I want to take you on journey into my life eleven years ago. I was 39 years old, married with a son. At that time, I had been married for eleven years. On October 4, 2010, that all changed. On that date my wife passed away after a long battle with cancer. I say that date everything changed, but the truth is this was something that I saw happening and honestly knew it was just a matter of time before she passed.
The moment she died, even though I didn’t think about it in this light immediately, I went from being married to being unmarried. Though in my heart I still felt married, in reality at that point I was not married anymore.
Being that I was still relatively young, and add in the fact that I had a young son, the desire sprang into my heart after a few months to start dating again. Herein lies the question of all questions in this scenario. How soon is too soon to start dating after the death of your spouse? I am going to share with you some of my experience as a tool for you to hopefully help if you are in this situation. Please note, I am not approaching this as a psychologist but simply as a person who has lived and walked through this experience.
The first thing you have to come to grips with is that your desire to date or even remarry is perfectly fine, healthy, and normal. As I mentioned earlier, the day my late wife Sharon died, I immediately became an unmarried man. That truth didn’t sink in for a while, but once it did I had to come to grips with the reality I was no longer married and that it was okay to date again. There was no need to feel guilty about it.
If you decide to date again, don’t feel guilty because there is nothing wrong with you. Most importantly, don’t feel like you are cheating on or betraying your spouse because you are not.
When I decided to start dating again, I asked two different people this question of how soon is too soon? One was my pastor at the time and the other was a good friend Hank, who is a Christian and who I trusted. They both gave me the same answer. It is totally up to you.
How soon is too soon? You determine that and no one else. This is a decision that you must make and when you are ready, that is when you are ready.
One of the things you must prepare for is that everyone is going to have an opinion if and when you choose to start dating again. I am going to group these people into three categories:
1. The Judgers
The judgers are the people who are going to make you feel like it is too soon because you just buried your spouse. This is especially true if you start dating again soon after your spouse has died. These people will question if you even loved your spouse, because how dare you start dating again so soon after. To be blunt – ignore these people.
One thing that is important to remember that no one will understand unless they have walked in your shoes, especially when you have been married for a while, it gets lonely amazingly fast when you lose your spouse. In fact, what used to be normal activity can begin to feel very awkward.
Shortly after Sharon died, there were two instances that really brought the fact that I was alone to light. Our church had a Christmas celebration that year she died, which is something they did every year. After the service we all gathered in the fellowship hall for food, games, and the festive holiday fun. What really stood out to me was even though I was in a room that was filled with people who were all enjoying themselves and having a good time, I felt all alone. This was not a feeling I was used to, and it certainly was one I didn’t like.
The other moment came on New Years Eve just about a week later. Our church would have a watchnight service and afterwards we would have some food in the fellowship hall. On this night I was sitting around a table with other married couples as I had done many times before. The exception this time was that I was no longer married. Even thought this was very normal behavior and something I had done many times before, all of a sudden this time I felt like a third wheel.
These types of emotions are things that the judgers won’t comprehend unless they have walked in your shoes. It was moments like these, and the desire to no longer feel that loneliness, that led me to start dating again. When I started dating again, the judgers did come out, but you have to learn to ignore them because chances are they really don’t understand how you feel and what you are going through.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw
2. The Mourners
The mourners are those that will look at you and feel that you need to be in a perpetual state of mourning over your spouse simply because they are still mourning the loss. The mourners will feel like it is okay for you to start dating again, not when you are ready, but when they are ready and have gotten over the loss.
The way they look at it is that your mourning timetable should be in perfect alignment with theirs. When it is not, then they may try to make you feel like you are moving too fast. Please don’t allow someone else to set the timetable for you. Whether you move really slow or faster than the mourners think you should, don’t worry about it. The truth is they are going to talk about you anyway, so you need to do what is best for you.
3. The In-Your-Corners
The in-your-corners are those that will cheer you on and are happy for you to start living your life again. These are people like my pastor and my friend Hank who let me know it is okay to start dating again. You are going to need people in your life who will encourage you in this space because it will feel a little awkward at first. But don’t allow that to stop you from pursuing this if that is what your desire is.
Starting over again and pursuing another relationship after the loss of your spouse is not easy. But for me, I felt it was necessary. I did date someone briefly which didn’t work out, and then I decided to stop for a while. After a few months I came to the realization that I really wanted to be married again. I recognized two important things for my life. First, I wanted and needed a wife and companion and also my son needed a mother in his life because I couldn’t be a mother for him. That was ten years ago and this year I will be celebrating my ten-year anniversary to my wife Diana. This was the person God brought into my life, and it was just what my son and I needed. I don’t know what path your life will take if you are dealing with the loss of a spouse, but if you desire to start dating again, please do so with the confidence in knowing that you and only you can determine when is too soon, too soon.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.