Five Tips for Dating After the Death of a Partner or Spouse

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BY: Diane Snyder Cowan
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

The depth of grief after the death of a partner or spouse can be overwhelming. There is a void – a hole in your heart that your beloved once filled and the aloneness is vast.  Just the idea of beginning a new  relationship can be scary.

Each person grieves in his or her own way and not everyone is interested in dating or resuming a social life after the death partner or spouse. However, you may find that starting a relationship and finding this aspect of meaning in life can be part of the healing process.

How will you know when you are ready to date? Here are some things to consider:
 
  1. Time – While there is no calendar for grief, you want to make sure that enough time has passed for you to work through the tasks of grief. Some people need more time to grieve than others and some want to date fairly soon into their grief.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad way to grieve.
  2. It is important to experience and process the feelings of grief and loss. Moving into a relationship too soon may be a way of avoiding or escaping this crucial task of grief.  Also, many people feel guilty when starting new relationships. If the guilty feelings are too strong, it may be an indication of moving too quickly.
  3. Have you adjusted to your new role? Can you take care of yourself?  Have you assumed all the roles around the house that you used to share with your partner or spouse?  You want to be careful that  you are not looking for a “caregiver ”or replacement or someone to take out the garbage or cook a good meal. Think about what you miss about your partner or spouse.
  4. Have you gone through your partner’s possessions? Many people quickly remove any and everything that reminds them of their beloved.  Some people hang on to belongings for a very long time.  Before you begin dating, sort through your loved one’s possessions.  Decide what you want to donate, toss, store or leave on display. This can also be very healing.
  5. Inform your children, family and friends. This is not a request for permission or a blessing, but letting them know is a courtesy. No one wants to be surprised when you show up with your date at an event. Some may be upset at first, but talk to them. Let them that you wish to start dating again. They want you to be happy.  Reassure them that you will be safe and remind that no one will ever replace the person who died.
The death of your partner or spouse has become part of your life story and who you are.  Your relationship with the deceased does not end, but a new relationship is created based on memory, spirit and love.   Meeting someone new and developing a connection creates new memories and meaning.

Diane Snyder Cowan, Hospice of the Western Reserve ©2015

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