Sunday 20 August 2017

Dear Mary: I feel so guilty that I want to date again a year after husband's death

Grief affects us all in different ways (Stock photo)
Grief affects us all in different ways (Stock photo)

As the first anniversary of the death of my beloved husband approaches I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that as much as I miss him, I feel very lonely and am already longing for some male company. I'm in my mid 40s.

The guilt that accompanies these feelings is awful. It's like I'm being unfaithful to him by even thinking about anyone else. I miss being part of a couple, being cared for and cherished and I also miss intimacy. Sometimes though I'm also grieving so badly that all I want to do is stay in bed and not see anyone.

My husband's death was as a result of a long illness and was therefore not unexpected. I cared for him until the end and he had a very peaceful death surrounded by family.

We had a very loving and fulfilling marriage and our two children who are young adults now are trying to get on with study and work as am I.

Even though my husband was not my first lover we had been together a long time and I'm petrified that I won't be able to cope with what's "normal" now if I started to date again.

I try to stay positive and arrange to see friends regularly. The thoughts of online dating is not appealing.

I guess what I'm actually looking for here is some advice as to whether you think I'm ready or should wait a while longer until it's "seemly" to begin dating again. I'd appreciate your thoughts as I don't feel I can confide these conflicted feelings to anyone.

Mary replies:  I'm so sorry that you lost your husband at such an early age. Grief affects us all in different ways and I think it is important to realise that there is no downward or upward steady continuum while going through the process. Instead it comes and goes in waves - some days are better than others and some are as you describe, not wanting to get out of bed.

I think it is a wonderful tribute to your husband that you are beginning to think of male company again. After all, if your marriage had been very unhappy you would be steering well clear of men for quite some time. And as you begin to accept the new normality of life without him then it is very much in order that you start dating again. You are a relatively young woman with hopefully many more decades ahead of you and it is only right that you should start thinking of having somebody in your life.

I can understand your apprehension regarding dating, particularly when it gets to the sexual side of things. A friend told me that as she was preparing to go on her first date following the untimely death of her husband, her teenage children were asking her if she had condoms with her, and she was absolutely appalled never having used condoms with her husband who had been her first and only lover. But bear in mind that when you get to know somebody new and start being sexual with him he will have his own history, will probably be around the same age as you and will be equally worried as to how things will go. So don't get too hung up on what will happen when you start having sex with somebody new - everybody worries as to what the other person will think of them.

The guilt you are feeling because in some way you think you are being unfaithful to your husband is perfectly normal. But you have no need to feel like this - if the roles were reversed I'm sure you would wish for your husband to get on with his life and meet somebody new. Amy Krouse Rosenthal recently wrote a most beautifully touching letter about moving on in The New York Times. She had terminal cancer and wrote looking for somebody new for her husband. She described him so lovingly, listing all his good points and wishing whoever was lucky enough to get him every happiness. I'm sure you would get some validation from reading it. Your children will also wish only the best for you, happy in the knowledge that you did everything possible to care for their father in his final illness.

So be open to any suggestions that friends make regarding possible dates - they will no doubt try to matchmake for you. Accept any invitation that is offered and this might be the time to take up a new sport or hobby. If online dating does not appeal to you then don't do it because there are lots of other ways of meeting new people.

I do hope that things work out well for you.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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