26 April 2012
Starting to date again after bereavement
There are few things more devastating that losing a partner and the sadness and pain can take a long time to heal. There will come a point when you feel ready to start dating again. Here are some suggestions to help you as you begin to look to the future and make peace with your loss.
Losing a partner through bereavement is different from any other kind of separation. Unlike divorce or a break-up you and your partner didn’t choose to be separated and you might be left with feelings of anger, depression, remorse and maybe even the belief that you should stay loyal to your partner that died. It is natural for people to want to share their life with someone else and, as time passes and the feelings subside, it is likely that you will eventually consider finding a new partner.
Easy does it
Only you can know when you feel ready to start dating again, there is no magic formula or specific amount of time – everyone is different and grief is a highly individual thing. When you can think of your partner that has died and imagine that they would be happy for you to move on with your life then you have probably reached the level of acceptance needed. Try looking at online profiles, or even writing one yourself, and see how it makes you feel. The most important thing is to take it slowly and stop if you feel you aren’t ready yet – the time will come when you are.
Dealing with guilt
Feeling disloyal to a partner is the main block widowed people face. In truth, if your partner loved you, they wouldn’t want you to be on your own for the rest of your life. Many people struggle to let go of the past because they are full of regret wishing that they had been a better partner in some way or enjoyed the time they had together more. Because they feel so bad about what happened they don’t believe they deserve to be happy again or worry that if they get close to someone else they might lose them too. These are all natural parts of the grief process. Coming to accept that people we love will die helps us to love and appreciate them more when they are here. You can’t go back and change the past but you can use it to live more fully in the future.
Talk about it
The chances are that you aren’t the only person who was affected by the bereavement. When you are considering dating again it is important to think about who else will be affected by your decision and talk to them before you take any action. If you have children who have lost a parent it is especially important that you introduce the idea of you dating again before you actually do anything so that they have time to get used to the idea. This will give you all a chance to talk about what happened and what you want for your future. Do be considerate of other people’s feelings but don’t allow them to dictate the rest of your life.
There is a danger when you start dating again after bereavement that you look for someone to replace what you have lost. No-one will ever be able to fill the place in your heart, or life, that your loved one held, they were unique and your relationship with them will remain treasured. A new partner will bring new challenges, energy and hope into your life. When you are thinking about what is important to you in a partner try to concentrate, not on what you have lost, but on what you want for your future – what do you want to experience? Maybe you would like to travel more or learn to ski for example? Whatever it is, concentrating on the future and what you want from it will help ensure you don’t get to the end of your life wishing you had lived more.
If you start the dating process, maybe subscribing to eHarmony, writing a profile or even going on some dates, and realise that you aren’t quite ready it is ok to stop and give yourself more time. Keep talking to people and maybe consider getting some professional bereavement counselling if you feel as though you are stuck and unable to move forward. Time is a great healer and only you will know when the time is right for you to love again.