When your significant other passes away, your whole world stops. This was the person you were supposed to create a future with. You had plans to grow old and do life together – but now you’re left by yourself, floored by grief.
This week’s reader, Louise, wants to date again after losing her partner. “My husband passed two years ago. When will I feel ready to date again?” she asks.
It’s not unusual for someone to feel lonely when dealing with grief. But it’s not easy to date after the person you loved has passed away, either.
When does someone know they’re ready to date again?
“This suggests that over a period of time, we will navigate from one stage to the next, and emerge out of the other side of our grief, ready to move on,” says the counsellor.
But Sturmer explains that life really isn’t that simple 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,” she says.
More importantly, 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,” Sturmer adds.
So there really isn’t an answer to when a person is ready to date again. “It’s just about taking one step at a time, and remembering that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision,” says the expert.
“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 this reader might face when dating again?
We don’t know how long it’s been since Louise was last single but it’s possible that the dating landscape may have changed dramatically since she was.
“Unfamiliar processes, like online dating, or dating events, might add to your worries. These are just assumptions though, it’s entirely possible that it would feel exciting or rejuvenating to try something new,” Sturmer says.
When Louise feels ready to start dating, she might feel like she’s carrying the weight of other people’s expectations on her shoulders.
For instance, Sturmer explains that: “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.”
Louise might also feel like she’s betraying her husband, although this isn’t the case for everyone. If she does feel this way, however, Sturmer says she should be gentle with herself.
“Reflect on what you want and need in life, and how you can honour his memory while still considering how to move forward,” she adds.
What advice would you give this reader as they’re getting ready to date again?
Here’s what the therapist recommends:
- 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.
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.