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Dealing With Being Widowed  

Dear Gerda:

I lost my husband to cancer over three years ago. My friends keep urging me to start dating, and I would consider it, but I still have feelings of loss and dating seems too complicated these days. What do you think is the best time and the best way for me to meet someone?

Depending on the quality and the quantity of years spent in a marital relationship, many widows experience guilt and emotional numbness that prevents dating and finding future love. Research has found that it is not uncommon for young widows to have a series of sexual encounters to validate their ability to love again, while older widows forge ahead with family relationships to preserve the family as they knew it and begin furthering their education or working harder to secure their financial future. First make sure you have taken the time to grieve the loss and review your present and future goals. Realize that you have already accomplished building a successful and lasting relationship despite the complexity of society. Know that you can continue to love your husband even when you are separated by death. The problem may not be an inability to feel love again, but guilt at the thought of sharing the love for your husband with someone else. No one can replace your husband. But you can continue to write chapters in the book of your own life.

It is normal to want another relationship. We are the product of a relationship and automatically feel the need to continue the social connection.  If you decide to date, do it for yourself and not because you are succumbing to pressures from friends and other well-wishers. Start by socializing slowly. Be cautious not to stray too far from your territory. Look around in your community or religious organization for groups of people who share your interests. A good place to start is with group activities that have single available males. This way you will be able to share in activities and make friends. Should you find you enjoy a particular person’s company and decide to date him, proceed with caution to avoid emotional, financial, and sexual exploitation. Give yourself permission to be nervous, and stay true to your reasons for dating. In preparation for your date tell a friend where you will be. Transport yourself to the date; this way you will be able to leave if you so choose. Pay for your share of the entertainment to avoid feeling obligated. In the beginning it is advisable to choose activities such as the theater or movies rather than intimate dining; this helps you avoid the pressures of being asked for a commitment too early in the relationship. Avoid singles bars and excessive alcohol use. Introduce the person to your social circle and those in your group activities. This affords you the opportunity to better get to know your date’s personality and habits.

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