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I'm Afraid of Sharing My Grief With Someone New 

Dear Athena,

My last partner died tragically six months ago, and I am beginning to date again. I am finding it really difficult to figure out the best way to disclose the circumstances under which my last relationship ended; losing my first significant relationship in that way is no doubt a chip on my shoulder. It's impacted me as a person and caused me a tremendous amount of hurt. I met someone recently who I'm excited about. But I'm afraid of scaring them away. They are newly divorced, although under amicable terms. I'm terrified of a new partner being unable to cope with the confusing feelings my former partner's suicide left me with. How can I help them (and anyone else in my future) understand that my heart is open even though I am still grieving?

Signed,

Dating While Grieving

Dear Dating While Grieving,

First, I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. The death of a partner by any means, let alone suicide, is tragic and heartbreaking. I hope you have a solid support system that can provide you with love and guidance when your heart is heavy.

But despite the tragedy, you are putting yourself out there and connecting with people, and that's good. It is not easy, and I applaud both your vulnerability and your sense of self-preservation.

I can understand that you don't want to scare off your date by telling your story. And you don't need to do that right away. But don't keep it to yourself too much longer. When you meet someone new, you both want to get to know each other better, and it's important to be authentic. You happen to be someone who experienced a great loss, and you are grieving. But, as you say, you are also open and eager. You are essentially the same person you were before your former partner's death; you still have the same interests, hobbies and experiences. There's a lot of you to share.

Still, this significant life moment has shaped you, and there is no reason to keep it from someone you care about. If this person returns your feelings, they will want to know.

And, by the way, your new date has also experienced a loss: divorce. Amicable or not, that is a significant life change. So you and your new friend have some common ground, even if the circumstances are different. I'll bet they will have the compassion and maturity to manage your story, just as you will sympathize with theirs.

Grief is hard; there are good days and bad days. But you will not be sad forever. Here's what I think: Life has thrown down a challenge, but in meeting a new person, you both have opened a new door. That means an opportunity to grow and evolve together with a greater perspective than you had before the experiences of loss.

Don't be afraid. Just be honest. Be your best self, navigating the world with fresh eyes and an open heart.

Yours,

Athena

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