Advice on dating as a young widow or widower

September 2023

Following the discussion around widowed dating sparked by Roger’s journey on the ITVx reality show Your Mum, My Dad , WAY was asked to share some advice on finding love after loss with Pick Me Up magazine, Radio 1’s Newsbeat, Radio Essex and other outlets. Here are some tips we shared… 

Zoomed in on two people holding hands
  1. What advice would you give to widows and widowers considering re-entering the dating world again? 

    When you’ve lost the person you loved, the idea of dating again can seem almost unthinkable. Some members of the WAY Widowed and Young peer support network make the conscious decision that they will never date anyone else again, because they feel that nobody could ever live up to the partner they have lost. Other WAY members feel ready to move on more quickly – and are open to the possibility of finding love and meeting a new partner. 

    Everyone handles grief differently. There is no right or wrong time to start dating again and only you will know when or if you feel ready to move forward and find someone else. 

  2. Do widows and widowers even have to move on? Do you think there is a taboo about young widows and widowers not wanting to move on after the death of their partner? 

    Many members of our young widowed community prefer the term “moving forward” rather than “moving on”. Just because someone feels ready to start dating again, it doesn’t mean they have forgotten their late partner. Far from it. 

    It can be a very lonely time when you’ve been widowed at a young age and people naturally may be tempted to find companionship to help them feel less lonely. We would recommend reaching out to find friendship in the first instance through peer support networks like WAY Widowed and Young to help start rebuilding a social life rather than launching straight into the world of dating.

    However, many WAY members who’ve gone on to find love again say that it is possible to love someone new while also still continuing to feel love for your late partner, in the same way as you may have the capacity to love two children. 

  3. How can widows and widowers make sense of their complicated feelings and process them when re-entering the dating world? What feelings can they expect to experience during this time? 

    There will inevitably be some feelings of guilt, some uncertainty, some practical hurdles and some emotional highs and lows to navigate along the way. The best advice is to proceed with caution and to make sure you’re ready before you take the plunge because you need to be quite emotionally resilient, particularly if you are trying Internet dating. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted and you need to be quite thick-skinned. 

    Meeting someone else is also not a quick fix for a broken heart. Many WAY members find it helpful to discuss their feelings about returning to dating with other young widowed people who are at the same stage. In fact, members of our peer support network have set up several Facebook groups that are specifically tailored to discussing dating and some of the challenges related to dating again, which can be really helpful as people start to dip their toe back into the dating pond. 

    One WAY member who remarried after nine years said that falling in love again had actually made her miss her late husband even more than she did before: “Life is undoubtedly happier, less lonely, richer and more exciting,” she said. “But it can be complicated too – and the swirl of emotions can sometimes be quite overwhelming.” 

  4. How can widows and widowers navigate dating when they face potential judgement from their in-laws or their children?  

    The reactions of other people are quite difficult to navigate and this needs to be negotiated quite carefully, particularly when it comes to in-laws and children. Again, we’d advise to proceed with caution and only tell in-laws and children when you are sure you are absolutely ready. WAY members frequently offer each other advice and tips on these topics this via our Members Hub and online subgroups – dealing with topics ranging from telling the in-laws about a new romance to when is the right time to take off your wedding ring. 

    Everybody is different and there are truly no rights or wrong. Unless somebody has been widowed young themselves, they have no right to pass any judgement. One of the benefits of being a member of WAY is that others understand exactly how it feels to be facing some of these challenges and can offer advice and support in a non-judgemental way. 

  5. Do you have any more advice about how a widow or widower can navigate dating again, particularly when there are children involved? 

    Proceed with caution – don’t rush into anything, particularly in the first few months of bereavement, when emotions can still be very raw.

    If you do decide you’re ready to find love again, there’s a whole host of Internet dating websites out there – some are specially tailored to single parents or to people who’ve been widowed. One of our members Nicky Wake has recently set up Chapter 2, which is dedicated to widowed dating.

    Follow some basic online dating rules: 
    - Always meet up with someone in a public place the first time you meet. 
    - Tell a friend where you’re going.
    - Get them to call you during the date in case you need an excuse for a hasty exit! 
    - Be careful about sharing any personal information until you know more about who you’re talking to.

    Some WAY members choose not to reveal that they’ve been widowed straight away. Others may decide to be more open. It’s certainly worth thinking about how soon you want to start talking about your widowed status with potential dates. 

  6. What can you do if your in-laws are judgemental of your new relationship? How can this be navigated? 

    There is nothing easy about navigating any of this, unfortunately. Again, advice from others who have walked the same path can be invaluable. One of the things that often isn’t talked about is the pressure from some society to find love again. There is an expectation from others that someone will only be “fixed” if they are part of a couple again. Many of our members decide that finding love again is not the be all and end all. They focus instead on finding friendship and activities that make them happy before even considering embarking on a new relationship. 

    Please see this page for more thoughts on this.

  7. Is it normal to feel a loss of sense of self after the death of a partner?

    It is absolutely normal for everyone to feel a huge loss of confidence after they’ve been widowed. It’s like having the emotional rug pulled out from under you. Many of your hopes and dreams for the future are erased when your loved one dies. 

    We would advise people to take the time they need to rebuild their confidence and their own sense of self before plunging into a new relationship. Again, being a member of a peer support network like WAY can help people to rebuild their social life and sense of who they are as they navigate their “new normal”. 

  8. Is there a right time to move on? How long can it take, or does it depend on the person and the relationship? 

    There is really no right or wrong time to “move forward”. Everyone is different and needs to move at their own pace.  

    For more information about navigating dating after loss, see our Bereavement Support web pages.