Here’s How To Move On After A Partner Dies, Because It’s Never Easy
My partner and I play a slightly grim game where we argue over who gets to die first. We pretend that it’s just our "dark" senses of humor at work, but in reality, it’s our way of easing tension about something we really fear: the day that one of us will pass away and leave the other behind. Honestly, it's so painful to think about, all we can do is joke about it to try and diffuse it. Knowing how to move on after a partner dies is not a skill that I want to have at all, but that doesn’t we don't all need to have it — especially when you've lost someone you love. Because if, for (very dark) instance, something were to happen to me, one of the things that would be most important to me would be for my partner to know know that I would want them to move on and find love and happiness again, as soon as possible.
However, knowing that your partner would want you to move on is one thing, but actually going through the grieving process and doing it, well, that’s something entirely different. That's why I reached out to the experts — Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Training Your Love Intuition for Wise Relationship Choices, and Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist — for their advice on how to move on from the loss of a partner when you feel like you’re ready. Here is what they had to say.
Take whatever time you need to grieve.
After the the loss of a partner, both experts agree that you should take whatever time you need to grieve and heal, whether that looks like days, weeks, months, or years. “Like most things in life, there is no magic amount of time,” Richardson tells Elite Daily. “A lot of people talk about the concept of closure but in reality it is pretty rare to actually feel as though you have gotten [it]. Mourning the death of a loved one is a lifelong process, not something you can check off of your 'to do' list.”
Dr. Wish agrees that you should take whatever time you need, and the length of time — or lack thereof, should be dictated solely by your own needs. “Mourning is one of the most personal and private emotions. It does not have a start date or a decisive end time,” she tells Elite Daily. “How long to wait is ultimately a very personal, multilayered decision that only needs to be explained or justified to one's self.”
How to begin moving forward.
When enough time has passed and you sense that you're ready to begin taking the steps to move forward, Richardson says to be gentle with yourself. “Self care, self care, self care,” she says. “No matter how the person died, your job now is to love yourself as best you can. Get sleep, minimize or eliminate chemicals (like drinking and substance use), move your body, talk to people about your loved one… and look for ways to honor that loved one. Live. And if living feels too hard, start with surviving.”
Remember that moving on does not mean putting yourself back in the dating game. “It's not a law that you have to date! Moving on can take many forms,” she says. But if you do feel ready to get back out there, she suggests starting by spending time with friends and just doing activities that you enjoy and that encourage you to be social. “Hang out out, and do things together such as going to movies, events, and art shows,” she suggests.
How to start dating again — even when it’s scary.
If you do feel you might be ready to date again, Dr. Wish says its normal to first feel some amount of apprehension. “Dating, in general, is exciting — but also a bit scary.” Her advice is to start making a plan by creating a list of fun activities you would like to do, and people you would like to do those things with. Then, see it through. “Make a pact with yourself to do things — even if it's scary,” she says. “You don't have to be ‘looking for love.’ Developing companionship and friendship are great ways to move on, [too],” says Dr. Wish.
Whether it's your childhood best friend, your cute neighbor, your co-worker, or someone you struck up a good conversation with on a dating app, do the activities you want to do with people you think you'd have a good time with. (No romantic connection required.)
Common roadblocks to avoid.
The process of moving on is just that: a process. As Richardson explains, there are some common emotional pitfalls to be prepared for in case they come up. For instance, self blame is an issue that can come up. “It is really common for people to tell themselves stories about what they could have or should have done differently when the loved one was alive that may have changed the outcome. That is just a hurtful story, it does not make it true. If this is where you find yourself, a support group or therapy may be a good options,” she advises.
Another frequent roadblock Richardson warns of is unexpected bouts of anger. “Our culture is not good at death and loss and we often need a reason why something happened and it is tempting to blame someone or something,” she explains. “While there are times it can be good, even therapeutic, to allow that hurt and anger to propel you to a solution for the greater good, you have to be careful not to allow it to consume you. If you have the ability to set the anger aside and deal with other things, great. However, if you walk around with your anger all day, you need more support.”
Ultimately, the experts say the key is just being true to yourself and your grieving process. “It is your life and you do not have to explain it to anyone,” says Dr. Wish. “You are the only person for whom it has to make sense.” Richardson agrees and adds what I think is the most important takeaway: “Your partner would want you to live and live well. The best way to honor their life is to value yours.”