Love After Bereavement: Finding Love Again

Finding Love Again

As a widow or widower, there may come a time when living without love and romance leaves you feeling as though life has become devoid of substance and meaning. Love is an essential part of life. Without it, you may be feeling a large part of you is unfulfilled and this is not something you should ignore. This is not a sentiment reserved only for young widows and widowers. Finding love again is a possibility for everyone if they choose to take the step.

If love does happen, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Losing a partner can be one of the most difficult experiences we have to face. Learning to live without them can take more time for some than for others. However, after a while you could find yourself quite literally in the arms of someone new.

This can happen at any age, and if it does, enjoy the experience and make the most of every minute.

It is hoped, in time, your friendship will grow and a loving bond will be established. If and when you reach this point and you find yourselves considering moving-in together, or remarriage, now is the time to give your relationship some serious thought. Dating and sharing the odd weekend away is not the same as sharing a home. It’s important you’re totally aware of the pros and cons of co-habitation with a new partner.

Finding love again and building a new relationship after becoming bereaved is not to be taken lightly. The following points are intended as suggestions that may not be relevant to everybody. There will most certainly be other points, which are relevant to you and your partner exclusively.

Moving in Together

When two people move in together there will inevitably be emotional and practical baggage that has to be accounted for. Children on one or both sides of the relationship will need a lot of consideration.

Accumulated wealth will need overt discussion, especially for older couples, and official arrangements put into place in the event of the death of either one of you. One thing you don’t want in the wake of bereavement is any financially driven contention from either family. You could find yourself homeless and part of your wealth being absorbed by the family of your partner.

Existing Responsibilities

Those with children will need to ensure detailed consideration is given regarding parental responsibilities.

If you’ve both put money into your new home, then you should each have your name on the lease or deeds. A will drawn up designating whom the beneficiaries are and what they‘re entitled to is also important. If one of you has three children and the other has a cat – there could be a few raised eyebrows regarding equal shares of property among the remaining family!

When setting up your home together, emotional baggage on either side is to be expected and a desire to want to know all about your partner’s past life is inevitable. However, ‘snooping’ is definitely out of the question. If you’re caught prying into the other’s personal and private possessions or affaires, this will hardly be good for your relationship. Reverse the situation!

Learning from Each Other

Maintaining a degree of independence within a relationship is important. Having your own friends and interests, can only enhance the fabric of your life together; assuming you also have mutual friends and interests as well.

Being clear about who does what around the home will mean there is no imbalance with day-to day chores. You don’t want to find yourself locked in a constant demand for DIY improvements. Likewise, nor do you want to be solely responsible for the cooking and cleaning. Equal shares of running the home should be paramount. It will also allow more time for you to enjoy each other’s company.

Relationship Challenges

When a marriage or ‘live in’ relationship starts to go wrong, it is often the little things that have been the cause. I had a friend who married a man she had only known for a few months. Initially, things went very well, but after a while although his feelings appeared to be the same for her, she was rapidly becoming aware that her initial affection for this man was on the wane.

She told me she found some of his habits clumsy and annoying. Small things became unreasonably irritating when happening on a regular basis. Despite trying hard to overcome these feelings, the marriage only lasted a matter of months and then the drawn out process of divorce took over.

Conclusion

Often, those who are bereaved can have all sorts of unresolved emotions about the death of their partner. The more they try to ignore them, the more they tend to surface. Finding yourself enjoying another relationship can help you come to terms with these feelings. Meeting others who are also bereaved could make that pathway easier to navigate.

It’s important to give your relationship time to grow and develop before rushing into something more serious and permanent. This will allow you the opportunity to enjoy the fun of dating and fully getting to know each other. Ultimately, long term relationships and finding love again are best experienced when both parties are prepared to take things slowly. Take the time and trouble to know what will, and will not work, and enjoy all that follows!

Finding love again after losing a partner is an experience with few parallels, so it’s impossible to pin down all aspects in a single article. With that in mind, please add your insights in the comments box below to continue the conversation.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: The Festive Season

 

If, after some years as a widow or widower, you’re sharing your life with someone new and possibly his or her children as well as your own, planning the Christmas holiday could be fraught with differences in expectation.

