t realize that I could miss my Mom and be so happy to see the two of you happy all at the same time.” Then go over and hug your Dad and hug this woman or touch her hand warmly. They will understand what you’re talking about. Trying to hide feelings like that only makes you feel awkward, uncomfortable, and wanting to avoid the situation. Talking about it will help it move on faster.

The last thing I'd like to mention is that you're feeling all of this in a period that's close to the anniversary of her death. This adds to the confusion of your emotions. Understanding that this is an additional influence will help you to get through this period just a little bit easier.

recommended books