In the aftermath of your partner’s death, the idea of dating again can seem difficult – or even unbearable. Some people choose never to find a new partner or remarry, which is perfectly respectable. But humans are companion creatures, and the desire to overcome loneliness is natural. When – if – you’re ready to find another partner, here are some guidelines for jumping back into the dating pool:

1) Don’t start until you feel ready (and don’t listen to what society says.)

There is no time frame for grief. There is no right or wrong way to handle it, so give yourself some grace on the timeline. In the same vein, however, you may have a hard time knowing when you really are ready. In that case, it may be worth going out on an actual date to gauge whether you are or not. 

2) Feeling guilty is normal — at first.

It’s natural to feel as though you’re cheating on your late partner. It’s important to remember, however, that you’re NOT. Finding a new partner or companion is not replacing the one you lost; it’s simply offering a new form of companionship to help ease the natural feeling of loneliness. There is nothing wrong with finding a new partner to share the next chapter of your life with. Don’t beat yourself up.

3) Don’t hide your late spouse from your new partner.

Honesty is key — there is no benefit to hiding a late spouse, or your love for him/her. But at the same time, don’t spend the entire first date (or dates thereafter) talking about your loss. 

4) Be honest with yourself, and your date.

Are you looking for a permanent companion? Another spouse? Is marriage out of the question? You may not know the answers to these questions yourself right away, but once you do, it’s important to share them with your new partner so you can move forward on the same page.

5) Don’t rush it.

Losing a partner is a huge shock to your system. But don’t run out trying to fill a void so rashly that you don’t give yourself time to properly grieve. It’s natural to want to feel close to someone again, but it can easily spell disaster down the road if you rush it for the wrong reasons.