Dating as a Young Widow

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

In this powerful blog, Jess shares her experience of losing her partner Max, and explains what dating while grieving has been like for her.

“Even though the thought of you being with someone feels impossible to imagine, I want that for you. I want you to have an easy and happy life” said Max, a few days before he died. 

My relationship with Max

I find it difficult to put into words what Max meant to me, maybe because we mostly showed our love for each other through our actions. Although I was technically Max’s carer, he was also mine. We gave each other absolutely everything, kept each other going, and grabbed every opportunity we could through his four years of treatment. We found joy together even in the worst of times.

I lost Max to cancer in July 2021, we were 28 years old. We had been married for nine days and in each other’s lives for over nine years. Our civil partnership took place at St Peter’s Hospice, where I wheeled him through a room bursting with flowers that our friends had sent. Although that marked the official partnership, I always considered our day to be the thrown-together garden party with all of our closest friends a year before, which ended with us dancing around our kitchen, Max stomping his feet on top of the table with his arms thrown around his friends – a common occurrence. It remains one of my fondest memories. 

When we met at university, I instantly liked him, also found him slightly annoying, but that was part of his charm. He was honest, charismatic, full of integrity and I found him hilarious. I wanted to be around him all the time. People were drawn to him, he had so many friends, and was so loved. I quickly realised why. 

Our relationship was founded on friendship, which, I think, is why it was so strong. When he was diagnosed, there was no doubt in my mind that we would tackle it together. And I was (quite literally) by his side through the whole thing, right to the end. 

The first relationship after Max

After Max died, my body reacted in lots of weird ways. One thing that was surprising was the strong urge to have sex again. Along with that came overwhelming guilt. I now know that this is actually very common because, put simply, it makes you feel alive. 

I remember Googling ‘How long should you wait to have sex after a partner’s death?,’ the results said two years. I thought to myself ‘what the hell am I going to do for two years?!’ I waited four months. 

A few weeks later, friends had set me up with someone who had been told about my ‘situation’. He was lovely, funny, and I instantly fancied him. We did shots at the bar and went back to mine. I remember being nervous about being intimate with someone again, but in reality it was easy and felt natural. Soon, our ‘casual’ relationship developed into something more intense. We couldn’t get enough of each other. He was very different to Max in many ways and so was our relationship. We had complete freedom to do whatever we wanted – something that was taken from me and Max so early on. 

The hard parts of dating after loss

But it did come with complications. I was worried about entering a relationship so soon after Max. I also judged myself. I was nervous about what people would think and wanted to protect them – I knew it would be a harsh reminder that Max wasn’t here anymore. So I tried to juggle my life with Max, which I wanted to hold onto so badly, as well as my new relationship. I would often wake up next to my new boyfriend crying from a dream I had about Max. He would hold me until I fell back asleep, having him next to me gave me solace. 

It only lasted 10 months, but our connection felt a lot deeper than that. He ended our relationship quite unexpectedly and the break up completely floored me – it felt like another huge loss. My body even reacted in the same way – weight loss and traumatic dreams. I had been distracted from my grief and it hit me all at once – I finally felt the reality of being on my own. 

So, Google, I disagree. I don’t think there is a ‘recommended’ timeline for a new relationship. It’s different for everyone. But, I think if I had waited a bit longer, the break up would’ve been easier to take. I spent a long time thinking about why the relationship had ended, regretting not trying harder, or thinking what could’ve happened if we’d met at a different time. 

From this relationship I learnt that my love for Max doesn’t hold me back from loving someone new. A widow friend of mine once described relationships after loss like ‘having two children, you don’t love one more than the other – there is space for both’. 

My approach to dating now

Then came the casual dating, followed by very different challenges. 

When I meet someone new, I often find myself lying about large chunks of my life. I don’t want to share Max’s story with someone who I may not even see again. I wear a wedding ring, I have photos of us in my house – he is part of me. 

If I do tell a date about Max their reactions are mostly apologetic. Someone once said I reminded them of their mum, who was also a widow, which didn’t exactly make me feel sexy! But he also, actually, understood my grief better than anyone else I’ve dated. 

I also find there is much more at stake when things go wrong – a bad date can make me feel horrendous. I went through a phase of sleeping with different men because I liked waking up next to someone. And sometimes I just want to have fun and, after everything, I know I deserve that. 

All these experiences have shown me that I’m a good partner, and I know that I’ll share that again with someone someday. 

Advice for dating while grieving

  • Listen to yourself and your feelings. If you feel like you are ready to date, you probably are – each person is different. But remember: it can be more difficult to deal with things when they go wrong. 
  • Try things out when you’re feeling in a good place and recognise when you’re not. Take things at your own pace. 
  • I tend to not tell people about Max on a first date, especially if I don’t think I will see them again. But in my experience, it naturally comes up, and sometimes feels like more hard work trying to avoid the subject. If I feel comfortable enough with a person and I think I’ll see them again, I usually share this with them early on. 
  • Try not to feel guilty. But it’s really hard! Remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. And ultimately the people around you want that too.

Jess Herrick

If Jess’ story resonates with you, we’d love to see you at a meet up soon. You can find your local group here. If you’d like to share your story, please email