There isn’t anything more devastating than losing someone you love. The thought of a happy future full of affection may be far from your mind, but that could change as you start to heal. So how do you move forward with your life and start dating after the death of a spouse? Gingerly—that’s for sure.
When the time is right, you’ve got to begin somewhere.
Below you’ll find what you need to know about re-entering the dating world.
Table of Contents
Things To Consider After The Death Of A Spouse
This is all new territory. So, you need to give yourself some grace because there is no right or wrong. It’s all about healing and figuring out the best way to move forward.
When to Start Dating After the Death of a Spouse?
Unfortunately, there is no correct timeline. For some people, it’s weeks. For others, it’s years.
This is one of the most challenging mindsets to wrap your head around. Too soon, and what will people think? Too long, and people will start trying to set you up with everyone they meet in the grocery line.
This decision must come from within, an inner feeling that the time is right. And only you can come to that conclusion.
Start with baby steps.
If the thought of dating is beginning to excite you, then try it on for size. Go on a date. See how you feel. It’s ok to test the waters and then decide to stay on dry land for a bit. You do you. That is the only way.
The true tell is if you’ve processed your grief enough. If so, the mere idea of dating again might not repulse you. And then, it might be time to give it a try.
So, the answer to how long you wait to date after the death of a spouse is wholly up to you.
Why Are You Dating?
The reasons why you want to start dating are more important than how long you wait.
- Do you need companionship? Of course, your life is lonelier because your spouse isn’t there. But is that the right reason to date?
- Are you dating because you are ready to feel love again? Because you deserve companionship?
- Are you dating after losing a spouse because your family members want you to?
Whatever the reasons, make sure they are yours.
Widow brain is when you feel foggy and like your brain is disconnected after the death of a spouse. It’s a coping mechanism—the brain tries to shelter itself (aka you) from the pain and suffering from the loss of your loved one.
It can last up to two years and be as minor as forgetting how to get to work and making unusual decisions to not being able to function daily. It’s different for everyone.
Sometimes the death won’t feel real for a few months. You’ll still expect them to be around the corner, waiting in the kitchen, next to you in bed. It’s normal and all part of the 5 stages of grief.
Widow brain can seriously cloud your judgment.
That is why therapists and support groups always stress how important it is not to make significant decisions for the year or two after the death. So, no moving, selling the house, buying a home or anything that could disrupt your life. Instead, wait at least a year until you regain some of your diminished mental faculties.
It’s also the reason why dating after the death of a spouse can be tricky. Your widow brain may be interfering with your rational thoughts. Dating that 30-something boy toy may not be the best idea (on second thought, it might be precisely what you need ;)).
The same thing applies to dating someone who lost a spouse. Their widow brain could be making them do irrational things. So, hang in there and be patient. This, too, shall pass.
New Love is Healing
Love is a gift, one that you deserve throughout your life. Just because you lost a loved one doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t love again. And when you do, all those good endorphins will help ease the pain.
I’m not suggesting you rush into anything. But don’t deny yourself the chance to feel loved again.
Tips for Dating After the Death of a Spouse
So now you want to dip your toes in the dating pool again. You’ve been through the stages of grief and feel it’s time. Now what? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Let Go of the Guilt
Survivors’ guilt is real, especially if the death was sudden. You may feel guilty because you are alive and your loved one is not.
Or you may feel guilty as if you are betraying your loved one by dating again. Of course, you aren’t being unfaithful, and logically you know that, but the guilt feelings remain.
You will never forget your deceased loved one, even if you remarry. The relationship you had with your spouse never goes away. That person was a massive part of your life, and your relationship is part of who you are today.
So, be open about it with the person you are dating. They deserve to know what you are going through. Even if it’s hard for them to accept, it’s part of your healing and being open about it will help.
At the end of the day, the only way to move forward is to let go of the guilt as best you can and be open to sharing it with others around you.
- You Can Love Them Both
Can you love again after the death of a spouse?
Absolutely. It’s entirely possible to love again. And why shouldn’t you?
You may still be grieving the loss, but that doesn’t mean there is only room for one love in your heart. And loving another doesn’t take away from your love for your spouse.
You can love two people at once because the relationship will be very different.
Your heart is big enough to love more than one person. And that is ok.
- Others May Judge You (But Who Cares?)
Seriously. This is about you. And no one else needs to understand your choices.
Inevitably, there will be people in your life who will have something to say about you dating after the death of your spouse. They mean well. But they are looking at it through their eyes. Not yours.
Much of the time, the closest people, like your kids, may not be ready for you to date. They may feel you are dating too soon after bereavement. Or they may want you to date before you are ready.
It’s essential to address those feelings, but it’s equally important to listen to your own needs and choose yourself first. Even if that means you don’t share your dating life with your kids at the beginning.
There is a reason on the airplane they say for you to put the mask on first and then attend to your kids.
- Know It’s OK to Compare
It’s nearly impossible not to compare your old love with a new person you are dating, especially initially.
When you buy a new pair of sneakers, don’t you compare them to the last pair? The same goes for a new car. A new home. A new city. Comparing is what we do. And that is ok.
No one is going to replace your deceased spouse. That’s impossible. Don’t even try. This new person might be the exact opposite of your spouse. With a new love comes unique experiences and a different kind of relationship. Be open to it all.
Love looks different from different partners, so be open-minded to those who are similar and different from your spouse.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Fall in Love Again
After all the pain that goes with the death of a loved one, it’s understandable to be hesitant or absolutely terrified about sharing your heart with another. Accept that. It is scary.
But when the timing feels right and you are feeling a little healed, it’s a good sign that you are ready to start dating again after losing your spouse.
How Do You Start Dating After A Spouse Dies?
You just do. And you take it super slow.
Try reputable dating sites. Start volunteering. Reconnect with old friends. Ask your current friends. Just being open to the idea of love might put somebody in front of you when you least expect it. The world has a funny way of doing that.
And no matter what, give yourself some grace. It’s probably been a while since you’ve been on the dating scene.
Dating after the Death of a Spouse Final Say
Getting into a new relationship after the death of a partner can be tricky in a million ways. There is no navigating it correctly or incorrectly. It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and taking it as it comes.
But whatever you do, share what you are going through with your new partner. Being honest with them will help you through the hard times.
Interested in more relationship topics and how to date over 60? Check out all our resources here.