I have put together a little list of things to know about dating a widow. Now these might not be true for every widow you meet but they are a list of things that I have put together from my own experience of being a widow for two years and from talking with hundreds of other widows and their own experiences.
Yes, widows are allowed to date. No, you don't get to voice your opinion any more than you should voice your opinion about someone divorced who is dating. You have to know that it takes a lot, a lot of courage for a widow to start to date after loss. It's scary. It's terrifying. It's putting your broken heart back out there to possibly be broken again. After my husband died I had people who told me I would find love again and I also had people who pretty much told me that I wasn't allowed to ever find love again. But you know what? It's not up to them. It's not their life and they didn't live my tragedy and your naysayers didn't live your tragedy. Marriage is until death do us part and I don't wish for anyone to have to experience the pain of getting to the death part decades before they ever thought they would. Now......on to the list for those of you who are thinking of or are newly dating a widow.
1. Their spouse is dead. There is no competition from their spouse. They aren't coming back. If they are dating you they are thinking about you......not their late spouse.
2. They will love their dead spouse for the rest of their lives. Love doesn't die. If you can't handle this thought then you probably shouldn't date a widow. Hearts are built to love more than one person...the end.
3. Grief doesn't end just because a widow starts dating again, or falls in love, or gets in a serious relationship, or even if they get married. Grief lasts forever and it will be triggered on holidays, their children's milestones, etc. Their grief for their dead spouse doesn't mean they like you any less. It's just a part of living with grief. It comes and goes and we learn how to live side-by-side with it.
4. Getting back out into the world and dating again is terrifying for a widow. They possibly haven't dated in years and years. Be patient. Be kind. Be understanding.
5. This widow you're dating maybe doesn't have any 5 or 10-year life plan. Why? Because when your entire world has burnt to the ground you might have absolutely no idea where you see yourself in one year or 5 years or 30 years. You might just be living day by day and month by month and no, this doesn't mean that this person is unmotivated or doesn't have goals for themselves. It just means it takes awhile after losing a spouse to figure out what you now want out of your life since it's a new start, a blank slate, a new story.
6. If you made it to date 2 or 3 with this widowed person? Then they must trust you. And trust? It's the most important thing there is in any relationship. When the universe has pulled the rug out from under you and taken your spouse and burned your entire life to the ground? It's very hard to trust anyone again. It's hard to trust anything again. If you have their trust? You're pretty lucky.
7. Romance. This widowed person probably hasn't dated in 5, 10, 20, or even more years. Throw a little romance in there. Send her flowers. Leave a love note on her car if you see it somewhere. Text her that you're thinking of her in the morning or the middle of the day. Initiate where you should go on a date in the beginning. This widow is most likely not dating because they are lonely but because they want to get out into life again and live. So give it all you've got if this is a person you really want in your life. Show her that it's worth facing her fears and getting out there in life again with you. Give it all you've got.
That's it. That's my little list of things to know about dating a widow.
And everyone else? If you see a widow out on a date? Don't stare at them. Don't whisper and judge them. Don't gossip about them behind their back. Wave hello and know that they are one of the bravest people you will ever meet. Watch them and maybe you'll learn how to put yourself out there a little more in your own life.