Beginning a New Chapter as a Widow or Widower

Dating After Becoming a Widow or Widower

Recently, we were pleased to be interviewed by DatingNews.com, where we talked about our extensive Dating Advice section.

This section answers questions that are typically asked by widows and widowers as they venture back into the world of dating.

Negotiating life’s journey alone can hold little allure. Looking on at other couples whose relationships have stood the test of time and who enter middle age with the prospect of retirement together, can be hard. For many, the idea of dating after becoming a widow can seem an unlikely scenario. However, you can improve your potential for future happiness.

Some of us will use this time to travel, if we have the resources to do so. Taking ourselves off to previously unvisited countries and landscapes can be uplifting and beneficial in so many ways. Planning such a trip can be a useful distraction from post-bereavement blues. Being away from home can also help us reflect upon the positive aspects of our lives, and the people around us, that we take for granted.

Others will be satisfied to throw themselves into the peak of their career or family life.

Inevitably, there will be those who find themselves becoming withdrawn and experiencing loneliness and feelings of frustration, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

You Don’t Have To Be Lonely

How long it takes to come to terms with being single will be different for everyone. When it happened to me I still had two relatively young children to raise. Whilst this seemed a daunting responsibility at the time, it meant that I had focus and good reason to want to keep my head above water.

Some time on your own can be beneficial, but it is equally important to seek out friends and family to support you as you make this transition. As time passed, I was encouraged to explore the possibility of meeting someone new. Dating after becoming a widow, however, remained something that was far from my mind. My friends and family came to respect this.

Developing New Interests And Making New Friends

Developing new interests can be inspiring and will help you to come to terms with your situation. I went on a creative writing course, which I really enjoyed. I met some great people who shared my enthusiasm for poetry and literature. It gave me a huge sense of release to go out and mix with entirely new people and at the end of the course I had met some kindred spirits. Introducing new people into your life can be an advantage and will show those around you that you’re endeavouring to move forward.

However, this isn’t always a smooth process.

From their book ‘The Essential Guide to Life After Bereavement – Beyond Tomorrow’, Judy Carole Kauffmann and Mary Jordan, say:<

‘Many people hope and long for the day when they will be able to move ‘beyond tomorrow’ and away from the darkness and depression that seems to engulf them after the death of someone close. Often, especially in the early days following a death, it will seem that such a time can never come. Some people may actually not want to consider that they will ever recover from their grief because recovery seems a kind of disloyalty to the person who has died.’

It can be easy to resist opening your heart to new horizons, but choosing to explore something that could restore a sense of optimism can give you the boost you may need.

Decide What You Want From The Next Stage Of Your Life

Eventually, it is hoped you will be able to confront your future with renewed enthusiasm. Making plans that will fit with your lifestyle and resources will be the next step. Asking yourself what you want from the next stage of your life will hopefully set you on a path to feeling complete again.

Having moved into the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly common practice for people to switch careers halfway through their working lives. Setting up office space at home and working remotely, enables more people to follow a path based on creative or practical ideas they would like to develop.

Study and trying new skills could eventually help you to explore an avenue of work/business that interests you. Extra curricular study with universities is readily available and could offer the job satisfaction you had not previously enjoyed.

All these can help you to discover or rediscover aspects of yourself that you had not previously had time to explore. This will stand you in good stead for the weeks and months ahead as you develop a new outlook and perspective on life.

Finding Someone Else To Share Your Life With

There may come a time, regardless of your age, when you feel you would like to start dating again. If you’re keen to meet someone who has also lost a life partner, this is a good starting point for the basis of a future relationship. What’s more, it also means you don’t have to explain away any awkward background history. Something that can prove difficult to share with someone who might not be able to relate to your situation.

Finding a potential partner should not make you feel guilty. Enjoy it as a sense of fulfilment. This doesn’t mean you have forgotten your previous spouse; it’s more a case that you’re moving on, but cherishing your memories as you go.