Your first Christmas together should be memorable and reflect the holiday spirit anticipated by both of you. There will be a lot to think about if you want things to run smoothly. If the pattern of Christmas-past does not hold the same appeal for either of you, then perhaps it’s time to look at your options.

Sharing this particular event for the first time, for both you, and your respective families, is an opportunity to combine ideas and create your own unique Christmas experience. Some habits of course, will remain, because they’re positive and fun, especially with young children in mind, as they will be expecting the same. Waking up to Christmas stockings and parcels under the tree, are elements that I don’t think any of us would want to change. These are the magical moments, which stick firmly in our minds and are, hopefully, cherished forever.

Integrating the old with the new can create a unique experience that will become your own special way of spending the holiday. Make sure everyone, children included, are invited to make suggestions on what they would like to do.

When my husband died suddenly, two weeks before Christmas, I had plenty of offers from family and friends to join them on Christmas Day. At the time, my daughter was 13 and my son, 10. We talked about what we wanted to do and staying home seemed, to us, the best option. In a funny sort of way, by doing this we felt that we were including my husband, and by carrying on as usual we thought that this is what he would have wanted. Certain Christmas tree decorations he had bought for that Christmas have survived, 20 years on, and are still cherished.

Start as you mean to go on, and make plans for Christmas together. The shopping, and of course, the cooking, if you’re eating at home, are all tasks that can be shared. If there are children around, get them to help, too. This will strengthen bonds and create a pattern for future years.

If two sets of children are involved, this is the perfect opportunity to harmonise the families. Ask them if there is something specific they would like to do, such as going for a winter outing or watching a favourite movie or TV programme. In our house we used to get the younger children to come up with an idea for a play. They would go off and rehearse, while the ‘grown-ups’ enjoyed more grog, and polished off the chocolates! When the ‘players’ returned with their carefully practiced performance, a great deal of hilarity was enjoyed all round.

Anniversaries and holidays can often be a time of increased stress and emotional turmoil. If this is your first Christmas together you have to make allowances for this. One suggestion is each family sharing an upbeat story of Christmas past. By so doing, you’re acknowledging that memories of your previous family celebrations are important. This could help to allay any feelings of remorse if you’re feeling guilty about enjoying yourself.

A first Christmas together may not be the ideal time to include your bereaved partner’s parents and other family members. If this occurs through necessity, then use the occasion to build as much rapport as possible. It’s likely they will be as cautious as you with this arrangement, but it offers the opportunity for all parties to accept that change is inevitable. This will show that you have not forgotten their son/daughter and any grandchildren will always be a significant presence in their lives.

If it’s just the two of you, planning something completely new could be a good idea. It can also be a great way of creating a unique seasonal significance to your relationship. A city-break or planning a Christmas lunch with a difference are just two ways of avoiding tradition.

Ultimately, the holiday season is an opportunity for everyone involved to form lasting memories together. In time, these experiences will hopefully form the basis of a new chapter in your life together.

If you’re bereaved and single, join in with family and friends and look to the future. There are many other widows and widowers out there looking for someone just like you. The year ahead could bring new friendships, which could change your life.

Have a happy and peaceful holiday!

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: Anniversaries and Special Occasions

 

Immediately following the death of a partner nothing you do or feel will seem normal. Every step you take will be out of the ordinary and your sense of loss will be painful and alienating.

Conversely, you may have moments of relief, especially if your partner has been ill and suffering and this could bring about a sense of guilt. The feeling we could or should have done more for our partner is also a common sentiment. All of these feelings are new to you and will inevitably bring about despair and remorse. At this time you must go with the ebb and flow of emotions until such a time as you recognize them and know you will overcome the moment.

Almost immediately there are key days and dates that follow: the early reminders, of course, like the day your partner died and the day of the funeral. These days are the ones you recall frequently because they are the most recent. They also bring you together with your partner, in a visceral sense. The heartache at these moments is welcome because it allows you the luxury of tears and reflection.

