We all remember falling in love. We all remember those wonderful feelings we experienced when we fell in love. And if we experience love again, later in life, we become reacquainted with feeling alive and exuberant, like the teenagers we once were.

Falling in love is especially shocking when it happens after the loss of a loved spouse and no one is more shocked than your adult children.

Unfortunately, the thoughts and feelings experienced by adult children when romance is in the air are often very different and at odds with those feelings experienced by a surviving parent.

How each deals with very different expectations around a new relationship has much to do with patience, and an understanding that an adult child grieving a parent’s death is very different from a spouse grieving the death of a mate.

Knowledge about the differences, and finally respecting the differences is probably the most important ingredient to ensure a positive outcome for both parent and adult children.
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Some of the differences

Support
Adult Children — are relieved to see a parent vibrant again but see support of a new relationship as a betrayal to the deceased parent.
Parent — feels entitled to a chance to love and have joy again.

Replacement
Adult Childrensee parent as irreplaceable.
Parent — sees new relationship as different but not a replacement.

“I‘m not ready to meet anyone!”
Adult Children — often feel badgered into meeting new romantic interest. Issues of anger and resentment arise.
Parent — feels as though they are in a tug of war between new love interest and adult child. Feelings of guilt and frustration arise.

Sensitivity vs. Selfishness
Adult Children — Now I have lost my other parent. How could mom/dad be so insensitive?
Parent — My child is selfish. Can’t my child see I have endured so much?

Reality
Adult Children — experience the “OMG factor” when they see a surviving parent head over heals in love like a teenager with raging hormones. Public displays of affection are not appreciated.
Parent — My child hasn’t given my new love a chance! Why isn’t he/she excited for me?

Possible Solutions

  • Adult children grieve differently for their parent than a widow/widower. Your grieving process differs from your child’s. You and your child are on a different timetable. Both parties need an understanding and respect for these differences and you will be rewarded in the future.
  • A parent is irreplaceable. One can have more than one marriage and spouse. One can never replace a parent. Understanding and accepting this difference is crucial to your future relationship.
  • Adult children who are badgered into meeting a new person may feel so much resentment that even after the new relationship might end the anger lingers on.
  • Be patient!
  • Holidays are particularly riddled with potential hurdles. Holidays are filled with reminiscing and traditions. The inclusion of a new person can create an awkward situation. It may pay to put that inclusion off.
  • Public displays of affection can be very uncomfortable for family members.
  • Nothing is more uncomfortable for adult children than a surviving parent’s adolescent hormone driven display of affection at a family event. Try to keep such displays for your private time together.
  • Both surviving parent and adult children need to be considerate of each other’s needs, respecting the fact that each grieves differently. The forcing of any situation complicates the grieving process and introduces feelings of anger, resentment, guilt, and frustration.

These “considerations” do not mean a surviving parent should not date or experience a romantic relationship; however, patience is a definite virtue. Give it time! Respect each other’s needs and recognize that each of you grieves differently.