Finding Love After Loss – Young Widows & Dating
by Glynis Sherwood MEd
Are you a young widow who’s thinking about dating and want to be sure you’re ready? Read on to discover 4 key steps to feeling confident about dating after Loss
The first critical step towards feeling confident about dating after loss is to understand WHY you want to date. In other words to get clear about your motivation and your values. This is important because it helps you to know what is driving you, what you need, and what is good for you at this particular point in your grief journey and life in general. It’s a good idea to start with sorting out your Motivation.
Step 1: Ask Yourself Why You Want to Date
Your Motivation: Do you want to get comfortable socializing with men again, have some fun, find companionship, have sex, or pursue an intimate relationship? On a gut level, which of these possibilities feels best for you? If you have been spending a lot of time alone, try and figure out what you truly need. Are you still grieving and require more time to process your loss, or do you need to challenge yourself to connect with others to help you overcome isolation. You may need to take some time to experience friendships first, before embarking on dating. Many young widows derive a lot of comfort from connecting with other widows in a support group, either online or in person. If you feel you are really stuck in the pain of loss, you may benefit from counselling.
Your Values: Once you have figured out ‘Why’ you want to date, it’s helpful to get clear about your beliefs about dating, especially as a young widow. Decide what social, cultural or spiritual values are important to you? Are your values similar to or different from prevailing attitudes in your family or peer group? For example, do you believe that it’s OK to fall in love and possibly enter a committed relationship again? Don’t let others pressure you into remaining a widow or dating before you are ready. The bottom line is that it’s important to date because you want to, and it fits with your values and beliefs. Determine what you want and need right now, and trust yourself. Do you need to focus on working through your grief more? Do you need to strengthen a sense of independence and relying on yourself? Or do you need to develop new relationships?
Write It Down: Before you make a decision about dating spend some time writing down:
a/ What’s motivating me to date or not to date? Is this good for me? Why?
b/ What personal beliefs do I have about dating, and how should I let this guide me?
c/ What strengths or vulnerabilities do I see in myself that tell me I am either ready to date, need more time to heal, or would benefit from building up my sense of independence before starting to date.
Take Advantage of Your Allies – Your Emotions
Guilt: Guilt sits at the intersection between beliefs and emotions. Understand why you feel guilty about the prospect of dating. Are you worried that you are ‘betraying’ your deceased spouse by dating? Is guilt coming from you or others? Ask yourself if your deceased partner would want you to find love and companionship again. Focus on your needs, not what others think is right or best for you.
Step 3: Act From A Place Of Strength
Your behavior reflects your thoughts, feelings and values in action. By clarifying and aligning your beliefs and emotions, your actions will be more true to who you are and what you need at this time in your life. As noted earlier, understand that it’s normal to feel of two minds from time to time, but if the positives generally outweigh the negatives, don’t let mixed emotions prevent you from taking action and start dating. The following guidelines can help you set the stage for dating from a place of confidence and strength.
3. Dating When You Have Children: You may be holding yourself back from dating because you feel uncertain about when and how you should introduce any man you are dating to your children? Naturally you want to be sensitive to your children’s needs, but the presence of children in your life does not have to be an impediment to dating. Follow these simple principles to help create a positive and smoother experience for everyone.
- Wait until relationship feels like it has a future before bringing your man home.
- Show the kids a photo to help them feel more comfortable.
- Tell your children how you feel about your man, while letting them know that he will never replace their dad.
- Keep first meetings short and informal, e.g. afternoon tea.
- Have your man come alone, without his kids, to the first meeting with your children. Invite him to talk about his kids, show photos, etc.
- Don’t schedule first meetings during holidays or family routines.
- If your kid(s) act up or seem upset, don’t react. Use empathy – talk to them about how they are feeling after.
- As with first dates, go slow. Schedule another meeting a couple of weeks later, no matter how good or bad the first meeting goes.
Be Aware of Your Vulnerabilities
Write It Down: Sketch out a plan for how you will approach dating so you can feel relaxed and in control. Work on taking one step at a time. Go slow and take your time getting to know someone.
Step 4: Go Out and Date
Understanding your thoughts, beliefs, emotions will help you grasp where you are in the grieving process, and will give you a lot of information on which to base your personal readiness to start dating. By knowing yourself well and having a plan you can enter the dating arena feeling confident and hopeful.
Need help finding love after bereavement? Visit my Grief & Loss Counselling web page
If you are struggling with feeling confused, distressed or fearful about dating then I invite you to contact me. I can support you to build your confidence and enter the dating world feeling strong, optimistic and prepared to take that step.