Life goes on and for practical reasons you bury your heartache in a place where it is increasingly under control. Hopefully, you will gradually allow yourself the comfort of celebrating these anniversaries in some way. Visiting his/her memorial and leaving flowers is, of course, something you can do. A moment of quiet reflection at this time can work wonders. You’re allowed the tears, but hopefully, by now, you’re able to resurrect moments of joy and amusement that were shared with your partner.

A significant anniversary, such as a birthday, can be celebrated by indulging in something you would have planned to mark this day. You could go with your family to a favorite restaurant you both liked. Maybe watch a football game or go to the theatre. Something you would have enjoyed together is the idea.

Inevitably, the most difficult will be the anniversary of your wedding, or the day you moved in together. This is a good opportunity to involve friends and family and is, after all, a special day you want to remember with warmth and happiness. A small gathering for you and those closest to you is a good way to do this and will encourage everyone to talk about your partner and how they’re coping with their loss and moving on.

Mothers or Fathers Day can be difficult for your children whether they’re young or old. Urge them to talk about the absent parent and share your thoughts as well. Seek out some golden moments you all remember, like the day he was showing off in the snow and fell off the sled, or the special cake you baked for a birthday and which was unfortunately dropped on the floor.

Eventually the year will have come full circle and you will be a survivor. You will have discovered you can live your life without that special person and each day you’re learning how to overcome the emotional hurdles you encounter. These hurdles do become less frequent and your strength and resilience will grow.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: Are Your In-Laws Happy About You Dating Again?

If you’re a widow or widower, the prospect of seeking a new relationship brings with it the possibility of upsetting the status quo.

With this in mind you may need to tread carefully when you decide to tell your in-laws you’re thinking of dating again. They might be pleased for you, of course, but they may also be hurt and afraid they could lose you and the association they have with you. Worse still, for them, will be the fear they may also lose their grandchildren, if there are any.

If possible it’s better to wait a few months after meeting someone before you suggest bringing the in-laws into the frame. Tell them you’re dating by all means, but keep it loose and let it seem light-hearted. As time passes, if they see you’ve developed a sound friendship and the new partner is restoring your happiness and is showing a genuine interest in you and your family, they’re more likely to accept the situation.

When you think the time is right to bring them together, introduce your in-laws to your friend by their first names. Adding ‘my in-laws’ to the introduction will immediately underline they are not only friends but also an integral part of your family. If they truly care about you, they will be pleased in the long term and if you’ve made every effort to make them feel included in your life, it will be easier for them to accept the situation.

It is inevitable there will be emotional highs and lows at this time. There will be anniversaries marking particular events you shared with your spouse and I doubt you will want to ignore these. Make it a special occasion where the in-laws and any children share the event together. Explain to your new partner that it’s important you have this time with your family in order to make every one know you have not forgotten their son/daughter. Over time this will not be so necessary as one hopes your in-laws will have come to terms with there being someone else in your life. In the early days, however, I see it as being a good way to keep everyone on your side.

Should you find yourself in the situation where your in-laws just cannot come to terms with the thought of someone else usurping their son/daughter’s role, you will have to have a serious discussion with them, especially if you’re still young. Explain that you do not want to spend the rest of your life on your own. Try and assure them your partner would have wanted you to be happy and you’re not trying to replace him/her.

Help them to understand that you’re adding a new dimension to your life, which has been shaped by your marriage or partnership with their son/daughter. If they are being difficult, they will know in their hearts they are expecting too much of you and will hopefully, gradually accept the situation. Whatever you do, avoid keeping the relationship a secret. This will make it much harder for them to accept when the news gets out and will reflect very badly upon you.

If there are children involved, make a concerted effort to arrange regular visits to the grandparents and encourage all of them to keep in touch on a regular basis. This is easy to do with online communication and making arrangements for visits and meet-ups should be encouraged.

Any changes going on in your life and theirs can be shared and mutually discussed and understood. If you’ve always had a good relationship with your in-laws, the chances are they’ll be pleased to see you moving on and if you make an effort to involve them they will be pleased to be part of your future.

