When you’ve lived through the heartbreak of losing your partner then even the idea of dating can be unthinkable. But for many, finding love a second time around comes to be an important part of life – whether you plan it or not.

There are so many feelings of doubt and even guilt to contend with as you set out on a dating journey. You can find your own way, one step at a time. Maybe you feel brave as you embark on such a quest, or perhaps you’re terrified.

Yet once you have decided that dating is for you, it can prove a very positive step.

Right from the off it’s vital to remember that only you get to decide when the time is right. Some people never want a new partner, and if you do there is no right or wrong timeframe.

If you do decide to go for it, who better to listen to for advice but other people whose loved-one has died young? It’s a pretty exclusive club – that nobody would choose to join. In dating, just like so many other parts of life, you can’t assume that everyone will understand feelings, dilemmas, emotions and inner conflicts that follow the death of your partner.

Those most likely to understand are those who have lived through it. Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation around dating with others in a similar situation, find a support group – which may be on or offline.

Susan, who oversees a facebook support group for widows and widowers, doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to outlining a mixed bag of dating experiences.

Quoting her introduction to the group, she says: “The dating game – it can be a rancid cesspool of activity and sometimes it can turn out pretty well! Maybe you’ll find a new chapter or someone to help you practice dipping your toe in the dating game.”

Her advice for finding the right kind of dating experience reads as follows:

Your profile is your shop window and an exercise in marketing, so if that’s not your game and you write the wrong thing, you’re likely to get completely ignored or attract the wrong sort of attention

“Don’t ever send a photo that you don’t want your mother or grandmother to see!

When you’re new to a dating site or app it can be pretty time consuming and exciting – and then can very rapidly turn into a soul destroying exercise. Be warned! Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t give your number too quickly. Do check your Facebook privacy settings and make sure your phone number cannot lead to you in a facebook search. Google yourself to see what comes up. You might be surprised...”

We’ve gathered a few real-life stories of dating after the devastating loss of a partner. We hope you can find inspiration in their words of wisdom.

Linda writes:

I started dating around five years after my husband died aged 44. I can’t even tell you why I did; I think it was more about companionship than anything,

“Loneliness had hit a little as my daughters moved to university but at its heart I know it was a yearning for my husband rather than any old male company.

“I had no plan and no expectations. But I fancied meeting new people and going out. Friends were urging me on. I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic and went through spells of not going near dating sites after disastrous – and some hilarious dates – put me off. Always at the back of my mind was that I would rather be with my husband than with the sometimes hapless and sometimes over-keen men I was spending a rubbish date with.”

“Some words of wisdom have got me through. One has been ‘keep your heart and your eyes open’ – another is: Live in the present, accept the past and try not to worry about the future too much’. For me accepting the past, how far I have come and how much my late husband would want me to be happy have been the keys to unlocking a more positive dating outlook.

“I met a lovely man online more than a year ago now and we are still together – laughing lots, watching random live music, enjoying each other’s company and even planning a road trip to America- sounds immense doesn’t it? So I can say out loud that I am happy and not feel guilty. I haven’t fallen out of love with my late husband but I’m also loving life again. I honestly never thought I’d see the day.”

Kerrie says: “I have been single over nearly three and half years now. I’ve been on about 50 dates in that time. My top tips are don’t take anything seriously; don’t believe everything you are told, watch what people do and say and check it matches up.”

Don’t take anything personally, don’t have expectations, be open minded. Just have fun and treat everything as a learning curve.

“Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. And don’t be afraid to do what’s right for you.

Annette adds: “Don’t chat for too long, meet up quickly, because textual chemistry doesn’t often lead to real chemistry when you meet, so it’s a waste of time.

“Be friendly online but keep up your guard, and as soon as you feel a bad vibe say goodbye.

Pete, who is now happily settled with a new partner, says: “Think about what you want or need in a special person.

“Be honest to yourself and others about what you are looking for – don’t say you are after a relationship if you aren’t emotionally available.

“Think about distance and be fair – it’s not fair to start seeing someone 50 miles away and expect them to move to you if you aren’t prepared to move to them.

“Be yourself and be honest.

Remember the “rules” may have changed since you were last in the dating game – we may be used to exclusivity early on, that doesn’t seem to be the case now.

I hope these pointers from people who really know what they are talking about are helpful to you.

Understanding that you will have mixed emotions, and that you might need some extra sensitivity and patience from prospective new partners, it’s imperative you pick the right dating site. Some of the more notorious dating platforms that are deemed ‘hook-up’ sites are not the place for you. You need kindness and support.

Old Style Dating’s team go to great lengths to assure respect, honesty and kindness amid its members can be expected. In turn, your honesty about what you want and how you’re feeling as you explore dating again will help both of you know how to proceed.

You’ll know when you feel ready; just don’t be afraid to leave yourself open to love. Your happiness and fulfilment in the future are as important as the memories and love you carry from your past. Accept that both can co-exist in your life.

And you’re worth it.

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