An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.
“My friends keep telling me I have to ‘get out more’ and meet somebody new.” Jan stated. “Don’t they realize it’s the last thing on my mind?”
Jan’s husband of thirty years died just two months ago.
“My mother says I should stop thinking about Kathy and live in the present.” Jamal said tearfully. “But I can’t just turn her off.”
Jamal’s girlfriend, Kathy, died in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day twelve months earlier.
Steve says, “I’m not sure if this is right or not, but I met this lady and there might be something going on.”
Steve’s partner of fifteen years died after a long illness three months prior to meeting this woman.
“When is the right time?” Victoria asks. “How do I let myself get involved with anyone else without comparing them to Frank?”
Victoria’s husband Frank died at age thirty-five, leaving her alone with two small children.
“I haven’t gone out on a date in thirty years.” Sally proclaimed. “I have no idea where to begin. The thought of it terrifies me.”
Sally’s husband of thirty years died the previous year.
“This woman I’ve known for a long time asked me out,” Paula says. “I’m afraid to get involved again. I’m afraid I’ll forget Candace.”
Paula’s longtime friend and mate, Candace, died in her forties, after years of battling cancer.
“This may sound strange,” Roberta explained. “But whenever I’m making love with Cliff, I wonder if Mark is watching us from somewhere and I feel guilty.”
Mark died from a heart attack just two weeks before he and Roberta would have celebrated their ninth year of marriage.
“I’ve never loved anyone as much as I did Sylvia.” Dale said. “I’ll never find that kind of love again.”
Sylvia and Dale had met when they were in high school. She died in his arms after struggling with lung disease for six years.
When is the right time? How do you know when or if you should get involved with someone again? Is it disrespectful or unacceptable to date, “go out with”, “be involved” or “have a thing” for someone else after you’re loved one has died? What if you never want to be with anyone else again?
These are a few of the many questions that arise after a lover, partner and/or spouse has died. There are no steadfast rules or secret formulas to reassure someone that is experiencing and contemplating such thoughts and concerns about loving again, but there are some observations and suggestions that may provide some comfort and reassurance. Here are some of the replies I’ve given to those asking these painful, lonely and often conflicting questions.
There is no perfect or “right” time to have another relationship.
You may choose to never marry again and that’s OK.
No matter who you join up with in the future, nor how deeply in love and involved that relationship becomes, you will never forget the person you lost.
Other people want you to “go out” again, not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t, but because they wish to see you happy and they think another relationship will provide that kind of happiness and be the magic pill to “make you feel better”.
Most people who have experienced a good marriage or partnership have a natural desire, at some point in their lives, to repeat that experience.
Look closely and honestly at your motivation for companionship. How much of your wish to be with someone else is out of loneliness and need? What values or interests are you ignoring in order to “be with” someone else? Can the person you develop a new relationship with accept and understand that your deceased mate will always be part of who you are?
Loving another person, and being loved by another, is a natural human need and desire. To do so shows no disrespect for the one that has died.
There is plenty of room in our hearts to hold the loved one who died and love another. We don’t have to throw one person out in order to make room for someone else.
You will never have an identical love or relationship with another, as you had with the person who died, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the same intensity or depth of connection with someone else. It won’t be the same, but it can be just as profound and intimate.
Some people choose not to have another lover in their life and are perfectly happy. Others stay alone out of fear and some because of circumstances beyond their control.
Many times the questions surrounding when to or not to get involved with another comes from our fear of losing someone again. When we have recently lost a loved one, we are more aware than most of the reality of our limited lives, and realize the fact that separation and pain will occur at some point in all relationships, either by one person choosing to leave or by death. We consciously, and most often unconsciously, tell ourselves, “If I let myself love again and become intimate and attached to another, that person may leave or die as well. I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again.”
Such reactions are understandable. We all try to protect ourselves to varying degrees and lengths from painful experiences, but to do so at all costs ends up being to costly. It cuts us off from other aspects of life.
Tennyson’s question remains. “Is it better to have loved and lost, then never loved at all?” We must each find within ourselves when, how and/or if we choose to love again.
More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.