I promised my husband on our wedding day that I would be by his side until death separated us. I had not expected death to separate us after only 11 years. Death would separate us when we were old, wrinkled, and grey, not when we were young (ish), somewhat wrinkled, and slightly grey. With two young children at home and a dead spouse in my heart, I never expected to be back on the dating scene in my 40s.
Regardless, there I was, a young widow, downloading Tinder and Bumble and pondering what the hell I should say in my dating profile. In my profile, I knew I wanted to state that I was a widow. I wanted the rest of the world to know what I had to offer (beyond my wit and charm and my decidedly plump mom bod, that is).
But what should you do if the person you admire has separated from their partner? If you’re dating a widow or widower, here are some things to keep in mind…
1. Be curious
Asking questions about their loved one and listening to their stories about him or her is one of the nicest gifts you can give a widow or widower.
“I want you to know you can talk about Kevin as much as you need or want to with me,” my boyfriend told me when we were first dating. I don’t want to change the fact that he is a part of your life and the lives of your girls.”
I was tempted to kiss him! Knowing that this new person in my life was alright with the dead guy in my life was extremely liberating. So go ahead and inquire. Listen. Get to know who they are.
2. Be gentle
Losing a partner is a difficult experience. Your new love interest could have gone through hell and back before their partner died. Losing a loved one to addiction, suicide, or a lingering death from cancer is a difficult thing to go through. It carries with it a slew of perplexing and perplexing emotions. When a widow or widower begins dating, these feelings do not go away.
There could also be factors that set them off. Small things that can trigger an emotional response that has nothing to do with you but that you must suffer the weight of. When a first text or phone call is not returned in a reasonable amount of time, many widows and widowers will feverishly text or contact their new partner.
Why? When our companion died and we didn’t know it, we had our last experience with a text or phone call not being returned. Our brains comprehend that your phone most likely died or that you fell asleep, but our hearts scream, “But what if he’s dead?!”
So, please, be gentle. We recognize that these actions are unreasonable, but healing these wounds will take time.
3. Be supportive
Loss leaves scars that take time to heal. My grief will never go away, but it is becoming a bigger part of my life. My boyfriend understands how difficult it is for me to “get over it” or “move on,” and he does not put pressure on me to do so. When a wave of grief hits, he simply holds my hand, hugs me, and wipes my tears away.
There will be waves of sadness! They can be triggered by obvious events such as holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Other times, it’s unrelated events such as going to Home Depot, receiving your child’s report card, or watching a particular television show. They’ll arrive, and then they’ll leave. As they negotiate these waves, your kind, supporting presence will be their anchor.
4. Be understanding
Profound loss alters one’s life forever, and the sadness that follows is unbearable. If you haven’t yet experienced a significant loss, learning more about how sorrow feels will improve your relationship with a widow or widower. It is not helpful to put pressure on us to move on or get over it. It’s considerably more useful to accept that we’ll never get over it, but that we’ll live and thrive again.
Nora McInerny, a podcaster and author, gave a moving TED talk about how we don’t move on from grief, but we do go forward with it. It is well worth your time to watch.
5. Be grateful
Your new love’s heart has been shattered wide open. They have endured unfathomable sorrow and pain. This warrior you now adore has learnt crucial life skills much earlier than the majority of people. They understand how valuable and significant each moment is.
He or she stood by their partner while they died, and in the face of many atrocities, they showed up for that person. They’ll now turn up with the same ferocity and devotion for you. They understand that connection and love are the most vital aspects of life. They understand that life is fleeting and can be gone in an instant.
Be grateful you’re with someone who had the fortitude to face the worst and now has the wisdom and gratitude that comes with enduring such suffering.