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Dating After the Death of a Spouse

Jessica Bemis is a full-time, working mom of two who lost her husband to testicular cancer in November 2011. Since then, Jessica has been sharing her story on her blog, Hope for Young Widows and working to bring awareness and hope to women and men who have lost their spouses to cancer.

Dating after the death of a spouse can be an awkward experience. It can bring out feelings of guilt or betrayal in the widow or widower. It can also bring out feelings of confusion and concern from friends, family and those who were close to the deceased spouse.

I started dating again about a year after my husband died. It had been 11 years since I had been with anyone other than my husband. I took the year after his death to learn how to deal with being thrown into the full-time roles of parent, homemaker, animal caregiver, appointment scheduler, and child activity manager, as well as the sole financial provider.

dating after the death of a spouse

It was exhausting, and dating was not at the top of my mind. When I knew I was ready to start to date again, I had frank discussions with my children about going on without their dad. I assured them that while there is a part of me that will always love their dad, it would be unrealistic to think I would live my life alone and sad. I have shown them that life is for living and we will continue to do just that.

There is no specific time period one should wait before dating again. The right amount of time to grieve is different for everyone, and at some point, a person just needs to be allowed to be happy again. Some people take years, others take weeks, and then there are those who choose never to date again. If a person was terminally ill, and the illness took a long time to run its course, the widowed person may have done a lot of grieving prior to the actual death and might be ready to date earlier than the “experts” predict. My husband was told he would be lucky to live two years post diagnosis. He survived 18 months after diagnosis. From the moment we got the news about my husband's survival expectancy, I went into functioning like a single parent and we worked on getting things in order. But I also know that everyone is different.

Ready to Date Again

When I felt ready to at least test the dating waters, my girlfriends and I created an online dating profile for myself. I really didn't want to go this route, but it seemed like the right thing to do to meet people in my age bracket. I went on two dates before I realized this was not the avenue for me to try and find a loving relationship. I decided I would just have fun with my girlfriends, children and enjoy my time to myself.

For me, learning to date became more about doing the things I enjoy and the hope of meeting someone while doing those things… for example, going to sporting events, running 5k's, seeing movies, touring museums, and taking cooking classes. I learned that by doing the things I enjoy I might meet someone special. And, one evening at a Phillies game, I was very lucky to meet a wonderful man, who has become very special to me.

Once you to start dating someone special, it is important to defend your date when your friends and family learn you are dating again, there is the possibility they may not treat this new person in your life very well. The mistreatment may come in the form of a cold shoulder at family activities or constantly talking about the deceased person in front of the date. If you have family and friends who are doing this, they need to be told privately, but in a loving manner, that this behavior is not acceptable. If you wouldn't let your family and friends treat your spouse that way, why would you tolerate that behavior toward someone else-especially when your date could become your future spouse? Your date needs and deserves to feel special. Treat your date in such a way that he or she feels like they are with someone who's ready to move on. No one should have to compete with a spouse who has passed away.

I believe dating gives you the opportunity to open your heart to another person and the chance to experience the unique and exquisite joy that comes with falling in love again. It's okay to talk about your deceased spouse, but set boundaries. Answer questions he or she may have about your marriage, but don't spend all your time talking about your deceased spouse, or how happy you were with him. After all, your date is the one who's here now. And, he or she might make you incredibly happy for years to come. Showing genuine interest in your date and getting to know his or her wants, interests and dreams go a long way towards starting a new life with someone else.

Part of the reason we are here is to live and enjoy life. And dating is a great way to start living again.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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