DEAR AMY: I am in my 60s and have been a widow for four years. My daughter misses her father very much. I have been dating a very nice man (divorced, my age) for more than six months. My daughter says she is happy for me. She likes my "boyfriend" but says she doesn't want to see me with him at too many family events because it makes her cry to see me with another man.
She says it will take more time. I told her that I respect her feelings, but he makes me happier than I have been and I don't want to leave him at home.
Please offer me your sage advice, Amy. I am willing to be patient, as we haven't been dating for very long, but I sincerely believe we could be together for the rest of our lives. -- A Concerned Mother
DEAR CONCERNED: First you need to truly understand, deep down, that your daughter is responsible for managing her own feelings. Then you should hold her hand and spend time sitting with her at your kitchen table -- talking, going through photos and reviewing memories of your family's life together, so that she knows that this is what she owns, and this loss is what she must come to terms with.
Her past (and the past you two share) belongs to her. This is unchanging and resolute. Your future (and hers) belongs to each of you as individuals.
Your patience and understanding will help her. However, you should not give in to her emotionally loaded demand that you not include your partner in family events. You can tell her, "I understand that you are sad. I realize this is hard for you, but I trust you to find a way to handle this. You can do it."
You should not fear your daughter's tears now, any more than you might have feared the ferocity of her feelings when she was a child. If she is struggling beyond her ability to handle it, you should offer to attend a session with a grief counsellor with her.
DEAR AMY: I am a 58-year-old male who recently got divorced after 30 years of marriage. I am wondering how one learns to live alone. I have never lived alone before now. I come from a large family, had roommates in college (and after), and then got married at age 28. I miss my family and ex-wife badly.
It has been a very difficult adjustment for me. Can this "old dog" learn any new tricks to make this transition any easier? I could just get a roommate, but I think this is a challenge that should be addressed before I just find someone else to live with. -- Frozen in Chicago
DEAR FROZEN: I think that getting a roommate sooner, rather than later, might actually ease your transition and adjustment.
If you had a fairly solid roommate situation, you could sort through your feelings and separate your anxiety about living alone from your (quite natural and understandable) loneliness for your family. Interacting with an unrelated adult at home could help ease you toward a new life and teach you some "new tricks." (And, speaking of old dogs, you might consider adopting one. Domestic pets chase the loneliness away.)
You should read, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg (2013, Penguin Books). Sociologist Klinenberg reports that people going solo do well when they are social and engaged outside of their homes.
DEAR AMY: I followed your advice on giving books for the holiday season this year.
In the past, I have typically bought gift cards for the grown-ups and plush toys for the kids.
Results this year: Yowsa! Especially with the children. The kids compared books, the adults (privately) were gratified that no batteries were required, and I smiled all day at hearing stories being read and told. -- A Fan
DEAR FAN: This makes me smile. Thank you so much. Long after the batteries have worn down, a book will resonate and inspire its recipient. This year at Christmas my family had a storytelling session/contest that I'm still laughing about.