Ask Me: “My girlfriend died of cancer and I’m not sure if I’m ready to date”

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Q: “I’ve read some of your comments and if you can lend an ear I think that would be great. I feel frustrated that some of my guy friends who have 3-4 girlfriends at once treat women like crap and have nice girlfriends, and here I am single and I am often overlooked. I can say I am a lot more confident than I used to be, but maybe it is because I have been through a lot in my life. I am so fearful of being taken advantage of and it has so far happened twice. I am looking for a girlfriend, and I am looking for a committed relationship. I have never cheated or had sex with random people, and I consider myself to be a nice guy to everyone and respect everyone. I was raised to treat women with even more respect, and I would never hurt and or play games with anyone, especially someone I was romantically involved with.

When I was 19 I was dating my girlfriend for 6 months before she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a terminal stomach cancer. She wanted me to leave and I decided to stay. I cared for her for 6 years before she passed away, and every day was like seeing her live her last day. I had to help her shower, bathe, and get dressed to leave to doctor’s appointments. I also worked full-time, paid the bills and I felt like my life ended when she died. Shortly before she died she was raped by a homeless man and after 2 years, I still feel like a part of me has died and I haven’t been quite the same.

I have though made a lot of changes in my life. Since she passed away I have lost 80 pounds and I have started taking care of my body, and I have been trying to learn how to date again and I am looking for a steady girlfriend. My friends say they see that I am a lot more confident now, and I also recently got a better job to help me get into shape.

I always debate back and forth as to weather or not I am ready to date, but loneliness and being alone gets in the way as to why I am on an online dating site. I don’t want to meet people at a bar, and women getting drunk is not my thing. I met my girlfriend through work but now I work with all guys and it is hard for me to meet women. I have women customers but don’t have the confidence yet to ask them out in person. I also have a hard time seeing if someone is interested in me as a friend, or just buying from me as a customer. My friends say I have nothing to “lose” and I don’t really.

I still get upset and cry from time to time that my girlfriend died, and I think to myself that it would be selfish for me to want to fall in love again but I know I need to move on from this. I am also angry as I did all the right things and she still passed away. If I do meet someone and or go on a date I am always perplexed to talk about my past, because I still get emotional about it. I don’t want that to push anyone away by them seeing me cry so I just shut myself down. If I do meet someone I believe in being friends first, and I would never sleep with anyone just to have sex with them without caring for them beforehand. At the same time I want to be honest, and I am an honest person with everyone and if I bring it up I bring it up, if I don’t I don’t, but I am an outspoken, straightforward and honest person and don’t like hiding things from people. I’ve only been with one person before and my girlfriend had boyfriends in the past, her talking about it with me didn’t bother me but I know it bothers some and I don’t know where to draw the line.

Anyways some advice from you can be greatly appreciated and if not venting just made me feel a little better in itself.”

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A: Wow, that is a lot on your shoulders. I’m sorry to hear for your loss. First and foremost, I think that you need to take care of yourself before seeking out a relationship.

I always debate back and forth as to weather or not I am ready to date, but loneliness and being alone gets in the way as to why I am on an online dating site.

To answer that question, I don’t think you are ready. There is so much going on and I don’t think you’ve fully processed your grieving.

I still get upset and cry from time to time that my girlfriend died, and I think to myself that it would be selfish for me to want to fall in love again but I know I need to move on from this. I am also angry as I did all the right things and she still passed away.

Sometimes, we can’t control the universe. Things happen that can’t be explained, and though it might seem terribly unfair, there are things we need to just leave up to fate. I know it’s hard to view the world in this way after a loss, but trust me, you will eventually move on. It won’t be like this forever, and it is absolutely not selfish of you to want to fall in love again. You deserve to be happy. You know what? I think grief counseling would help you a lot. Please don’t take offense at the suggestion to see a counselor. I don’t know how counseling is viewed where you are from, but where I’m from, it’s pretty common. Here is a place that can help near you*: Contra Costa Crisis Center. If you feel nervous about going to see someone in person, try starting with the hotline: “For immediate, 24-hour phone counseling, call our grief line at 800.837.1818.”

I have though made a lot of changes in my life. Since she passed away I have lost 80 pounds and I have started taking care of my body, and I have been trying to learn how to date again and I am looking for a steady girlfriend. My friends say they see that I am a lot more confident now, and I also recently got a better job to help me get into shape.

It’s great to make positive changes in your life. I am a huge fan of people taking control of their lives and *doing* something to change it for the better, instead of just sitting around and hoping things will just get better without making any effort. Don’t like the way you look? Take better care of your body. Not happy with your grade on a paper? Go talk to the professor and see how you can improve for next time. Upset with a friend who is always talking shit about you behind your back? You don’t have to keep being friends with him. And so on.

I have women customers but don’t have the confidence yet to ask them out in person. I also have a hard time seeing if someone is interested in me as a friend, or just buying from me as a customer. My friends say I have nothing to “lose” and I don’t really.