There is no real code of conduct for introducing someone new to your in-laws after bereavement. If it’s been a while since your partner’s death, then it will no doubt be easier than if it is seemingly too soon after. This could be a difficult time for your new partner as well, as he/she will be aware that the presence of in-laws in your life will be a constant reminder of your late partner. If he/she is understanding it is hoped they will be the same with your bereaved partner’s family.

Moving on after bereavement can be a difficult time for you and for those close to you, but providing you’re not rushing into things, making new friends is healthy progress. Whatever direction you take, you will always have memories that can be with you forever, but not necessarily restricting your passage as you go forward.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: Children and Your New Partner

So when is the right time, after bereavement, to introduce a new partner to your children?

Every situation is different and demands a unique decision, the age of the children being fundamental. A mature son or daughter, who is also in a loving relationship, may be able to relate empathetically and actively encourage you to seek happiness with someone else.

A younger child may be confused and think the new person in your life is going to steal you away. They may also think you’re trying to replace their mother/father. Explaining this is not the case is an important step and must be done in a way that helps them fully understand the situation. If you let them know there are times when you miss having someone to go to dinner with, or other adult outings, it might help them to accept the situation.

Children of any age might feel threatened, angry and confused about your interest in someone new and it’s obviously important to respect their feelings. They also need to understand that you have need of friendship and whilst you still love their mother/father, you’re missing the adult companionship you once had.

If you ensure, every step of the way, that no one will ever replace their mother/father, they will hopefully begin to come to terms with the idea of someone new in your life and in theirs.

Taking things slowly and encouraging them to talk about anything they are worried about is the way to go: ‘What would mum/dad say if they thought you were going out with someone else?’ is a typical question, and we must be ready with a fitting answer. Older children will hopefully understand, even in dire situations we eventually move on if we can, for the good of everybody.

Constantly reassuring our children we love them, and how important they are, will help create the understanding that we’re on their side and what you do with your life includes them and they will always come first.

If your new partner also has children, it may be that all of the children are more interested in assessing each other rather than the new partner. Arranging a meeting when you can get together as two families might help younger children to understand they’re not alone in this situation. Arranging some sort of treat like a meal out to a favorite restaurant, or an outing providing a useful distraction like bowling, for example, will help them to think of the new family in a positive way.

One last thought. Meeting someone new and feeling romantic and euphoric about the idea of falling in love again can be quite exhilarating and can lead us to behave differently. Best avoided is being overly tactile with a new friend in front of the children, or allowing ourselves be too distracted in their company when the children are around.

Involving your family as much as possible with dialogue and down to earth conversation will help everyone to feel integrated. In time, your family will see how happy you are and will hopefully come to terms with the idea of someone new in your life and theirs, too.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: Up Close and Personal

For some, getting back into a relationship after bereavement will take a great deal of forethought. The mere idea of actually going on a first date will be a huge step and one you will hopefully approach with cautious enthusiasm.

If the new man/woman in your life proves to be a good companion and someone you’re attracted to, you may find yourself wanting to take things further. With this in mind it could be you’re suddenly and unexpectedly feeling overcome with awkwardness, and the idea of being intimate is a daunting prospect.

It’s important to acknowledge that you would have been aware a sexual encounter was likely if things went well and when the time comes to actually go ahead, it could be a bridge you cross ‘in the moment’. However, talking about this beforehand and perhaps arranging to go away for a weekend would perhaps help you to get used to the idea and feel more prepared.

At this point, if you’re questioning your reasons for having started this relationship, then you must ask yourself why. If this is your first experience of a relationship after bereavement and the first time you have had to consider things leading on to something more intimate, then it’s important to acknowledge you’re in this place because something has told you this is where you want to be.

Experiencing a second love does not mean it has to be second rate or in second place to your first. In fact, because we tend to idealize situations, it’s quite possible the memories of your first life partner are likely to be somewhat over-romanticised. Losing a spouse does not mean you won’t or can’t grow to love someone else. Nor does enjoying a loving, sexual relationship with someone new, mean you have to forget your previous partner!

