From widow to wanted womanPosted on: 17 June 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
International mega-seller Penny Jordan offers some essential dating tips to widows in an exclusive piece for 50connect.
It’s seven years now since I was widowed and this is what I’ve learned. The grieving process takes two years – that does not mean that after two years you stop grieving, nor does it mean that you won’t find the thought of another partner or another relationship desirable during those two years. It is simply that grieving is a pathway along which you will travel which has several shared and recognisable markers.
These are that, for the period around the funeral you will be numbed by events, work like crazy to organise everything, be told admiringly how calm you seem, and then you’ll fall apart and be shocked every time you realise that he really has gone and that it’s forever.
During the first year although you may not recognise it as such you will have a handrail to hang on to – all those special shared dates when you will think ‘this time last year’ he was here. That will upset you and in a way, comfort you. Those memories of this time last year are close and you will feel that he is close.
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But the second year you have to go through without that handrail – now there’s no getting away from the fact that his path and yours have diverged, and that’s hard. You will walk the second year alone no matter how many people surround you or how close they are, because ‘he’ is not there.
You will be afraid because of how you feel, and your grief will be a private pain that you will feel you should be getting over. The hardest thing of all is learning to accept that the life you shared has gone and that your life is now your life, a life which you are in charge of and responsible for. That life will include learning to be a single woman again, and a single woman who may want a new relationship.
Below are my tips with regard to getting back to having your own social life.
Being Honest With Yourself About Your Own Feelings
Heal first, date second
Being on your own hurts, and every time you see someone else with their partner that pain increases. The temptation is to rush for cover from that hurt; to be part of a couple again; to be ‘normal’ – because once you are widowed somehow it seems that everyone else you meet does have a partner, and that leaves you feeling very isolated and ‘different’.
However the reality is that you can’t plaster over that hurt with a new relationship. You need to heal first. Healing takes courage and it takes time. When you do start dating again you want it to be for the right reasons. Your new relationship should be one that you want for its own sake, not as a means of escape from the pain of widowhood.
Find someone who fits you – don’t fit yourself to someone else
Remember being seventeen? Remember convincing yourself that you adored watching football because ‘he’ loved football, and all the things that went with that. Remember being older, a new wife and then a mother, taking on those roles, adapting your own sense of ‘you’ to accommodate them because that oils the wheels of relationships and family life? Well this time round you don’t need to do that.
Thanks to the internet with its online dating and newspapers with their dating columns you can seek out a partner who shares your interests, and a relationship in which you can be yourself. And that does matter, it matters a great deal. Spend time thinking about what and who you actually want – you might discover a few surprises about yourself, aspects of yourself you’d forgotten.
Spring clean your life
Starting out on the dating scene after marriage is a form of ‘spring cleaning.’ Start by going through your cupboards, finding old forgotten treasures, and indulging in a tears and laughter over them, discarding things that are ‘past their sell by’ date followed by that wonderful feeling of a good job done, ready for a fresh start.
Think about what you can now do that you could not do before. We all change to accommodate our partners and to make life flow smoothly, but this could be a time for you to make those readjustments you may want to make to the way you live your life.
Trust your instincts
As for when you should date – you’ll know when you’re ready – and when you aren’t.
Socialising For Singles
On your own
When you are newly widowed your friends will gather supportively around you, but then slowly you may find that invitations to the fun things, dinner parties, dances, etc start to drop off.
Of course you will still be included in women only daytime activities, but it’s in the nature of widowhood for other women to feel uncomfortable with it – either because it reminds them that life is not forever, or sometimes because deep down inside and illogically they are primed to think of a single woman as a potential threat.
Make new friends
There is a wonderful website http://www.thelmandlouise.com/ for women both with partners and without that enables you to match up with women who share your interests and with whom you can make friends and meet up- for days out, for theatre visits, and even for holidays.
Making decisions for yourself is empowering and making new friends even more so. Ironically you’ll probably find that once you have established your own new social life, those old friends who shied away are now desperately keen to re-engage with you.
There are also organisations that provide holidays for singles – not specifically for ‘romance’ and often offering travel destinations and activities that include cultural aspects. Being with people in a similar situation to yourself can help with self consciousness and worry about getting back into the dating scene, in a ‘safe’ way.
If you do decide to take a singles holiday do make sure your travel agent knows exactly where the boundaries to your own personal comfort zone lie. Although I did read a wonderful fictional story about a 60 year old woman why mistakenly booked herself onto of those 18/30 wild singles holidays, and it was a lovely read.
Owning a pet, specifically a dog is an excellent way to make new friends. Dog walkers are very sociable. And then there are obedience classes, - a terrific way to get to know your fellow new dog owners. If you like dogs but don’t want town one, offering to walk someone’ else’s dog could be a way to enjoy the fun of enjoying time with a pet.
Voluntary work is another good way of meeting new people. Doing voluntary work also helps to lift the spirits. Helping others really does help to make you a better person. Libraries and again the internet will have the details of genuine voluntary projects to suit all tastes.
If you make a date with a man you don’t know well, it makes good sense to let others know where you are and to arrange for them to check in with you via a phone call to your mobile phone.
Mobile phones are an essential part of your dating equipment. As a single woman I never travel anywhere without my mobile. Something as simple as a minor car breakdown can become a major problem when you are on your own. Something we don’t always think about when we’re used to having a partner around to turn to.
If you have a single friend, double dating can be a safe option for dipping your toes in the dating water.
Another option can be to throw a party and ask all your friends to bring a single person with them. Okay they may bring other single women but at least that way you will get to meet fellow singles, and making new friends with whom you can share the experience of your widowhood can boost both your spirits and your confidence.
Most of all make sure you enjoy everything that you do and enjoy being yourself. Celebrate every day in memory of the love you shared and to honour the man who shared that love with you.
There is no greater memorial we can give to those we have loved and lost than to celebrate all that they gave us by ‘living well.’
About Penny Jordan
Penny Jordan has been writing for over 25 years. In that time, she has written over 170 books and sold almost 90 million copies worldwide. She also writes under the name Annie Groves and is a mentor for new writers. Her new novel Sins is set in the rag trade and inspired by the silk manufacturing industry in Macclesfield in Cheshire where Penny lived for 25 years with her late husband. She still lives in Cheshire today.
Set in 1950s London, Sins follows the lives of four sisters as they strive to achieve their dreams. Emerald has always got what she wants, and is determined she’ll get the man of her dreams. Setting her sights on the ultimate goal - a royal match, she’ll let nothing get in her way. Her cousin Rose hasn’t always had it easy, being the illegitimate daughter of a Chinese hooker. But when her exotic beauty starts to turn heads, a photo shoot in Vogue finds her caught up in a whirl of media attention.
Sisters Janey and Ella couldn’t be further apart. While rebellious Janey is determined to make it in the world of fashion, studious Ella is ecstatic when she's sent to New York to hone her journalism skills. But miles away from everything she knows Ella feels she’s losing her way and Janey’s attitude is getting her in hot water.
As each girl navigates a world full of pitfalls and heartache, will they finally get what they wish for? They’re about to learn that life doesn't always go according to plan.
Sins by Penny Jordan is published by Avon priced £6.99.
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