Navigating life after loss. How do you start dating after bereavement?
Navigating life after loss can be exhausting. For the Huffington Post's latest ‘Love Stuck’ column, I have responded to a reader whose husband had died. She was full of confusion and worry about when she might feel ready to date again. So how you do start dating after bereavement? Click here to view the original article.
When does someone know when they're ready to start dating after bereavement?
Many of us have heard of the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ model. When we think about navigating life after loss, this model suggests that over a period of time we will progress from one stage to the next. The original idea is that we would emerge out of the other side of our grief, ready to move on. The truth is that life really isn’t like that, and grief isn’t a linear process. Rather than a neat curve, it’s more like a tangled ball of string. Some days might feel easier than others. And the grief doesn’t go away. But what does happen, is that we learn to ‘grow’ around our grief. To consider new possibilities, even when our grief is very much part of us.
This is a long-winded way of saying, that there really isn’t an answer to this. And there’s no expectation that it will be a flick of a switch, that you'll suddenly know that you're ready to start dating after bereavement. It’s just about taking one step at a time, and remembering that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. Try it out, and then listen to your gut. If you tune into your feelings you’ll know whether it feels right.
What are some of the challenges that you might face if you start dating after bereavement?
It’s possible that the dating landscape may have changed dramatically since you were last dating. Unfamiliar processes, like online dating, or dating events, might add to your worries when you're navigating life after loss. These are just assumptions though. It’s entirely possible that it would feel exciting or rejuvenating to try something new.
If you begin dating, you may feel as if you’re carrying the weight of other people’s expectations. Friends, family, your children, they might all have an opinion and they might all want to get involved. They might encourage you to date. Or they might frown upon it.
The idea of entering the dating scene might feel like a betrayal of your previous partner. This absolutely isn’t the case for everyone. But if it is, then be gentle with yourself. Reflect on what you want and need in life, and how you can honour their memory while still considering how to move forward.
Tips if you're getting ready to start dating after bereavement
Remember to go at your own pace. If the idea of it starts to feel uncomfortable, then you can stop. You’re in control.
Hold your boundaries if other people get involved. It’s your life and your choices to make.
Be aware of what’s driving you into the dating scene. Are you looking for a new partner? Or are you looking to fill a void?
Acknowledge that you might experience feelings of guilt. You don’t need to pretend that these feelings don’t exist. Take note, and notice whether they worsen, or whether they come and go
Manage your expectations. Remember that there are ups and downs in dating, and you might not meet your fairytale perfect match the first time.
Keen to explore more?
I love working with people to help them to understand themselves. In counselling we build a relationship where we can look at how you're coping with losses that you have experienced, so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in everyday life. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.