It is presumed by now, you’re comfortable within this relationship and have allowed yourself to reach this situation with equanimity: so why the awkwardness? It might be that you’re making subliminal comparisons to your deceased partner or you feel guilty accepting that you’re ready to move on. Perhaps you’re worrying about what your family might think. Whatever the reason, it’s important you share this with your new partner. If he or she is sympathetic and understanding, then they’re likely to be someone worthy of your affections. They might also be feeling awkward too, of course.

So how do you deal with this? Unless you’re tee-total, a couple of drinks will help you to relax, and if the moment comes at the end of a day spent in each other’s company, and you have both been enjoying the experience of just being together, you may find what comes next, comes naturally.

Creating the right atmosphere is also important. It doesn’t have to be too contrived, but perhaps a scented candle or two; low lights and some soft music could help you to relax.

Acting upon any advice you might give to a friend, follow your own code of conduct. Safe sex is essential, and ensuring you really want to go ahead, and you’re not under any pressure, is important. Moving on at your own pace will make the experience much more enjoyable for both of you. Getting the first time over will also move the relationship on a notch, if this is what you want.

There are no hard and fast rules; you have to be guided by your emotions and instincts. Make this time together special. Try and put all anxious or embarrassing thoughts out of your mind and determine to enjoy yourself.

What matters is that you both trust and respect each other, while continuing to build upon the chemistry that has brought you together.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: When Is The Time Right?

If you’ve been happy with your partner, and their absence has left you in an empty, unremitting state of ‘love lost’, then perhaps you shouldn’t be reading this. However, if it’s been a while and you’re starting to miss having someone to share your life with, then maybe the time has come to think about meeting others who are also single.

Finding yourself in a social situation where you’re used to being part of a couple can be a very isolating experience. There is nothing worse than feeling like the third wheel in a room full of couples.

I recall only too clearly, the first time I went to a social gathering on my own after the loss of my husband. The other guests were strangers to me, and the only people I knew were the hosts who, although considerate of the fact I was on my own, were obviously busy with their other guests, as well.

I only stayed for a couple of hours and spent the majority of the time riveted to the same spot, clutching a glass of wine and wondering when would be a respectable time to go home. Although I did of course, chat to the odd person, I was not at all comfortable being on my own and was relieved when I eventually made my exit.

Similarly, while you may like the idea of getting dressed up and going out, you wish there was someone to walk down the road with. It’s quite surprising how the simplest of actions become major accomplishments when you have to do them on your own.

Gradually, your friends, or your sub-conscious, lead you to online dating and you find yourself sifting through countless faces and profiles that present a problem of another kind.  There are a lot of people like you who are also searching for that certain someone and deciding whom to make contact with can be a daunting experience.

Looks of course, are important, but we all know beauty is skin deep and someone who resembles a movie star may not have the right buttons for you to push.

By studying the profiles of potential matches you will know when someone could be of interest to you. In fact in the early stages, there may be several matches you find interesting. Exchanging messages online is a tried and tested means of communication and gives you the facility to get to know someone without any commitment or too much personal disclosure.

Having made the decision to meet a virtual stranger, you need to take things slowly. My view is that meeting up with someone during the day for a coffee is a comfortable arrangement for a first date, rather than making it an evening event.

Be prepared to spend plenty of time together in situations where you are not likely to feel compromised. There are few things more embarrassing than making what you think are the right moves at the wrong time. Also, sharing the cost of whatever you’re doing is a good way to show that you like to be independent and also suggests that you do not want your date to expect something in return for their generosity.

Get to know each other well, and understand that you’re both there for the same reason and it must be implicit that neither of you are making comparisons with your late partner. Remember, this is also an opportunity to put your life experience to the test. If you’re genuinely happy in your skin and feel you have a lot to offer, then this should come across as confidence. Confidence, as we all know, is a very appealing characteristic and will make anyone feel reassured in your company.

It’s important to get to know the other’s preferences and ask yourself how you feel about them. Could you live with this person’s aversion to something you enjoy doing? Do you feel able to share someone else’s passion for an ideal or activity that you don’t approve of?

