Dating while grieving: What to expect

5 min read

How the death of a family member or close friend can affect your approach to dating

  • The death of someone you love is an experience that can change you deeply—so your approach to dating is likely to change, too.

  • You may see things more clearly: who you want to be and what kind of relationship you want to be in.

  • As you meet new people, be aware that you are likely in a more vulnerable state than usual.

  • Decide what your boundaries are ahead of time, and be observant of how your dates react to that—it tells you a lot about who they are.

When we experience the death of someone close to us, it can feel like the world has stopped. Priorities change overnight, and things can feel like they’re spinning out of control. It doesn’t matter whether it was a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even a pet, their death is a life-altering event that can bring unimaginable pain. Grieving that loss takes time.   The death of someone close to us changes us. Even if we don’t know it at the moment, the emptiness that a loved one leaves behind is palpable.

Depending on the type of the relationship you had, the loss can be all-consuming and the very thought of trying to accept what has happened can feel impossible.

But one of the hardest parts about losing someone we loved so dearly is that we have to survive it, we have to move forward with our lives, and we have to do it not just for ourselves, but for the person who has passed away.

We keep their memory alive by trying to live our best life and always having them in our heart. One of the parts of trying to move forward and live our lives is, for some of us, dating. Grief and dating aren’t always the most ideal pairing, but it can be done.

Expect to approach dating differently

Because this experience has changed you, there’s a good chance that how you view love and dating might have changed as well.

For example, if your parent recently died, what you once deemed important in a potential partner may be changing. Reflecting on their life and death may clarify what you want and don’t want when it comes to future potential partners.

Accept these new expectations with open arms and honor them. Sometimes it takes a monumental shift in our lives, like the death of a loved one, for us to make the positive and healthy changes we deserve for ourselves.

Lean into these new expectations and use them to guide yourself on a dating journey that will be markedly different than the one you were on before your loved one’s death.

Small talk or deep thoughts? It’s up to you

The most important thing to remember is that you are under no obligation to tell anyone you’re dating about your grief until you’re ready.

If you have a first date and it’s not going so well, then you probably won’t have the urge to share something personal and emotional. But if you have a great first date, in which you feel safe in being candid about what you’re going through, then follow your instincts.

Just as everybody grieves differently, everyone reacts differently to the topic of death.

But keep in mind, just as everybody grieves differently, everyone reacts differently to the topic of death—even if they’ve never met the person who has passed away. It’s natural for someone who’s relatively new to your life to not know exactly what to say when they hear such sad news, and that’s something to be prepared for.

Be aware of your vulnerability

Dating, in general, can make us feel vulnerable. Even if we’re not experiencing grief, getting to know someone and being honest about who we are can be scary. And when we’re grieving the death of a loved one, that vulnerability is heightened.

With this in mind, be intentional about what you share and how you share it. You don’t want to go home from a date and suddenly regret saying something you wish you had never said about your loved one who passed away.

Grief is composed of so many emotions that trying to keep them all in line is difficult enough. Once you add dating to that, you can possibly open up a little more than you intended. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But you just don’t want to second-guess yourself or feel bad about it later.

Set some boundaries

When you tell someone about a loved one’s death, the question that follows the initial “I’m sorry” is usually about how the person passed away. Especially if they were relatively young.

While most people ask this without malicious or hurtful intentions, it’s still not a question everyone wants to hear or answer. Having boundaries in place while you are dating and grieving, and honoring those boundaries, is the healthiest thing you can do for any potential relationship that might develop.

You can also tell a lot about a person if, when you tell them you don’t want to talk about it or get into the details, they refuse to drop it. (Red flag alert.) A person who respects your boundaries is showing that they are emotionally mature, caring, and trusting—good signs for a potential partner.

When you are grieving, it’s a good idea to be cognizant of who you are giving time and attention—and make sure that the people surrounding you right now are lightening your load and bringing you joy. You may find that you simply don’t have the energy for drama and draining relationships. Recognizing when enough is enough and walking away, is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself during this difficult time ●