The death of a spouse is one of the top stresses a person can experience next to finding a job and moving, according to Widow’s Hope, a resource organization for widows.
But the death of a spouse leaves people lonely, which can be fatal. Those who feel they are consistently lonely have a 14 percent higher risk of suffering from an early death, according to the report.
To avoid death and loneliness, some widows look for a new love, but that isn’t always easy. Widows struggle to accept a new love in their life because they believe they loved their first partner so much that they could never love again, according to Aaron Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., who wrote for Psychology Today.
“In most of (the) cases of widowhood, if there was a positive attitude toward the spouse during his lifetime, this is enhanced,” Ben-Zeev wrote. “This is due both to the tendency to idealize the past and to our sense of propriety in not speaking ill of the dead. Although the late spouse is physically absent, the widow's love for him can remain and even grow.”
That’s why many have chosen to stay single, according to federal data. Remarriage among the divorced and widowed has dropped by almost 40 percent in the last 30 years.
Still, some advise widows to move on after their partner’s death. Carole Brody Fleet, an award-winning author, wrote in The Huffington Post that widows can love someone other than their first spouse even though a widow’s adoration for their first partner never truly goes away. And by not embracing more love, widows run the possibility of grieving forever, Fleet wrote.
“You are not destined to remain in mourning forever ... that isn't why you are here,” Fleet wrote. “Embrace and carry forward the legacies that were entrusted to you by your late beloved. If you choose it, living your new life can include companionship ... and love."
The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Bernstein reported that there’s no right time to find a new spouse after a loved one has died and that widows looking to date again should join a support group and talk to others about their feelings to help them cope with the loss. This will help widows become more hopeful and optimistic about their dating future, WSJ reported.
Experts also said daters should be confident about dating again. And they should understand that just by dating someone else, they won’t tarnish their old partner’s memories.
“You don’t have to let go of your positive feelings about your spouse and marriage,” Bernstein reported. “You aren’t looking to replace that person. Your spouse was unique. If you take that as a given, you can move forward.”
The new documentary “The Age of Love” shows how older Americans are moving on with their dating lives with confidence. Some elderly Americans are speed dating, according to NPR’s Ina Jaffe. These older men and women were either widowed, single or divorced, but were all searching for some kind of love in the end of their life.
And these older Americans searching for intimacy know what they want in their next partner — and will go to many lengths to find their true love.
"I want that guy that — when I'm doing dishes — will come up behind me and nuzzle my neck and give me a hug," Donna Capuano, one of the women from the film told NPR. "I want that guy that will pick up the phone and call me during the day just because he's thinking of me. That's who I am."
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.