Finding love after bereavement: what to do when others disapprove

In this article, we will explore what it means to grieve in a healthy way, why some may disapprove of finding new love after a bereavement, and how grief may fuel unhelpful behaviours.


What does 'healthy grieving' mean? 

Healthy grieving means finding a new place in your life for the deceased and is not about forgetting the deceased. More concretely, the aim of healthy grief is not to "get over it", or move on and forget: it is about establishing a new relationship with the deceased. The grief process involves reaching a high-minded spiritual position, becoming glad that the deceased lived and no longer sad that they died, where you can treasure memories as blessings and maintain an enduring connection.

Disapproval of new love

One may look to find new love after a bereavement, though this can come with its own difficulties.  The older we are, the more aware we may become of the fragility of life and the need to make choices that are correct for us, not based on a set of rigid rules and 'shoulds', in order to make the most of the business of living.

Unfortunately, judgmental people can lack compassion, empathy and understanding. Instead, they will often harshly judge the living for finding love again. Sadly, when their 'shoulds' are left unchallenged, a superego state overrides rational thinking and pushes the mind into righteousness and sanctimoniousness. This can lead to a false belief of justification in punishing the living in order to honour the deceased.

Sadly, this is why you may find yourself shunned by family or friends, frozen out, chosen over or, worse still, feel twice the hurt when you find anger projected onto your new partner who will be viewed and defamed as responsible for blocking the grieving process. This twisted truth gives licence to what would, in any other circumstance, be unacceptable, thus making their damaging actions appear acceptable. Control dressed up as care.

Codependency and addiction following bereavement 

We all experience grief differently and for some of us, this means grief may fuel unhelpful behaviours. If we feel overwhelmed with sorrow we may seek solace in alcohol or substance misuse or other forms of escapism in a desperate attempt to numb the painful experience of grief.

The problem with such maladaptive coping mechanisms is they keep you stuck and unable to grieve, emotionally undeveloped, angry and vulnerable; and worst of all, dependent upon those individuals who enable your addiction. Sadly, unhealthy codependent people may display psychopathic tendencies; preferring that you suffer your own existential or physical death rather than witness your restoration to a mentally healthy, whole and flowing individual who is completing the complex tasks of grieving (see Worden and Kubler-Ross) in your own unique way. 

This coercive control may become more obvious when you are rewarded for dependency behaviour, yet pushed away whilst displaying independent behaviours. Perhaps you are at the stage of bereavement where you need to spend time with individuals or groups of people away from those who chose to be there for you during the funeral and other acts around death where saying goodbye naturally felt heartbreaking and overwhelmingly sad. You may feel confused and therefore weakened by this withdrawal of support for daring to govern your own heart and mind. 

The result is, at times, you may unconsciously find yourself needing the approval of these emotionally abusive individuals and will defer to words and behaviour that you do not own in an attempt to pacify and thus regain their approval, love and attention. Trying to cope with any more loss will feel devastating; the reason why you may make several attempts to avoid losing them, even at a heavy price, i.e. the cost of your new relationship. 

Perhaps it is the case that they have not completed their own grieving process over your loss if they were close to the deceased and for this reason, just do not want to like your new partner.

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. 

- Oscar Wilde

Moving forwards

You cannot heal what you cannot feel. Become a spiritual warrior: refuse to engage in trashy talking or gossip about your new loved one in order to try and win the approval of people who have a secondary gain in keeping you stuck and do not care about your well-being or future happiness.  

Ask yourself if your choices are not supported, how do you keep such characters in your life going forwards? Does it feel as if you are being put on trial and found guilty and ashamed of having an affair, rather than simply enjoying a healthy relationship with a new partner? Are you infantilised by these narcissistic friendships and family members? Are you constantly being placed in impossible positions where you are forced to choose between them and your new loved one? 

How can counselling help? 

Working with a counsellor or psychotherapist can help you explore why it might feel like you are grounded by conditional love. It can also help you understand why you may struggle with personal boundaries and how you can build these back up. 

Most of all, remember that the deceased will want you to be happy and fulfilled, not forever flattened and broken and instead of being punished, to find new meaning and appreciate every moment in honour of their memory. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Basildon SS13
Written by Amanda Perl, Psychotherapist Counsellor MSC BACP Accred CBT Practitioner
Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Basildon SS13

I am a BACP Accredited Counsellor and Psychotherapist, a CBT Practitioner and Member of the British Psychological Society. Formerly Course Lead on a BACP Accredited Counselling Diploma. My Private Practice reflects the existential position that each of us is unique with the potential for growth and development and can move forward in our own way.

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