Living

Carolyn Hax: Son grieves loss of father while mom moves on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I am having a hard time dealing with my mom and her new boyfriend. My dad passed away last year, and I am an (adult) only child. I know this loss affected her, but I don’t think she’s taken any time to see how the loss has affected ME.

I motored along for the first eight months or so taking care of her, the house, the affairs, etc., and never had time to grieve, I guess. Now I think everything is coming to a head for ME, and she just isn’t able or interested in being there. She and the boyfriend travel, he’s moved into the house, and I get the occasional phone call (the printer is out of toner, can you change the bag in the vacuum, etc.).

I’m not mad at her for moving on; I’m sad because I guess I was never given the opportunity to miss my dad in my own way and on my own time. I find it extremely difficult to communicate with my mom beyond responding to specific requests. Things can’t continue this way.

Mom’s Moved On

Please get some grief counseling. Your mom can’t give you what you’re looking for to ease your pain.

It’s time to stop doing what hurts (counting on your mom) and start doing what helps (figuring out who or what can meet your needs, which is what the counseling is for).

I’m sorry about your loss. If it helps, it might not be that your mom hasn’t “taken any time to see how the loss has affected ME,” but instead that she is unable to handle both her recovery and yours. She is moving on, yes, but she might have had only enough strength to manage that. You were stronger, and were able to manage her needs for months — but even then it took so much out of you.

I think this happens to families often, where people expect they can handle logistics and their own grief and also take care of each other — and that expectation eventually proves impossible to meet. If you find a way to get the support you need elsewhere, you might find that you’re able to talk to your mom again — simply because the stakes won’t feel so high.

Dear Carolyn:

I just started a new job two months ago — a job I’ve always wanted. It’s legitimately great: in my field, more money, a great career move, a better commute.

But I had to leave a job I was really great at — I was an expert and recognized as such. Now I’m a newbie. I’m starting to feel sad about making the change, because it seems like I’ll never regain the expertise and bring the value I once had. Any ideas?

Dream Job Blues

Yes. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll become a veteran at this, too — eventually. In the meantime, lean on the fact that you’re better paid, advancing on your career path and closer to home. If you reach the point of familiarity and still dislike it, that’s when you make a move.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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