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Q. Six months ago, I lost my husband of five years. It was a second marriage for both of us, and we appreciated the fresh chance we had been given. His death was sudden. Needless to say, it has been hard.
I know this varies from person to person, but how will I know when I am ready to move on? I know that eventually I would like to meet someone else. I am relatively young and don’t plan on spending the rest of my life alone. Part of me feels that as long as I still miss him and get sad, it’s a sign that I am not ready and should finish mourning before I start a new relationship. Another part of me thinks maybe getting into a new relationship is what I need, maybe being with another person would help me finish healing. I am not asking for you to tell me if I am ready or not, but please tell me how I can figure it out.
— Sad and Lonely
A. You’re right, I can’t tell you when you’ll be ready.
I can tell you that grief isn’t as sequential as we’d like it to be, and that there’s no mourning finish line. Even if you move on and meet someone else, you will still get sad about your loss — and that’s OK.
If you’re confused about what to do right now, consider a support group. I know they’re not for everyone, but bereavement groups can be very helpful for anyone who needs context. I have a friend who went to a support group for young widows and widowers years ago. Hearing other people’s stories gave her a constant basis of comparison.
One thing she learned is that it’s OK to do some trial and error. Sometimes people have to tell a date, “I thought I was ready, but I’m very much not.” You’re allowed to figure it out as you go.
Every person and situation is unique. I know a guy who lost his wife and within two months started dating someone. While many were judging him harshly, he’s been happy with this new relationship for a few years now.
You say, “Maybe being with another person would help me finish healing.” Just please try not to take advantage of someone who might be ready and wanting to love you. If you aren’t in a good place, you will hurt them.
Personally I wouldn’t consider a “relationship” until you’ve been a year out, at least. But that doesn’t exclude casual dating.
Get out and enjoy life. Take a course in something you’ve wanted to learn. Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Escape. Enjoy the company of family and friends. Along the way, you’ll meet many more people. And then you can find another relationship.
I started dating six months after I was widowed (also suddenly). It was like an appetite came back. Just like knowing that you are hungry or sleepy, you will know if you want to start dating. I knew I wanted to sit across from another grownup and have coffee and talk about something besides grief and widow bureaucracy. You can always try it and see if the appetite is there.
boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.