To date – or not to date – a widower?

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January 28  |  Grief & Bereavement, Love & Relationships, overcoming adversity, Self-Help, Women ageing, Women and love  |   Cynthia






I was recently asked to contribute to an article in a US publication, about the whys and wherefores of dating a widower.  This is a really tricky one to answer as there’s no right or wrong answer. Every situation is individual and different.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few quick guidelines to bear in mind:

  •  Ascertain discreetly how long it is since she died – he may not be ready for another relationship, even though he thinks he is.
  • Don’t rush it – go at his pace.
  • Know that anniversaries and special days will possibly be painful – even many years down the line
  • Don’t ask him about his late wife unless he raises it and if he does, let him talk about it. Don’t try to offer advice – all he wants is a witness to listen his pain.
  • He may want to avoid certain places where they went as a couple.
  • Set your own boundaries – beware of being compared to her, or incessant talk about her.
  • Watch out for warning signs – if he appears to be stuck in grief and it gets pathological then get out. He may not be emotionally available right now – but keep the door open if you want to.
  • Has he got baggage by way of children? If so, can you cope with it? Don’t try and be their mother. The best you can hope to be to them is a good friend. Be prepared for potential animosity from his former in-laws as well as his children and even friends.
  • Manage your expectations of him and the relationship. He may still be fragile. Give time time.

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Living with loss during the silly season

December 21  |  Christmas, Grief & Bereavement, Love & Relationships, Mindfulness, overcoming adversity  |   Cynthia


Whilst the madness of Christmas ensnares us with enforced joviality, let’s  pause and remember  that for many of us – due to loss – Christmas may never be the same again.

There are many variations on loss,   apart from the obvious physical death of a partner.  While it’s true that all of us, if we live long enough, are going to suffer some kind of personal loss, much as we rail against it, eventually we have to come to a place of acceptance, and then ultimately to move on emotionally. This doesn’t mean we ever forget the person we’ve lost, but that we learn to live with it. That knife-twisting pain in your gut eventually does fade.  Depending on the circumstances of this loss, the time it’ll take to travel and complete the grief journey, will vary from individual to individual and there’s no right or wrong way to plough through it. It’s tough and it wounds us to the core. It may also cause old scars to weep, because even with some emotional recovery time under your belt, there’ll always be a reminder, Christmas, a birthday or anniversary, or facing the New Year alone – which will apply fresh pressure to that inner scar – a bit like picking at a scab. The more severe the loss, the more those painful feelings may resurface.

The only person you must learn to please at this time of year – is yourself!

When will it stop hurting?  Nobody can answer that.  Whilst of course there are stages in healing, you simply won’t feel better for a very long time – whether other people like it or not. If you choose to stay in bed all Christmas day and duvet dive – that’s your business. You may also find yourself suffering from “Spare Woman Syndrome” – a perceived threat to your friends who are in a relationship. You don’t need to conform to anybody’s stereotypes or expectations.

Self-pity is ugly

 Self-pity is incredibly unappealing, and it’s futile. Unless you find the guts to discard it, it’ll swallow you up faster than any quick sand.  Many people undergo major traumas. What separates the wheat from the chaff – is attitude.  But there’s a stark difference here between self-pity, self-preservation and self-care.  The bottom line is that most people are way too worried about their own “stuff”, to want to absorb any of yours.  If you allow yourself to become totally identified by your loss, you’re going to be lonely for a very long time. Your loss IS significant, but it’s only a part of you – not the whole story of who you are as a person.

 Mindfulness and loss

Mindfulness is a way of anchoring ourselves, right now, this very second, into this day, this hour, this  minute. This practice teaches us to mind the gap, to provide that split second of choice – that near sacred pause, during which we can choose to react to stimuli or to respond in a more self-nurturing way. It’s cumulative and it leads to the ability to detach from troublesome situations, thereby maintaining our own precious reserves of energy, to be used in a more fruitful manner.

Easy does it

 Churchill said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Take small steps. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness and that you have it within yourself to recover from and overcome any past loss. The saddest words in the English language are, “if only” – the saddest death of all – loss of hope. Don’t let that be your epitaph. And above all – remember – love never dies.


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