There are so many ways for it to come up.
He asks about my tattoo- what it says, what it means. He asks why I moved to Nashville. He asks what I do for work, or what I dream to do one day. He asks about my family. He casually text “How are you doing today?” on the anniversary of my mom’s death. (This really happened!) It all leads back to my mom. And what if I’m not ready to tell this story? To a stranger, no less?
I’m talking first dates, loves. Dating in the midst of the grieving process can be SO HARD.
I’ve been going on a lot of first dates lately, and every time the moment in which the “losing my mom” thing would naturally come up… I freeze. I don’t know whether to tell them that she died… or whether to change the subject…. focus on a different angle to answering the question… or… you get what I mean.
It’s daunting to bring it up at first. It’s not exactly light and flirty conversation, now, is it?
There’s more than just one simple reason why I would be willing (or not willing) to talk about it. Sometimes I’m just not mentally prepared to have that conversation, or it doesn’t feel like we’re there yet. Sometimes it’s about me, and sometimes it’s about him. I’ve had first dates where it came up, and we had an amazing conversation about her and my experience losing her. I’ve had first dates where I literally said “that’s a conversation for another time.”
But I don’t want to hide it- losing my mom isn’t something to be ashamed of. And I don’t want her to be brushed off or glossed over, so I want to speak about her in the right time and place. She continues to be one of the most important people in my life. And if someone is going to love me, they are going to need to love the memory of my mom, too.
When the subject of Mom starts to approach, my thought process goes a little something like this:
“Damnit this is totally going to kill the mood… and take over our conversation…
“Will this scare him away?!
“Oh my god now he’s going to think I’m complicated…
“Or crazy, please don’t think I’m crazy…
“What if I bring it up and he doesn’t care enough? Like I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I hope he reacts kindly…
“Not that I want to be pitied dear LORD, I’m a strong independent lady!
“Do I just not bring it up? Is this technically second date talk?
“Maybe I should steer the conversation a different way…
“Oh NO but I don’t want to hide her, she’s not an embarrassing secret! Love you mom!”
Let’s be honest, usually bringing it up goes JUST FINE. You shouldn’t even BE on a first date with someone who isn’t going to be sweet right off the bat.
You must feel your way through every new circumstance. The hamster wheel of anxious thoughts may never go away, but we can learn to quiet our minds and simply think “I will be open if I feel comfortable.”
Losing my mom is not the big confession. So what’s so scary?
Well… It is an admission that my life has been really hard and sad for awhile now. It’s an admission that I’m a little messy. It’s presenting a part of me that I will continue to struggle with for the rest of my life. It’s also a topic of conversation that requires a lot out of me, emotionally. It’s a balancing act, toeing the line between vulnerability, honesty, and openness and my natural tendency towards privacy, strength, and guardedness.
I’m ready to get to the place where my thoughts leading up to the conversation are simply “I’ll be open if I feel comfortable.”
This journey of grief that I’ve been on, it’s made me a better person. Losing my mom has made me softer, kinder, braver, and more grateful. I never wanted to be like this, but I am thankful for who I have become through it all. And now my instincts are better than ever, I can tell whether someone will be a good partner to me more quickly than I ever could before.
We ought to be empowered by what we bring to the table as grieving twenty-somethings. Our experiences in life have created wonderful, strong, capable human beings. And if they can’t deal, then they aren’t ready to bask in the light you shine.
All my love to you.
So tell me, what are your experiences with dating and the grieving process? Send your best stories to me on the contact page, I know you’ve got them!
A huge thanks to Stevie, Tessa, and Deshawn for giving me their thoughts on this topic!! I love hearing what is most personal is most universal.
Stevie: When entering the dating world, I see hardship as a blessing, an easy way to weed out the losers early on. If you can’t handle my complicated past, then “see ya!” because life is always complicated. :)”
Tessa: I always found it so interesting how older people bring up tragedy with such ease, I think because by that point, their peers have most likely all experienced something similar But our age group avoids talking about anything like it because we don’t know how yet. It’s hard to have conversations without it getting awkward. Ultimately you’re there on a first date so you want to be able to enjoy that!
Deshawn: I guess I would say it truly depends on the person and their energy and how comfortable I feel telling them very personal things.