‘I can’t go on like this; I have to start living again’: The taboo of dating after losing a spouse
04th Oct 2019
How soon is too soon to date someone when you have gone through a spousal bereavement? Amanda Cassidy discovers that for some things there is no time-line…
“You only know about these things if you give them a crack. And if it’s not right I’ll soon know about it. I’ll know very obviously if I’m jumping the gun, I’ll know very soon if it’s not the right person. I’m only 39. Hopefully I’ve got 35, 40 years left in me it would be pretty sad to have that on my own wouldn’t it?”
Related: If love could have kept Rachael alive, she would have lived forever
The words of the husband of the late BBC presenter, Rachael Bland. She passed away a year ago after charting her very public battle with cancer. Speaking on podcast ‘The Big C’, Steve, who is now raising their five-year-old son, Freddie, revealed he has gone on a few dates but that the reaction has been mixed.
“There’s nothing that will separate a room full of widows and widowers more down the middle than the notion of dating. It goes back to that idea that it’s everybody’s choice whether they want to stay single all their life or meet someone, whatever you want to do it’s your choice.”
Rachael was just 40 when she died from breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2016, just eight weeks after her son turned one. She’d been applauded for sharing her story so honestly as she went through months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But the cancer spread to her lymph nodes and she died at home in September last year.
It’s not about ‘moving on’
Steve says that he is very wary of people’s opinion of him being seen dating, which doesn’t help.
But exploring the possibility of finding happiness again shouldn’t take away from the love and intimacy you experienced with your spouse.
“I usually wake up between 2-3am, when the horror of what my children have lost hits me again, keeping me awake until dawn.”
Rio Ferdinand’s wife, Rebecca, died of breast cancer in 2015. She was just 34 years old and they had three children together when she passed away. The former England football captain has always been very open about how hard he’s found life without her and how he has struggled to cope with his grief.
He described her as his ‘soul mate’ and promised to make sure she would always live in their memory as “a guide and inspiration”.
He wrote in his autobiography at the time, “I no longer have days when all I can do is cancel my plans and curl up in a ball. It is only nights that can still undo me. I usually wake up between 2-3am, when the horror of what my children have lost hits me again, keeping me awake until dawn.”
Happily, the footballer found love again and this week he married his current wife, Kate Wright. He said that being seen as ‘moving on’ is incorrect. It is about seeking out something or someone who will save you from the heartbreak of losing such a huge piece of your life.
“To my total surprise, I met someone and at first I wasn’t sure I should let free my feelings. In an emotionally vulnerable state, one’s judgement can be all over the place.”
For the most part, people are happy to see you moving on. But there is a taboo when it comes to the amount of time people think is acceptable to mourn your husband or wife.
Jake Coates married his childhood sweetheart Emmy in September 2016. She died less than a year later after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The couple had charted their journey on social media together taking part in charity cycles to raise money for cancer awareness. They wrote children’s books to raise funds and even found a woman willing to be a surrogate so they could have a baby together, even through Emmy’s diagnosis was terminal.
After her death, Jake found love six months later with food writer, Jenna Elsby.
Emmy’s family was reportedly furious and her sister, Sophie Collett claimed very publicly that her late sibling would have been ‘devastated.’ She said that she was “at a loss for words at the insensitivity of it” when Jake revealed he had moved on by posting a picture of Jenna on his Instagram with the caption; “my gorgeous little ragamuffin”. It didn’t help that his new partner was uncannily similar looking to his late wife.
The reaction on social media eventually lead to him coming off every platform completely.
And while some fans were delighted to see him find happiness again, there were others who felt it was simply too soon to be publicly declaring his love for someone else.
“The person going through it needs to allow themselves to suffer their loss and feel their emotions”.
Jake, an artist, said at the time that he felt ‘let down’ by his in-laws.
“I think if I had come out and said I had a girlfriend then, now or even a year from now, it would have been a hard pill for some people to swallow.”
But how soon is too soon?
Jon Brennan, bereavement councillor told the Independent, that when it comes to losing someone so close to you, “there are no hard and fast rules. 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.”
Image via Rachael Bland Instagram
Read more: ‘I’ve less than a year to make memories with my son’
Read more: ‘We lived with the terror that another sibling could die’
Read more: Breast cancer awareness: How to check your breasts at home
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