I don’t know if I agree that you have “nothing to lose.” I’m not sure what line of work you’re in, but it could be considered unprofessional to ask out your customers. It might make them feel uncomfortable, especially if they only want to maintain a professional relationship with you. I would only do this if the woman has made it *very* clear that she wants to date you. If not, then it seems like something that could be risky, because 1) You make her feel so uncomfortable that she never comes back, and/or 2) She gets offended and complains to your boss.

If I do meet someone and or go on a date I am always perplexed to talk about my past, because I still get emotional about it. I don’t want that to push anyone away by them seeing me cry so I just shut myself down. If I do meet someone I believe in being friends first, and I would never sleep with anyone just to have sex with them without caring for them beforehand. At the same time I want to be honest, and I am an honest person with everyone and if I bring it up I bring it up, if I don’t I don’t, but I am an outspoken, straightforward and honest person and don’t like hiding things from people.

This is why it is important to get grief counseling to process your emotions before you start dating. As many nice and caring people there are out there in the world, a person will not want to date someone with too much emotional baggage. When you date someone new, you should be focusing your attentions on *her*, not talking at length about unresolved, lingering feelings from an old relationship, not matter what the circumstances are. She might be sympathetic and listen to you, but when she gets home from the date she’s going to be like, “Wow. He was a nice guy, but I just don’t think he’s in the right place to date me or anyone right now.” She would be right.

So I hope that answers some of your questions, and again, don’t be afraid to seek out help. Dealing with death is not an easy thing to handle, and there is no shame finding someone who knows what they’re talking about to help you process your emotions. Once you have, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you’re ready to find someone new.

*The writer said it was okay to mention his general location.

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Update: The writer responded –

“I went to a grief class for a year and it didn’t help. Not only that I was the only male (I guess men maybe have a hard time expressing themselves than women do) but I was also the only young person. Many of the people I went with were older women in their 80’s. You are right, I am not ready to date again and I keep telling myself that and so do my family and friends, but loneliness and being alone do get in the way, I am not going to lie. Thank you for your help and advice you gave me. I was also disappointed at the grief class because they forced Jesus and their denomination on me. One person said that I couldn’t possibly know what grief was like because I didn’t believe in Jesus.”

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Please don’t give up after bad experiences with one grief class. Finding help with grief or other life problems is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Looking for the right person/people to help you with your problems if kind of like shopping for the right computer or type of jeans. What works for someone else might not work for you. I’ve talked to a lot of people who finally get the guts to find a therapist/counselor/whatever, then have a bad first experience. The person they saw was not helpful, and some were actually unhelpful and made them feel worse about themselves. Please, find someone else. Not all people in the helping professions are actually *good* at helping people, just like not all lawyers are good lawyers, and not all waiters/waitresses have good customer service skills. When you find someone that clicks with you, you’ll know. You should walk out of the meeting/group session feeling more resolved, or at least on the path towards resolution.

And as for this?

I was also disappointed at the grief class because they forced Jesus and their denomination on me. One person said that I couldn’t possibly know what grief was like because I didn’t believe in Jesus.

Fuck that, I say. I have no problems with religious people as long as 1) They do not impose their religion on other people, and 2) They are not harming anyone else with their religion. In this case, I feel like both 1 and 2 were violated. 1) Because they forced it on you, and 2) Because the person who said you couldn’t possibly know what grief is like because you don’t believe in Jesus is WRONG. I could go on and on about things I don’t like about some religious people, but then we’d be here for days. Conclusion: Keep looking for help until you find a person or group who meshes with your values. Don’t throw in the towel after one bad experience. Unprocessed suffering will effect other aspects of your life, not just in your relations with women.





3 Responses to “Ask Me: “My girlfriend died of cancer and I’m not sure if I’m ready to date””

  • interested_reader Says:

    I hate to revisit what is obviously a hugely painful issue for this guy, but this sentence really stuck out:

    “Shortly before she died she was raped by a homeless man”

    Wait, what? How does this happen to someone on their deathbed in a hospital? Or was this before that stage? Either way obviously everything about this story is horrible, except the guy who was wonderful and should add that to why he should be confident on the dating scene now.

  • Emerson Says:

    Find a Catholic girl, specially if she’s at a catholic school. They’re looking for the same thing.

  • Hannah Says:

    Hi,
    I think it’s ok for you to grieve while you date. If you’re lucky you’ll find someone who will be supportive and understanding of your situation. By the sounds of it your ideal girl would be someone who accepts that your still grieving and someone who wants to make you feel alive and happy again, someone who’ll even talk about your past with you and your girlfriend you lost. If you find someone with that sort of quality then you should in time start to feel better about moving on with someone else in turn starting to share your love with another girl. Moving on doesn’t mean you have to completely cut away the past, you’re always going to love your girlfriend who past away and while dating you’ll begin to find girls that accept that and girls who won’t. Personally I’m very open when dating . I’m ill myself so I believe being upfront about my illness before getting into things lets the guy decide whether I’m worth It or not. Life wasn’t supposed to be easy. Good luck
    Hannah tink
    Ps. If you’d like to chat more privately let me know, I’m a good listener!

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