Dating After Death: How I Knew I was Ready

By Jennifer Hawkins

 

I was thirty-nine years old when my husband died unexpectedly in his sleep. It was the shock of a lifetime. He was my love, my rock, a crucial part of my life and our children’s future, and in an instant, he was gone.

 

A few weeks after his death, I received a letter from my insurance company. The letter said that when you lose a spouse it is normal to want to date, usually sooner rather than later. I felt guilty even thinking about the possibility and could not fathom the idea of dating so soon after my husband had died. I buried this idea along with the letter knowing I would re-enter the dating scene in my own time.

 

That time came several months later. I was by myself at the grocery store and I looked up to find a man watching me with an interested look in his eye. To my surprise, I found myself feeling attracted to him.

 

I didn’t know what to do! This innocent exchange of glances made me uncomfortable, but only in a sense that I realized I was no longer a married woman but an available single one. That one look instilled in me a sense of freedom.

 

Over the next few weeks I began to consider the idea of dating. I felt like there were a few things I needed to do before it would feel comfortable to date.

 

First, I needed to be willing to discuss dating with people who I was close to. I decided to talk to my father-in-law. He was the person closest to my husband. I called him and asked him what he thought about me dating. He said genuinely that he wanted me to be happy and that he knew Mark would want me to be happy too. He didn’t hesitate to give me his blessing to date whoever and whenever I wanted.

 

I also called my sister. I told her I’d been thinking about dating. I wasn’t sure what she would say and was shocked when she didn’t say anything. Instead the line seemed to go dead. I said, “Are you there?”

 

She replied, “Yes, I was crying. I was worried you would never want to date again after Mark. I’m so happy you are considering it.” Her response wasn’t what I expected, but from both her and my father-in-law’s answers I felt better about moving forward.

 

Second, I needed to know that I wouldn’t be dating to just fill a void. I knew that the void that Mark’s death left in my life would never be filled the same way that Mark filled it. I knew that even as I started dating, I still had to continue to fill my own life with my own positive activities, people, and feelings; I could not put the pressure on someone else to fill Mark’s place—if I did, neither one of us would ever be truly happy.

 

Third, I needed to fully embrace the feeling of being attracted to another person. I decided to trust that my body was telling me ‘it’s OK!’ and gave in to the butterflies. When I was so wrapped up in the sadness of losing Mark, I had no space to let someone in. There were no butterflies. So when I felt an attraction to a man, I thought maybe it was time.

 

But now what was I to do? I hadn’t dated in a decade. I was a single mom who worked full time. My options for meeting men were pretty limited. However I had met Mark online and thought it was a good place to start.

 

I created a profile and even programmed a search. It felt a little uncomfortable to be searching for a ‘new’ man after being with one man for ten years. As I scanned through the results not many of the profiles interested me. After several pages I started to wonder if I was just being extremely critical because I wasn’t ready. But in that same moment, I stumbled upon a profile of an attractive man whose profile made me smile.

 

He and I met a month later and spent seven hours together on our first date.  That was just the start—we wound up dating for eighteen months. And after I’d fallen in love and spent countless hours entwined in the connection with him, I decided to stop seeing him. Not because I wasn’t ready, but because he wasn’t ready. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life; it hurt me deeply and I’m sure it hurt him, too. But it was the right decision.

 

By completely letting go and trusting the universe and jumping into intimacy with a man again I found my heart. In setting boundaries in my love life, I genuinely found myself. And finally I realized that I could be with a man and, furthermore, consider having a future with someone other than Mark. So, while my first attempt at a relationship after my husband did not end up as I had wanted, it was an experience that greatly furthered my healing and growth.

 

After losing a spouse, putting your heart on the line may feel like the last thing in the world you want to do. However, by interacting intimately with others you may find a little bit more of yourself. And in time, if you wish, I hope that you’ll find someone new to share your life with.

 

Jennifer Hawkins is a highly successful real estate investor. In 1988 she earned a spot as a swimmer at the Olympic Trials. She married Mark in 2001 and started her family. She lives in Texas with her sons Connor and Brannon. For more information about Jennifer and her memoir, The Gift Giver, please visit www.thegiftgiverbook.com.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Amy Melsa

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Comment by debra l. johnson on February 3, 2012 at 12:58pm

I Just dont know what to do? I Have Lost 2 husband's one of Cancer 15 yr"s ago & My Second Husband Nov.6 2010, Iam 56 now & Iam Very Very Lonley, But I dont know what to do or how to begin again!It seem's as if I live in one room & I cant seem to do anything but sit in this one room for over a yr. & still haven't gone thru his thing's! I Thought I was a strong woman, when my first husband had cancer we had been married 23 yr.s We had 3 beatiful daughter's But Curt my second husband Helped me raise my youngest but he was so funny & so postive about everything! And Now Iam Lost? With all the Bills, & Trying to do everything right! But Iam Just plain Lost & Waiting to screw something up! & He Has 2 kids both grown! & I Dont have that connectin We used to have! Iam so lonley & Lost even after a yr.

Comment by Donna Braddock on January 8, 2012 at 1:15pm

Thank you for this post.. I'm facing the same thing right now. It didn't take a divorce to be single so I have alot of love still in my heart and I know that God did not mean for us to walk the face of the earth alone. I crave the affection of a mans arms around me and simple conversation between a man and woman. I've had the chance to go on a date today but caved to fear and nerves so I canceled the date. He totally understood and we decided to talk more over the phone and get to know each other better to make me feel more comfortable. I know deep in my heart that I'm not ready for a serious relationship but need the company so terribly bad. With time I pray that my fears and know I'm just going to have to give myself more time to heal and just let things happen in their own time.  Thanks for sharing this. It has put good light on a scary subject for me... Hugs

Comment by denise marie moesly on October 7, 2011 at 1:35pm
I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD DATE AGAIN.WHEN MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY WE HAD 2 LIL GIRLS AGES 4 AND 7 WE WENT TO GREIVING COUNSELING FOR A YEAR.BUT I FELT IT JUST MADE IT HARDER AND WORSER TO GET THREW.SO I STOPPED GOING.I GOT ON MEDICATION.THAT DIDNT HELP.SO I GOT OF THAT.I WENT OUT A FEW TIMES WITH THE LADYS.BUT THAT DID NOT HELP.EVENTUALLY A NEIGHBOR INTRODUCED ME TO A GOOD FREIND OF HERS.WE STARTED TALKING AND GOING OUT JUST AS FREINDS.WE GOT ALONG GREAT LIKE WE WERE BOTH THE SAME.IN EVERYTHING WE DID WE THOUGHT ALIKE.I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD FIND A PERSON THAT I COULD LOVE LIKE I NEVER FELT BEFORE.WELL I DID.I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM BEFORE WE EVEN KISSED OR HELD HANDS.I KNEW HE WAS THE ONE FOR ME.WELL IM HAPPY TO SAY IT;S BEEN ALMOST 7YEARS AND WERE STILL TOGATHER.

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