Saturday 31 January 2015

Finding love after bereavement

John McAreavey and Tara Brennan
John McAreavey and Michaela Harte on their wedding day.
That loving feeling: Golfer Darren Clarke with his second wife Alison Campbell, whom he married in 2012.
Darren Clarke with his first wife Heather, who died from cancer in 2006. Photo: Getty.
Norah Casey, who has spoken of finding love after the death of her husband Richard.
Patrick Swayze and his now widow, Lisa Niemi.
Sam and the late Jim Stynes.
Natasha Richardson and now widower Liam Neeson.

John McAreavey is smiling again and the country couldn't be happier for him.

In fact, the news that John McAreavey has found love three years after his wife Michaela was murdered on their honeymoon in Mauritius has been the most widely read story of the week and garnered the support of the nation.

We worried it might never happen, that the manner of his beautiful bride's death was so brutal, so devastating, that his grief might last forever. Yet when pictures of the handsome widower with his girlfriend Tara Brennan were released in the last few days, the truth was plain for all to see -- love has triumphed over pain.

"There is always a despair in death, but what happened to Michaela McAreavey was a terrible, harrowing tragedy," says Lisa O'Hara, couples counsellor and psychotherapist with mindandbodyworks.com.

"As a nation we all felt it, knowing that John felt it so much more. His world at that time was akin to a bomb going off and blowing everything into little pieces.

"You don't just get up and walk away from that. It will be woven into his life forever, but there is a healing that comes from the mourning period and now John can stand up and say, 'I'm still alive, I want to live again and share that life with somebody.' And once again, we're all behind him, so glad that he can now live in the present and for his future."

While Lisa's words will strike a chord among many people who have lost a partner or spouse, some might wonder if or when it might be appropriate to look for romance again. How soon is too soon to start dating after bereavement?

"There are no hard and fast rules," says John Brennan, a counsellor and psychotherapist with About U Counselling. "It really depends on the person.

"Like any grieving process, bereavement takes time and the person going through it needs to allow themselves to suffer their loss and feel their emotions.

"As part of that process, at some point, you will reach a point where you say, 'I can't go on like this; I have to start living again.'"

Golfer Darren Clarke thought he was ready when he stepped out with family friend Nikki Regan just four months after the death of his first wife Heather to cancer in 2006. However, the relationship soon fizzled out and a joint statement from the pair attributed the split to having become "too close too soon" after Heather's passing. The next time the Ryder Cup star fell in love, he took his time. He and former model Alison Campbell enjoyed a year-long engagement before tying the knot in the Bahamas in 2012.

"It's important that there's a mourning period that has to be gone through," says Lisa O'Hara.

"You need to deal with the feelings that come with death, because it's so final.

"There is an interdependency that comes with relationships and if you've had a good relationship and you're left on your own, there can be a temptation to re-partner as quickly as possible.

"People innately know when they reach a place of acceptance, when life begins to resume, when they can get out of bed in the morning and start taking an interest in other people."

Publisher and broadcaster Norah Casey knows exactly what she means. Having lost her beloved husband Richard Hannaford in October 2011, she refused to entertain the notion of letting a new man into her life for at least two years following his death.

"I am still a young woman and Richard wouldn't have wanted me to spend the rest of my life on my own," she told the Sunday Independent last month.

Irish Independent

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