The death of a spouse is one of the most traumatic events an individual can experience. However, it is possible to find love again. Men tend to start looking for love soon after the death of their wife. If a man starts dating before he has completed the grief process, he will not be able to commit fully to a new relationship. Because the grief process is an individualized one, it is sometimes difficult to know how soon is too soon to date a widowed man.
Move slowly in this new relationship. Although widowers tend to date sooner than widows, this does not mean that men have a shorter grief process than women. It is possible that he has not completed the grief process and is trying to lessen the emotional pain through dating. Someone who is in the midst of the grief process cannot be fully present with you and emotionally available for a relationship.
Communicate openly with him about his emotional state. Be clear about his process of bereavement. If he seems not to have grieved much, consider that a red flag. It could be that he hasn’t yet accepted the reality that his wife is gone.
Ask him directly about his intent in pursuing a relationship with you. Discern as best as you can if he is interested in you specifically or simply looking for a woman to feel an emotional void.
Don’t push to meet his children. His children may still be mourning the death of their mother. They may be struggling with the idea of their father dating, especially so soon. They may have feelings of jealousy and/or protectiveness. These feelings are normal. For the same reasons, when first meeting the children, it’s probably not a good idea to be very affectionate in front of them.
Pay attention to how often he talks about his wife. If he talks about her frequently, he is still at the beginning of the grief process, in which case, he needs a friend, not a date. If the two of you were platonic friends before the death of his wife and there is a history of offering support to one another, it’s appropriate to offer him support now. However, if you are just getting to know each other, consider being his friend only. You have a right to have your needs met in a dating relationship. Don’t suppress your needs for the sake of his grief process.
Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.
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