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Dating in itself is difficult enough. But it’s even more challenging when you date during bereavement. If you’re single and have recently lost someone dear to you, it’s entirely your choice whether to actively date. If you do make the choice to pursue a romantic relationship, however, here is some advice.

Express Your Emotions Freely with Your Dates

When you are getting to know someone you’re interested in, it’s natural to want to stay guarded. You may want to show only your “best” side, out of fear of rejection. This may be especially true when you are grieving. But keep in mind that your feelings matter, and you have every right to express them. After suffering a loss, you are probably grappling with some very difficult emotions. Feel free to share your hard feelings, even just a little, with those you date. You may find it relieving, and your vulnerability will help you connect better with your date.

Avoid Pretending

If you act happier than you really are, you are denying your heart the expression that it needs to heal. It’s okay to simply be sad and to look sad (or shell-shocked, as the case may be). Tell your date what is happening. Be well-groomed and polite while out with dates, but don’t pressure yourself into putting on a cheery face when you’re in the middle of grief. Instead, allow your feelings to carry you through. Grief is a very powerful emotion which helps you by allowing you to ride its wave. Give grief the chance to carry you forward and don’t try to control it too much, even if you think you should be more falsely cheery.

Set Reasonable Expectations

Allow your dates and the little romances that are coming back into your life to be simple and light. There’s no need to turn them into something deeper. You may want to fill the void of your loss, but dating for now may need to be a light game, not a heavy one. It may harm your heart, rather than healing and nurturing it. Also, don’t beat yourself up if you discover that you’re just not ready to date yet. As you begin dating after loss, recognize that it might not work out the way you’d like it to. That’s okay. Be patient with yourself.

Give Yourself Time

Sometimes, a loss is so large that we think that we cannot stand to have this gaping hole inside of us. That person filled so much of us and we want to immediately fill that void and stop feeling this enormous gap in our lives. This can make all dating prospects into immediate relationship material, even if they’re not. Sit down, pour yourself a cup of hot tea (or cocoa!) and think about what you want to give yourself. Start filling the gap left by your loved one yourself, rather than depending too much on romantic relationships.

You can get past this and resume a happy and successful dating life after losing a loved one. If you feel you need additional help, seek out grief counseling for young adults. Keep yourself focused on these steps and you’ll find healing and happiness in time.