I’m a widow. I lost my husband, the father of my two children, to cancer just over 10 months ago. And while I miss my late husband, I also crave a new love. I was feeling guilty about this until my four-year-old daughter admitted that she wanted a “new daddy” too.
It went like this:
Izzy: “Mommy, can we get a new daddy? I miss the old daddy who got sick and died.”
Me: “I miss him too. But Daddy will always be in our hearts. We still love him.”
Izzy: “But I want a new one who can talk to me.”
Me: “We can get you a new daddy, but Mommy has to find you one.”
Izzy: “Let’s go buy one!!”
Me (laughing): “Okay, Izzy. Mommy will work on it.”
Izzy misses her daddy. But, she also wants a new one. I miss my partner. But I also want a new one. We will never forget or stop loving my late husband — Izzy’s father — but we both crave something tangible.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I want someone to hold me — other than my two children. I want someone to console me — other than my parents and friends. I want someone to love me and to share my life with. But when you’re looking for a new parter while grieving the loss of your old one, it makes dating, well … complicated.
Based on my own experiences dating as a widow, I’d like to share some insights shed some light on the complexities of dating after loss and eradicate any judgment — because we are all just trying our best to move forward with life. And no one should be denied of love. A partner. Or, a new daddy.
So here goes:
Tip #1: Trust that she knows when she’s ready to date.
I’ve heard a range of opinions regarding the appropriate timeline to date after a partner dies — “five years,” “one year,” “never,” “once I’m done grieving and moved on.” The answers vary, and the reasons entertain. So, I decided that I would be my own judge. Let’s face it, do we ever know when we are “ready” to do anything? And the grieving never truly ends.
About six months after I lost my husband, I downloaded a dating app. I had been spiraling downward into a well of loneliness. I needed a distraction, even if it wouldn’t necessarily lead to anything. And it worked! I contently swiped away, messaging prospects and getting excited over potential dates — maybe even a future together! I went on a handful of dates, but what I discovered is that even though I was ready to date, my potential partners were not. My loss made them uncomfortable. Keep reading …
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to talk about the death.
I indicated that I had kids on my dating profile. So during the first date, the topic of their father always came up. When I shared that my children’s father had died,and no, we were not divorced, I would get two standard reactions —
(1) Overly dwell on the death, how fragile I probably am, and speculate on my “readiness” to date (duh, I’m here, aren’t I?).
(2) Completely dismiss the fact.
It would go like this…
Me: “My husband actually passed away from cancer about six months ago.”
My date: “Oh, wow. I’m sorry. So… what else do you like to do?”
Me: Smile awkwardly … pass!
Newsflash: someone dying is a huge, traumatic, life-altering event. If a widow brings this up, talk to her about it. Or, at least a little bit. But do not — I repeat, DO NOT — just blaze over it and move on to her interests and hobbies, or what country she wants to travel to next.
Tip #3: Don’t underestimate her ability to love.
After about one month on the app, I found someone who I actually liked. Someone who gave me those butterflies in my stomach again and who I could envision a future with. And his feelings seemed to match mine.
But about three months into our relationship, the phone calls started to drop, we saw each other less frequently, and everything fizzled to an abrupt end. He dumped me.
What happened? I learned that Joe (his name for now) felt like a “placeholder.” Joe knew that I still loved my late husband. We didn’t “end it” by choice. Joe was aware of the void in my heart, and he thought I was filling it with him. Joe believed that my feelings for him were temporary — just there to alleviate the pain from my loss.
While Joe was wrong, his concerns were valid. When the person you’re dating still loves her dead partner, questions and insecurities will naturally arise. So let’s break this down:
I loved my dead husband and had feelings for Joe at the same time.
My heart has room for both — old love and new.
Neither love diminishes, competes with, or replaces the other love.
They are separate, yet they co-exist.
They co-exist in the sense that when we love someone, that love shapes us. A part of us is forever changed. We carry a piece of that person with us — whether the relationship ended by choice or not. We can hold love for one person, and be in love with somebody entirely new.
They are separate in the sense that the sole act of being is now. Being requires breath and life and exists in the present. Being in love is feeling it in the flesh, having it reciprocated, and tangibly experiencing the magic of our world when we share it with someone else.