Dating After Death

When your partner dies, there’s a lot to sift through emotionally. It’s not like any other end to a relationship where the two of you decide not to see each other anymore. There’s bound to be heartbreak at the end of any painful end, after all, but at least there’s some form of closure. You end amicably, or are able to see the two of you have both moved on for the better.

Death isn’t like that. When death happens, you were still together. The relationship was going well and you had plans for the future. Then all of a sudden the other half of you is gone. You wake up one morning, or you answer the phone, and they’re just gone. There was no big dramatic fight, no calm “We should talk,” no slamming of the door. They’re just gone. And what are you now?

I struggled with calling myself single for a long time after my partner died. Was I single? Single meant available, didn’t it? I wasn’t exactly a widow; we hadn’t been married. I was stuck in this labelless limbo. There aren’t a lot of self help books geared towards partners of unmarried people dealing with grief, so I mostly tried to muck through it on my own.

Even after I managed to wrap my mind around being single, the idea of jumping back into dating was daunting to say the least. Not only was I rusty, I was emotionally fragile. Even though I’d try my best not to, how could I not compare this person to the lionized memory of who I was with before?

I’ll admit that a lot of it ends up being trial and error, and there is no one size fits all answer. I had to get myself to a mental place where I was ready to accept that I was a single person who was no longer in a relationship despite the love and connection I felt for someone who wasn’t here anymore.

The only way I know how to describe it to someone who’s never experienced it themselves is to compare it to a friendship. Imagine a close, trusted friend of yours that’s faded over time. Maybe one of you has moved, changed interests, or simply drifted off over time. You still love this person, you still have affection for this person, but odds are good you’re also going about making other close friends. Maybe you’ve even found a new best friend.

That’s how I feel about my passed partner. I still love her, I still think about her often. Without that relationship I wouldn’t be who I am today. But we aren’t together anymore. We can’t be. And it wasn’t until I’d reached that point in my mind that I was ready to even try dating.

I’m not going to give you a step by step guide on how to go back into the dating world. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to throw yourself out there, right into the blind terror of it all. Just let yourself experience that sense of risk again. You need to be exposed to that before you can even think about letting yourself love again, because isn’t love the biggest risk of all?