Earlier this month Barbara Want, the widow of broadcaster Nick Clarke, revealed in the Mail how she began a relationship with a new man just five months after the death of her husband from cancer, but admitted she struggled hugely with feelings of guilt as a result.Golfer Darren Clarke found happiness with a new partner just four months after the death of his wife Heather from breast cancer, while Nigella Lawson moved in with Charles Saatchi nine months after losing her husband John Diamond.The question of whether you can put a timespan on grief is especially pertinent for Michelle Heidstra.
'Of course, I understand why people might be scandalised,' she says quietly. I didn't for a second imagine falling in love again - ever. 'At first Jon's friend, Adrian, was just a link to Jon. But when your emotions are so raw, inhibitions fall away. Divorced and with a young son, Michelle was wary of embarking on a new relationship. He would rush to open car doors and insisted on paying when we went out for dates.‘However, his wife, to whom he was happily married, only died a few months ago. Hopeful Girl, how soon do you think is too soon to start dating after being widowed?’ Once, when I was bemoaning my single status, someone tried to reassure me that ‘the widowers are now starting to come back on the market’. However, as we get older, people increasingly find themselves single again after the death of a spouse – and, in fact, I ended up dating a lovely man who’d lost his wife to breast cancer four years earlier. It’s dangerous to start making rules about when a widow or widower will be ready for a new relationship, as every situation is unique.A post-mortem examination later classed the cause of death as Sudden Adult Death Syndrome - a fatal disturbance in the heart's rhythm, which can strike at any age, and which can affect even fit and healthy people. It was a dilemma, but in the end I decided to say yes, if only for a couple of hours away from being sad, in the company of someone who made me laugh.I handled my twinges of guilt that it was too soon by reminding myself that Neil would not have wanted me to be alone.