As a widow offering comfort to other widows and widowers, I am often asked the question, “Should I start dating?” and if so, “When?”
My advice about almost every aspect concerning spousal grief is the same. The answer to these questions is–again–a very individual thing.
Well meaning friends often pressure widows and widowers to “get back in the game” as soon as possible. They feel if we find someone, our grief will be lessened. Those of us that have walked this path know that is not necessarily true.
The bottom line is that if dating makes you happy, then do it. But if you feel uncomfortable with that don’t let friends or family members force you into doing something that isn’t going to make you feel better.
If you do decide to date, the next step is to determine when you are ready. Only you can answer the question of when to start dating. Don’t be influenced to follow the “one year rule” if that isn’t what you are comfortable with.
On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you it is too soon to date. I knew a couple in my support group that began dating just a few months after losing their spouses. They were elderly and both felt good about going out together, despite the objections of their families.
We are lucky if we have families and friends that care deeply about us but we also have to remember that no one else really knows how we feel. Each person travels on the journey through grief in his or her own way.
Dating can be dangerous and it is important to remember that there are people out there who will take advantage of a widow or widower’s vulnerability and loneliness. If you do decide to start going out again make sure you know all you can about the person before you start any kind of relationship. This is particularly true with online dating.
Dating at any age means that you need to proceed with caution. If you don’t know the person very well do what younger people advise–meet at a public place the first time.
It is also important to remember to keep your expectations realistic. If you are expecting dating to completely take away your grief you will probably be disappointed. You can have a good time with someone else but don’t expect that person to “make up” for your loss, either.
As with so many things we encounter in life, approach the question of dating after losing a spouse by following your heart, yet listening to your head. If your heart tells you dating is not for you at all,that’s okay, too. Do whatever helps you find healing on your road to recovery.
Updated: February 18, 2016