Smash Talks: Grieving and Loving

Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your questioning queries to [email protected].

Dear Smashera,

My mom passed away five months ago. My dad who was married to her for 25+ years has already started dating. If you could shed some insight on why he could have possibly moved on this fast, I would really appreciate it.


Dear Confused,

First, I am very sorry for your loss. This sounds like an incredibly difficult time for you and your family and it’s totally understandable that you would have some feelings seeing your dad begin to date. I really want to encourage you to be mindful of your own self-care while you are dealing with this loss. Finding healthy ways to deal with what you are feeling will be helpful, regardless of the actions your father takes.

As far as your father goes, there are a lot of possibilities. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t definitively say “this is what’s going on” in this situation, but I can try to shed some light on his potential emotional state.

Humans are social creatures by nature. We need community and family regardless of how introverted some of us are, so we tend to partner up. Our partners tend to become the other half of our brain: they fill in the gaps in our life that we miss, like remembering to buy milk or pay the bills. Anyone that’s been through a soul-crushing breakup or loss of a partner is bound to feel this mentally, emotionally, and physically. When that partner is suddenly removed it takes some serious readjustment to figure out how to function again. A lot of people will feel this after a breakup, but there’s a lot more finality when the loss of a partner comes through death. There can be no “working it out” after that, so the loss is amplified further.

After a person loses their partner, they may be fine with sitting in their grief for a while and processing through it. Others will really want to push through this and transfer all their emotions onto a new partner, because that is way easier than sitting in the grief. To fully experience that kind of sadness every day can feel hopeless and incredibly lonely, so seeing new faces and new possibilities can feel like it’s easing that burden. This is not to say that people cannot process grief while dating, but it will take introspection and self-reflection to not just “transfer” emotion to another person.

Dating can also be a distraction and a coping mechanism to the change he’s just experienced. His world just had a major shake-up and what was familiar no longer is. Instead of trying to hold onto a semblance of normalcy, he may just be embracing the change and saying “fuck it.” Being home where he is reminded of your mother may be overwhelmingly painful sometimes. Getting out of the house and going out dancing and flirting a little can make that a bit easier.

I am curious if you’ve had any conversations with your father regarding his dating. This can be a sensitive topic, so it could be helpful to have a family therapist around to help keep the conversation meaningful and non-reactive. He may have a very different perspective on his situation and may not realize that his dating can be confusing and even upsetting sometimes. It’s helpful to keep in mind that we all heal in our own ways. Him “moving on” does not diminish the love he shared with your mother.

I hope this helps!