According to the official list of stressful life events, referred to as the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, nothing is more stressful than the death of a life partner.
Even those of us who have never gone through this still dread the feeling that comes with the thought of it.
And for those who have gone through it, it can often take years to return to some sense of normality, if ever.
Yet life must go on, and often it does as people find new love. But how do you know when it is the right time to start dating again?
The process is often fraught with feelings of guilt and anxiety, psychologist Dr Marilyn Mendoza told Psychology Today.
“There is no specific time frame for dating after the loss of a spouse,” Dr Mendoza explained. “We all grieve differently and must respect our own process.
“Some will decide never to be in another relationship. Others may want a relationship but are afraid of getting attached to someone new; the relationship doesn’t work out, it results in yet another loss.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that men are more likely to remarry after the death of a partner than women (around 8 per cent to 3 per cent), but this group is a lot less likely to remarry than those who have divorced from their partners. More than half of men who divorce (56 per cent) could expect to remarry, while around 46 per cent of divorced women remarry.
Dr Mendoza explains that one of the key deciding factors in the decision to start dating again and seeking out a new partner is loneliness.
“At some point, however, some begin to feel the need to connect with someone on a deeper level to combat the loneliness,” Dr Mendoza said.
“In my experience, people say that the days are not so hard to get through, but that evenings and nights are lonely and painful for them.
“Deciding to date again usually comes months, if not years, after a loss. But sometimes, a connection unexpectedly comes early into the mourning period.”
Dr Mendoza says if you try to start dating and pull back because of feelings of guilt, it doesn’t mean that you should never date again, but it can signal that you still need more time before attempting to enter the fray.
“If and when you decide to start dating again, you need to understand that it is possible to be happy in a new relationship even though you are still having thoughts and feelings for your deceased spouse,” she says.
“Expect the relationship to be different. Your relationship with your spouse was unique. It cannot be replicated. Open yourself to the uniqueness of the new person in your life.”
Have you found love after losing a life partner? What advice would you have for others who are thinking about dating again?
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