Grief and Loss
Experiencing Grief and Loss:
How To Know When It's Time To Begin Dating Again
If you've recently lost someone, you know how hard it can be to deal with grief and loss. And to make matters worse, you may not know where to begin in terms of dating again. You may be afraid to get back into the fray, especially if you've been married for a long time. Such fears are normal and quite understandable!
Earlier today a good friend confessed he hadn't dated anyone since dating his wife 35 years ago (his wife had recently died). Not only was he reluctant to start, but he said he didn't know how to go about it. Lots of people, old and young, are faced with a similar dilemma. In this article I'll offer a few practical suggestions on how you can deal with grief and loss . . . and get started dating again without feeling awkward or unsure of yourself.
Grief and Loss Tips And Suggestions
- Take your GOOD OLD FASHIONED TIME! Grief is a process. It takes time to work through grief and loss, so don't rush.
Everyone grieves and responds to loss in their own way and at their own pace. Be patient and give yourself ample time for mourning. It won't happen overnight. The longer you've known someone, or the more attached you've been, the harder it may be. But you can overcome, no matter how much you loved this special person. Many, many people have done so. Just take your time!
- Don't let anyone push you into dating before you're ready.
Compassionate friends and family members mean well, but sometimes give bad advice. They may want you to deal with your loss at a pace they find acceptable. They may want to see you combat your loneliness or be happier. Because they care about you, they don't want to see you in pain. But only you can know when the time is right! Remember, it's your life. And not all emotional pain is bad. Face your grief and loss . . . and come to terms with it as fully as you can.
- Trust yourself and follow your heart. Get to know yourself really well during the process of grieving and accepting your loss. Listen to yourself, and follow the wisdom of the voice within you. It always attempts to tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it. Trust your gut. And take time to know what it is saying. Only you know what's in your heart. Listen and trust, and you will find your way through the dark tunnel of grief and loss.
- Avoid dating just to relieve loneliness or to forget the person you loved. Some people start dating again too quickly. They may feel pressure from others or from within. They think they should get going again, as quickly as possible, so they can start feeling better, relieve loneliness or recover their lives. This can be a dangerous policy, and keep you feeling lost and confused. You will need time to heal from your loss, and to fully digest the meaning of that loss. Time to think and feel, and to reflect on your past together.
Healing is a process that usually proceeds in steps or stages. Let the grief and loss process unfold . . . and be accepting of where you are with it. Remember, don't rush! Go at your own pace.
Your heart and mind will need time to prepare for new encounters and possibilities that are best enjoyed after you've done your mourning, and the bulk of the work in grieving your loss.
- Date in your own way when you want. There is no rule about when it will be time to start dating again, it’s up to you. You may feel a little awkward, but you'll get over it. Seeing someone new could be fun and invigorating. But be careful not to fulfill someone else's expectations for dating. Lots of my clients like to start small by just making a new friend or two, but not going any further. After doing this for a while, they may work up to seeing someone on a romantic basis.
Even then, they may not want to do conventional dating, but may choose to define dating in their own way. For example, they may not want to go on formal dates, but rather spend time with a friend informally. Instead of dinner and a movie, they may opt for a quiet stroll in the country or a walk by the sea, or a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop.
It may be best to be creative about what you do with a new friend. Typical dating may be a grind. Go about it in a different way.
The key is doing what you feel comfortable doing, and experimenting with a dating attitude and style that fits your emotional needs and your current stage in life. Keep in mind, even after you begin dating again, you may still have to spend some time dealing with your grief and loss. You may feel a sense of sadness and grief for a long time.
- Learn to combat loneliness by keeping up with your friendships, your family and work relationships, and by leading an active life . . . taking care not to overdo it. A new flame will not make you forget your lost love. And why would you want to forget?
- Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that if you start dating again you'll betray your deceased loved one. It's in your best interest to eventually move on and begin a new life. Your lost loved one would want you to move on with your life and be happy.
Just remember to give grieving and mourning time . . . and to follow your own lead.
How long does it take to move on? There is no set time for grieving and healing. It can takes months or years. When it comes to grief and loss every situation is different. Most folks just have to find their own way.
Keep In Mind
It's best to take your time in seeking new relationships and dating again after the loss of a beloved partner. Be patient with yourself, accepting that it will take time to work through the stages of grief, such as anger and depression, or denial. Only you can know when you're ready, and you can always start slow and take your time.
Don't worry about dating again. You can cross that bridge when you come to it. You'll be fine. Focus on grieving your loss . . .
. . . and managing your stress, in the meantime. Grief and loss have a way of increasing one's stress level, so it's wise to take care in lowering your stress.
If, when you begin dating again and seeking new relationships, what you're doing isn't working for you, you can always do something different. So there's no reason to sweat it! You can and will handle the challenges of grief and loss and, in time, you’ll feel like your old self again.
If you get stuck along the way or need a little extra help, you may want to consider grief therapy. Talking to a grief counselor who knows how to support you can be a big relief. Sometimes a good grief counselor can assist you in moving on more quickly, too.
They say only time can heal a broken heart... and there's some truth to that. Remember to trust yourself, don't give in to the pressure applied by others, stay involved with family and fiends, feel no guilt about moving on . . . and give it time.
You are worth it! Soon you'll be dating again, enjoying yourself and moving on.
For tips on how to manage your stress level while you are facing grief and loss click here.
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