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FYI | London Edition | October 2011 - p. 11 Real life

Jennifer Hawkins


Dating after a death: How I knew I was ready

I was 39 years old when my husband died unexpectedly in his sleep. It was the shock of a lifetime. He was my love, my rock, a crucial part of my life and our children’s future, and in an instant, he was gone. A few weeks after his death, I received a letter

from my insurance company. The letter said that when you lose a spouse it is normal to want to date, usually sooner rather than later. I felt guilty even thinking about the possibility and could not fathom the idea of dating so soon after my husband had died. I buried this idea along with the letter knowing I would re-enter the dating scene in my own time.

That time came, shockingly to me, several months later. I was by myself at the grocery store and I looked up to fi nd a man watching me with an interested look in his eye. To my surprise, I found myself feeling attracted to him. I didn’t know what to do! This innocent exchange of glances made me uncomfortable, but only in a sense that I realized I was no longer a married woman but an available single one. That one look instilled in me a sense of freedom. Over the next few weeks I began to consider the idea of dating. I felt like there were a few things I needed to do before it would feel comfortable to date.

First, I needed to be willing to discuss dating with people who I was close to. I decided to talk to my father-in-law. He said genuinely that he wanted me to be happy and that he knew Mark would want me to be happy too. I also called my sister. I told her I’d been thinking about dating and was shocked when she didn’t say anything. Instead the line seemed to go dead. I said, “Are you there?” She replied, “Yes, I was crying. I was worried you would never want to date again after Mark. I’m so happy you are considering it.” From both her and my father-in-law’s answers I felt better about moving forward.

Second, I needed to know that I wouldn’t be dating to just fi ll a void. I could not put the

pressure on someone else to fi ll Mark’s place – if I did, neither one of us would ever be truly happy. Third, I needed to fully embrace the feeling of being attracted to another person. I decided to trust that my body was telling me, It’s OK! and gave in to the butterfl ies. When I was so wrapped up in the sadness of losing Mark, I had no space to let someone in. So when I felt an attraction to a man, I thought maybe it was time. But now what was I to do? I had met Mark online and thought it was a good place to start. I created a profi le and even programmed a

search. As I scanned through the results not many of the profi les interested me. After several pages I started to wonder if I was just being extremely critical because I wasn’t ready. But in that same moment, I stumbled upon a profi le of an attractive man whose profi le made me smile. He and I met a month later and spent seven hours together on our fi rst date. That was just the start – we wound up dating for 18 months. And after I’d fallen in love and spent countless hours with him, I decided to stop seeing him. Not because I wasn’t ready, but because he wasn’t ready. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life; it hurt me deeply and I’m sure it hurt him,. But it was the right decision.

By completely letting go and trusting the universe and jumping into intimacy with a man again I found my heart. I realized that I could be with a man and, furthermore, consider having a future with someone other than Mark. So, while my fi rst attempt at a relationship after my husband did not end up as I had wanted, it was an experience that greatly furthered my healing and growth.

Jennifer Hawkins has written a memoir, The Gift Giver – see

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