What will probably happen if the person is not right, is you drift apart, hopefully having gained something positive from the experience.

Also possible, is you find yourself sharing a friendship, which not only fills a void, but brings with it the possibility of a new partnership. Hopefully, whatever follows, will be a relationship you enjoy as much as, but in a different way, to your last.

Not all of us will want to move on with someone new, but whatever you do, hopefully you will find happiness and contentment in the process.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.

Love After Bereavement: Coping After The Loss Of A Spouse

 

The first thing to remember is you don’t have to cope alone.

There are many resources out there, which can help you through this period and they are there to be used. Resource services have the information you need at their fingertips and can provide you with the contact details of organizations nearest to you.

Help that is offered by family and friends will also be invaluable. It is likely some will have already experienced the grieving process and will have first hand guidance to offer. You may not always feel very receptive to their advice, but they might have something to say which could be of help.

A friend or neighbor who delivers a ready-made spaghetti bolognese and a chocolate cake for you and your family’s supper, is a friend indeed. So, too, are those who collect your children from school or offer to drive your teenagers to-and-fro because you’re dealing with other post-bereavement issues.

Having children at home will probably put you two steps ahead. You will need to put all your energy into letting them know they still have one parent, and that you’re coping well. Letting them feel they also have an important role to play, will instill confidence and help them to feel more secure. Giving them a specific job to do on a daily basis will also help them to feel vital in what is going on. Washing up, sweeping leaves, or perhaps, keeping an eye on a younger sibling are small tasks that will mean a lot. Let them know they are really helping. It is reassuring for them if they have a sense of purpose and giving them responsibilities will help them to appreciate the importance of ‘pulling together’. Knowing they are helping you and any siblings will make them stronger and they will be better able to see the wood for the trees.

The period following a bereavement can leave you feeling completely bereft and wondering if you will ever feel happy and whole again, and this is understandable. Your future happiness, it seems, was totally dependent on the existence of your partner, and for some this may be the sad truth. However, we all have different thresholds, and after a period of time you may find yourself wanting to take a few positive steps outside your comfort zone.

You can do this by asking yourself if there is any element to your life or lifestyle since your partner died that has improved. It may be that whilst he/she was alive you did everything together and although this was a joy at the time, there was little opportunity to explore individual pastures new. Whilst you may have been content and happy with this arrangement, having the opportunity to look within yourself at unexplored potential could launch a period of advancement and self-fulfillment.

When a friend’s husband died recently, her family was very concerned for her. She had been married for more than 30 years and she and her husband were absolutely devoted to each other. However, although they did have some shared interests, he did not enjoy eating out or having friends over to dinner and had little interest in things of a cultural nature. She was happily resigned to staying home with her husband and never considered how life would be if she could be a little more creative with her time.

These days, she’s discovering a social life that had once only been the preserve of others. Joining a fitness class, meeting with family and friends for the odd meal out and planning visits to art galleries and other places of interest has really given her a new lease of life.  She’s finding her feet and with the encouragement of friends and family is discovering that there is life after loss.

If you find coming to terms with your new single status is difficult, especially if you don’t have young children to look after, and time on your hands, volunteering can be very satisfying. Helping out in a charity shop can be fun and where you will meet plenty of other people. Animal charities always need extra help and if you don’t mind being outside you could derive a great deal of satisfaction shaking a bucket for a favorite good cause.

However you cope with your post bereavement blues, you must do whatever suits you best. In time you will hopefully feel like getting on with your life and be grateful that you have at least enjoyed the relationship you had with your partner and accept that he/she in the long run, would want you to be happy.

Whatever you choose to do and however you go about it, I hope there will be friends and family to see you through and that eventually you will feel like the true survivor you are.

One more thing I will mention is the possibility of seeking bereavement counseling. Coping alone is not an obligation or a measure of your inner strength. When my husband died I had enough support from friends and family to see me through and I feel I coped well. Though I encouraged my son and daughter, ten and thirteen respectively, to seek counseling neither of them wanted it and I didn’t feel able to push them into it. However, retrospectively, I sometimes think that some counseling would not have been a bad thing.

This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.