Seeking love after a marriage ends: How long to wait?

I first wrote this article in 2003. The same considerations apply in 2016. Widowers and divorced people often ask how long they should wait to date after a marriage ends.

Edith wrote: "I'm 69. My husband of 13 years passed away a year ago. On New Year's Day, I met a 79-year-old widower in our park. We have been seeing each other on a regular basis. I feel affectionate toward him.

"I have to be aware that his wife has only been gone since July and he still has to go through the grieving stages. Is it possible to fall in love with someone in such a short time?"

Losing a loved one is devastating. It disables us. John Gray, in his book "Mars and Venus Starting Over," states that people need to properly heal before they can successfully open their hearts and love again. What's the proper period to wait for grief recovery?

Gale, 65, is planning a May 2004 wedding. The wife of Gale's fiancé died last September, and he began checking out the dating scene by December. "For many, that would be seen as too soon, but he'd had a long time to learn to live without her before she died."

"Many people - who don't know how much care my fiancé gave his late wife - would no doubt find this totally objectionable. He devoted his entire life to her and her care, practically living in the hospital toward the end."

When an Orange County, California, attorney visited his 74-year-old mother, a widow, in Fresno, they stopped at a McDonald's for lunch. He said, "At the restaurant, Mom recognized a man she remembered from the senior center,

where she had been a supervisor before retiring. She walked right over to him and reintroduced herself. When she came back to the table, she told me the man’s wife had died a year earlier.

"I told her if she was interested in him, she shouldn't pass up an opportunity to invite him to church, out for coffee or something.

"Mom questioned whether it was too soon after his wife had died. I told her you can't control when opportunity knocks, and if you don't answer the knock, it may not return."

The next Sunday, the man took her to church. Six months later, they were married.

Sue, 55, was widowed 15 months ago. Sue said: "What is right for me won't be right for anyone else. I had a very special relationship with my husband, one that was built over a great deal of history. I will never be able to find that again.

"I may find something different. When the time is right I will know, and now is not the right time."

Some found commenting on how long a person should wait too personal and requested anonymity.

One woman wrote: "You'll know you're ready to date when you no longer find dwelling on the past comforting. Only you will know when you're ready."

Another woman said: "After 21 years of marriage, it took me a good two years before I was emotionally 'whole' enough to consider another relationship. Up to that point, my incessant talk about my late husband would have made any man run in the opposite direction."

Mary e-mailed: "I'm not a widow, but as a nurse and an attorney, I've offered advice to some close friends who have suffered losses. It takes at least a year to feel that you have your feet on the ground.

"If you meet someone before the year is out, and if that person is interested in you, he will give you the time to heal before making any commitments."

How long to wait? Gale sums it up best: "The grief period is different for everyone. The man in my life had already done his grieving before his wife died, and no one has the right to dictate what that mourning period should be or for how long. That's a right reserved exclusively for the partner left behind after a spouse dies."

Grief recovery varies in every situation.

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