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How To Get Over The Loss Of A Loved One

September 24, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

People often ask me how soon they can start dating after the death of a partner. 

To this question I give the same answer that I give for making any serious decisions after the death of a loved one. You should wait at least a year before making any major decisions.

A while back I introduced the idea of the four tasks that grieving people must actively work on to successfully maneuver their grief journey. The first task being to acknowledge that the death has occurred, and to accept the reality of our loss. The second task is to allow ourselves to experience the pain of our grief. Many conflicting emotions may come with this task, and it is important that we acknowledge all them. The third task is to readjust to a world in which our loved one is physically absent. This involves learning new ways of doing things on our own, and new ways of living in the world. In this stage we find ourselves having to develop new skills that allow us to better get through our daily lives. Lastly, we learn to reinvest the love we shared with our friend or family member into new relationships and endeavors.

As I have said before there is often the temptation to utilize drugs or alcohol to detour around the pain of our grief. Other people find themselves investing all their time and energy into avoiding their pain through overworking themselves. Still others seek to fill the new gap in their lives with a new partner.

This is not a good idea!

In the wake of a loss we become vulnerable, looking for things to take away our pain. By immediately seeking out love and affection we are fulfilling our acute need for companionship, but at the same time we are putting off our grief to be dealt with at a later date. I say we are putting it off, because you are delaying your grief reaction.

Grief cannot be cheated, you cannot detour around it, and you cannot lock it in a closet never to be seen again. At some point grief will affect you. Be that today, or 20 years from now. When we hide our emotions away we further complicate the grief process and make it more likely that we will experience severe obstacles at some point.

With very few exceptions, grieving people should not seek out a new partner before the first anniversary of their partner’s death. Not only is doing so complicating the grief process, but it is also unfair to a potential partner who is likely unprepared for the baggage that will be present.

Frequently the bereaved will subconsciously expect their new partner to be a copy of their deceased loved one, thereby replacing the deceased.

You are in a vulnerable place right now. Resist the urge to find a new partner who can take that vulnerability away. You are not your normal confidant self, and you do not have the same resilience to life’s problems that you would at other times.

I know that this pain is likely worse than anything you have experienced previously, and that you have no idea how you’re going to get through it. But I assure you, you will get through it. It may not be gracefully, but you will do it.

This is a time for renewing your spirituality (in whatever form that may be), for seeking out the love and care of family and friends, and for allowing yourself to move through the changes that are taking place in your life.


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