As you enter this new chapter in your life, see it as an opportunity to grow and expand your vison for the future, building upon the experiences you’ve had so far and the possibility of dreams yet to be fulfilled.

How Long Should a Widow or Widower Wait Before Dating?

 

For a widow or widower, the thought of dating again after losing your partner will need plenty of consideration. It may be that you and your partner  had made plans for retirement together. Having intimately shared your life with someone, the prospect of someone else can be unsettling.

With this in mind, here are some useful steps to help you to work out whether you’re ready:

Getting Your Life in Order

Immediately following bereavement, you and your family have to make adjustments. This can be a challenging time for a widow or widower and coming to terms with this new life state can be hard.

It is hoped, however, eventually you will come to terms with your situation and having evaluated where your future lies, you might decide you would like to meet other singles. Joining a dating website can open up your life considerably. It’s worth noting that whilst forming lasting relationships is the ideal resolution for some, making platonic friends with those who are empathetic can also be rewarding.

It’s Normal to Have Reservations

It’s understandable and quite normal to have reservations about online dating. In particular, for widows or widowers, some may have shared a safe and secure relationship for many years. Looking for someone to fill the void is nothing to feel embarrassed or awkward about. Wanting to be part of a couple again is perfectly natural. However, dating websites exist to fulfil a need; to bring people together, not only for romance, but for friendship, too.

Everyone’s experience is different and there are no hard and fast criteria to make things happen quickly or more effectively. Sometimes it takes a while for the right person to come along. Taking your time and building a relationship gradually can be a blessing. It also offers the opportunity to get to know someone through exchanging private messages before you commit to meeting up.

You Make Decisions in Your Own Time, So No Pressure!

Because you’re taking this step ‘remotely’, you make decisions in your own time. You have no reason to feel under pressure about who to talk to and who to connect with. You will know when you feel comfortable about meeting up with someone and if you follow the recommended guidelines* about ‘First Dates’, you should be fine. Also, bear in mind the person you’re meeting is likely to be feeling as apprehensive as you are, especially if this is early days for them, too.

If you have a friend who is also widowed, you may want to encourage them to join with you. Sharing experiences is a good way of testing the water and at the very least you can compare notes.

One in Four relationships Start Online

Today, it is statistically proven that one in four relationships start online and this is second only to meeting a partner through friends. Joining an online dating community is accepting you’re ready to move on.

Some people who have used a dating website will tell you to begin with they were unsure about the process, but most will tell you that once you’ve dipped your toe in the water you will wonder why you left it for so long.

*Initially, we always recommend you make arrangements to meet up with someone during day time; for coffee, perhaps; and it goes without saying, always tell a friend or family member where you are and what you’re doing. Never disclose your address or any other personal information on a first date. It is hoped you will know when you’re comfortable enough to do this.

How to Tell if a Widow or Widower is Interested in You?

 

How to tell if a widow or widower is interested in you when you’re venturing back into the world of dating can be a daunting prospect. Understanding their intentions could invite some awkward moments and there are bound to be plenty of sensitive concerns you might want to avoid. There could also be important relationship issues you want to confront before getting further involved.

Whether or not you’re being compared to your date’s bereaved partner is an obvious thought; and you could both be experiencing this on a subliminal level. The best way to establish this is to talk about the issue; sharing one another’s feelings with regard to the prospect of a relationship with someone new.

If someone is showing positive signs of wanting to keep in contact, but at the same time choosing to be slightly non-committal, it could be they want to take things at a slower pace. They may need some time to become accustomed to the new feelings they’re experiencing. Weighing up the pros and cons of entering into a new relationship is to be expected.

If you feel a strong attraction towards this person, it’s important you communicate you’re happy for them to be taking their time. Allowing the space they need to assimilate their feelings is important. This will help to provide a solid foundation on which both of you can build something new.

