At today’s meeting of the men who attend AGE’s Elderhaven Adult Day Program, our discussions started on the topic of the economy but then twisted and turned to the subject of relationships. The adult son (I’ll call him “Steve”) of an Elderhaven client (“Mr. Wilson”) recently and unexpectedly lost his wife due to a heart attack. The couple had been married for over twenty years but had no children. Mr. Wilson lives with his son Steve in a garage apartment behind Steve’s house and Mr. Wilson attends Elderhaven during the day while Steve is at work.
About two months after the death of Steve’s wife, Mr. Wilson noticed his son was regularly purchasing fresh flowers and taking them to work. When he asked Steve what was going on, Steve replied that he had met a special female friend at work but didn’t want to discuss it. During our men’s group discussion, Mr. Wilson asked the group how long a person should wait after the death of a spouse before starting to date again. He was surprised that his son had so quickly started to create a new relationship so soon (in his opinion) after the death of his wife.
The responses from the Elderhaven men were varied. Some said that it was purely personal matter and that it was solely up to the person to decide when they were ready to start dating. Some men said they supported Steve’s decision to date again so soon but cautioned that finding female companionship might just be a way to help him deal with the emotional grief surrounding the loss of his wife. Some felt that this type of “rebound” relationship might not last. A few of the men said that when their long-term spouses passed away, they had no interest in finding a new wife out of respect to their former wife or an unease with the idea of being part of a completely new extended family.
After a period of mourning, most of the men agreed that making a few new female friends was probably OK as long as the friendships developed slowly and both parties were open and honest about their goals (friendship versus marriage). As our meeting came to a close, several men asked Mr. Wilson keep them updated on the activities and experiences of his son and his new girlfriend. “We want to see picture of her”, one jokingly commented, “to see if he has good taste”. We laughed and ended another great meeting.