The prospect of dating after the death of a girlfriend can be an ominous endeavor with mixed emotions and feelings of guilt and vulnerability at the forefront. Decide if you are emotionally ready to date and be prepared for the feelings and questions that may arise in the dating process. Whether you are seeking permanent partnership or are dating again to occupy time for a short-term distraction, be proud of yourself for contemplating the next step.
The grief following the death of your girlfriend may cause you to evaluate your own feelings about dying. You may feel "survivor guilt" because you are alive and she is not; however, allowing yourself permission to actually live the life you have is another step in your personal grief process. As you pass through the stages of grief, you will start to feel hope again. Inevitably, as long as there is hope, there is life -- a sentiment suggested by PsychCentral author Julie Axelrod. Your girlfriend would want you to be happy, and living your life will honor that.
Grief Is Not Timed
To grieve is to accept the void that exists in your life following the death of your girlfriend. You will always carry feelings for her, but you can move forward and create new relationships even with those existing feelings. Grieving does not have a specified time frame -- and, realistically, grieving may go on forever in different ways. Dealing with death may cause you to rework your goals and to start feeling and hoping again. Contemplating dating is a step towards feeling hopeful and living again.
Will I Forget Her?
Entering into a new relationship does not mean you are dishonoring your deceased girlfriend or that you have forgotten her. You are working on transforming your relationship with her; she died, but your relationship did not die with her. A person integrates death by evoking memories and living out the ethics and values of a deceased loved one, according to psychotherapist Lani Leary, author of "No One Has to Die Alone: Preparing for a Meaningful Death." You don't forget those that have passed; you retain your relationships with them by bringing the values and important parts of their memories into your current life.
Ready to Date Again
It will be difficult to start dating again after your loss, and the effort to start living again is substantial, but you will survive grief with patience and time. In time, the raw feelings become less strong. Contemplating dating after your loss is a healthy stage that ascertains that you are living again and feel ready to start loving again. You can hold dual relationships with a new person and your deceased girlfriend; you can find space in your heart for both.
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Cate O'Reilly, who holds a Masters degree in social work, has worked with HIV widows and orphans in Zambia, chronically ill children in Ireland and maternal/child health in America. She has contributed to newsletters, developed protocol manuals and curriculum for education and public health forums.
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