Establishing the relationship

Being introduced to their friends is a positive step. Taking things to this level is a significant sign they’re keen for the relationship to develop further. This cannot be underestimated. Introducing you to people who would have been acquainted with their previous partner is a good sign.

If they introduce you to their family – their children in particular – this can be regarded as a sign they see a future with you and want to move the relationship on.

Letting them know you’re willing to talk about any concerns they have will give both of you the chance to express how you’re feeling. Building a sense of care and understanding will potentially give rise to a greater openness and trust between you.

Asking them if they want to talk about their previous partner may help establish a stronger rapport. However, if they talk about this constantly, you can take this as an indication they’re not ready for someone new.

If they’re happy to talk about where the relationship is headed, this is could be a sign they want the relationship to continue.

Taking Their Time

One of the biggest factors preventing widows and widowers from pursuing a relationship, is the concern they might get hurt. This is based upon how well adjusted they are to their new life as a widow or widower. This is something that cannot be ignored and has to be met with a huge amount of respect and sensitivity.

Of course, some people move on more quickly than others; but there will always be the need for a degree of patience.

As in any relationship, the best measure of how serious somebody is feeling will be exhibited through their behaviour. If they seem to be holding back a little, this may be the best way forward for them.

Conclusion

How to tell if a widow or widower is interested in you can take some time. As you get to know each other, you will learn how they deal with things and at what pace.

If you are also widowed, you will be sensitive to their feelings and won’t want to prolong the relationship if it doesn’t feel right. The suffering they experienced is likely to have given them a similar depth of compassion.

Dating someone who has also lost a life partner can bring a richer meaning to your friendship, and a desire to make the most of the opportunities life has to offer.

One Widow’s Adventure in the World of Dating

 

While definitely a time of hope and anticipation, the prospect of dating post-widowhood can also be a scary moment in time. However, by even so much as considering reentry into the “World of Dating,” you are actually taking a huge step forward on your healing journey; a step that is both “cause for applause” and congratulations.

My own “step forward” occurred roughly two years after my late husband’s death.  How did I know that the time was right to begin dating again?  Easy…I just knew.  I did not compare my timeline to the timelines of anyone else.  Instead, I tuned into and listened closely to my heart.  More importantly, I knew myself well enough to know that I needed to wait until I was confident that I was inviting other people into my dynamic for the right reasons; rather than to simply fill an impossibly large void.

Is the navigation of the World of Dating always easy or fun?  No.  Is it worth it?  Most definitely.  Travel back with me to a time when I almost gave up dating altogether; yet in perseverance, I also found my “happy” again.

The year:  2006…springtime

The time:  10:00 p.m.

Dress code:  Trendy-chic. High heels.  Smoky-eyed makeup.  You get the picture.

The setting:  Returning home from “first date” number 1,582,648.

Or so it felt.

It is at this hour that I disconsolately pulled into my driveway. I walked through the front door, kicked off the high heels and threw them across the room. They bounced off the sliding glass door and landed perilously close to an extremely startled cat, who looked at me as if to say, “What did I do?”

I’d come to the end of yet another first date / last date and what a catch this prize was. Need an example? When I arrived at the restaurant, he tried to greet me in a completely inappropriate manner… with an open mouth.

He wound up gulping air.

The evening progressed painfully slowly.  He sat way too close. He touched way too much. As this torturous evening drew to a merciful close, he had apparently saved the best for last … he’d lied about his age by almost twenty years (which I’d already figured out when I saw him).  He was baffled when I told him that we would not be going out again.

Once home and snuggled into my sweats with my usual post-lousy-date consolation snack of Coke and Doritos, I looked upward and started screaming at my late husband, as clearly, my having to date at all was his fault. The diatribe was something to the effect of, “You did this to me Fleet!  You said to go find love again. Find love?  Seriously?  I can’t even find decent conversation!”

After berating Mike in absentia, I decided that I was done with dating. I was finished wasting time, energy and makeup on idiots like the one with whom I’d just squandered three hours.  I decided that my life was fine as it was.

