New relationships after the death of a spouse
I’m often asked the question: “How soon after a spouse passes is it OK to enter a new relationship?” A surviving spouse my be wondering what it will look like to others if they proceed “too soon.” Children of a surviving spouse are seriously challenged when a parent appears to be “moving on” too quickly.
Believe it or not, there is no correct answer! If your answer is a year, I would say, from when? What if the partner was terminal for the year prior to death?
Here is my answer: after a loss, there is grief and there is mourning. Grief is that whole set of emotions (sadness, anger, loneliness) that naturally and rightly emerges in response to the loss. Grief is internal. Mourning is the set of behaviors which can assist in the expression of those emotions (weeping, visiting a grave, creating a memory book). Mourning is external.
The task of coming to terms with what my emotions are (grief) and what appropriate expression of them might be (mourning), is called grief work.
Grief work is best done before entering a new relationship because one of the expressions of mourning is adapting to my new life, rediscovering who I am—apart from my partner—and includes embracing the pain of the aloneness.
So, you WILL do grief work! The question becomes, when will you do it? Unless you do it prior to embarking on a new relationship, you will do it within the new relationship. That, my friend, is much more confusing and complicated. Your new friendship will have a unique set of adaptive challenges and deserves your full attention. Mixing that with grief work does a disservice to your new mate and puts undue stress on that partnership.
If you are trying to sort this issue out in your life, why not reach out for some perspective and support. www.clairjantzen.ca/counseling