About that time, my teenage daughter came into the room. The thud of the airborne heels, the dazed cat and the not-so-subtle tantrum directed at her dad told her everything she needed to know about the evening.  I shared my decision to retire from the dating arena and just be on my own – since “alone” couldn’t possibly be any worse than the previous three hours had been.

After listening to me seethe, she quietly observed:

“It’s stupid to quit dating because of this guy.  Why should you have to spend the rest of your life alone because of a few losers?”

Since it’s hard to argue with logic, I reluctantly continued to date. I would love to tell you that nary a loser crossed my path ever again and the heavens opened and the angels sang.

But life doesn’t work quite that way.

If someone had told me that a year-and-a-half after this ill-fated evening would pass before I had the heavens-opening, angels-singing experience, I would have thrown in the proverbial dating towel (or taken that towel and strangled something with it).  It was indeed another year-and-a-half of dating what I have coined the “Loser Brigade”, before life hit me with one great big “I Told You So”.

The year:  2007…autumn.

The time:  Approximately 8:00 p.m.

Dress code:  Trendy-chic.  High heels.  Smoky-eyed makeup.  I don’t vary things much.

The reason:  Girls Night Out

I was in the bar of a fabulously-reviewed restaurant waiting for my fabulously-late girlfriend to arrive. Hungry, impatient and in need of a martini, I tried in vain to get a bartender’s attention. While edgily tapping my credit card on the bar, a handsome gentleman looked over and politely smiled.

His smile lit up the entire room and made my tummy flip.  I know – men aren’t supposed to light up rooms, but this one did.  As for experiencing tummy flips, I thought I’d left that behind about the same time I quit using Clearasil.

Then the Man-With-The-Room-Lighting Smile opened his mouth…and a British accent came out.  I don’t even remember what he initially said to me.  He might have said, “How are you tonight?”  He might have said, “Get out of the way warthog”.  With that accent, who cares?

As our small talk progressed, he told me that he was in town on business and that he lived in England.  Masking my disappointment, I continued our light conversation until my girlfriend arrived.  Prince Charming and I politely exchanged business cards and my girlfriend and I went in to dinner, where I spent the following two hours complaining that I would certainly never see this man again.

To my surprise, Prince Charming began emailing shortly after our first meeting.  He then began calling. Hours previously spent on stilted, job-interview-like dates were now spent blissfully engaged in fascinating telephone conversations. Yet, I was resolute not to fall for him.  Where could this possibly lead?  He’s in Jolly Old England; land of the Beatles, Burberry and bangers-and-mash. I am happily ensconced in Sunny Southern California; land of eternal sunshine, palm trees in parking lots and frozen yogurt.  Since I had dated men who complained about driving from one county to another, I figured that I was about as geographically undesirable as one could get.  I wasn’t about to fall for him.

Except…I did.

Two years after that chance meeting and a total of nine years after becoming widowed and convinced that I would never know light or love again…Prince Charming became my husband.

The lesson: Making a decision to return to the World of Dating is not easy.  Dating is not always easy.  It is not always fun and unfortunately, it is all but certain that you are going to run into at least one idiot.  However, if you decide that your life ended with the death of your beloved and / or if you decide that everyone in Dating World is carrying an idiot license because of the actions of a few – you are letting fear decide your destiny.  You are letting idiots decide your destiny. Neither death nor human being has that right and nothing should be granted that level of power.

Don’t give up on the prospect of companionship if you want it.  Don’t give up on loving again if you choose it. No one said it would be easy…but I would gladly go through all of the dating fiascos again for that one gentleman who still makes my tummy flip. Don’t give up, don’t give in…and here’s looking forward to the day that someone lights up a room for you too.

Carole Brody Fleet is an author and motivational speaker. Her books include ‘Happily Even After’, ‘Widows Wear Stilettos’ and ‘When Bad Things Happen To Good Women’.

For more information about Carole Brody Fleet, visit her website.

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.