‘Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m 25 and I’ve just lost my mum to cancer’

I’m trying to become more comfortable in myself and come to terms with the loss of Mum

Being in your 20s is hard. You’re simultaneously trying to start your life, build a career, maintain a good balance between work and play, all while trying to figure out who you are.

And that’s before you throw romance into it. Romance makes everything infinitely more complicated, something that I know a lot about.

I’ve been single for a year now. I became single just as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she passed in February of this year. Apart from being incredibly traumatic, losing a parent to cancer tends to put your life on pause. Work, your social life and dating all grind to a halt. Add to that anxiety and depression and you’ve got me – the girl with “a lot going on”.

Having anxiety and depression means that I live in my head a lot. I question myself constantly, beating myself up for being alone despite the fact I have a good reason for it. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to bring up on a date. Nobody really wants to have to say: “Hi, I’m Rachel, I’m 25 and I’ve just lost my mum to cancer.”


It’s a lot to handle for anyone, let alone somebody you’ve just met.

Yet, mental illness is fickle and so I convinced myself over Christmas that I was ready to enter the dating world again by reinstalling Tinder. Part of this was nosiness. Being home for Christmas meant I could have a look at who in my primary school is still single and what they look like 15 years on from when I last saw them. It turns out none of them were around, but my neighbour who I'd known from a young age was single. I swiped left. Nobody who knew me during my Harry Potter phase could be trusted as a romantic partner.

When your mother has just died, you can't just dump that on every single person you come across on Tinder

I continued to use the app when I went back to Dublin, trying to market myself as a somewhat sane 25-year-old woman. The results were mixed with some men just looking for a quick hook-up while others simply weren’t interested. My favourite was the man who told me that asking about his job was a very personal question. He then preceded to ask me did I want to have sex with him.

I politely declined.

Eventually, I did start chatting with someone I liked. He seemed nice and we spoke for a few days before he asked me out for a drink. I said yes and we arranged it. But something was nagging at me. I pride myself on being open. I don’t hide what I’m feeling or what’s happening to me at any given time because if everything is out there, then nobody can use it against me.

However, when your mother has just died, you can’t just dump that on every single person you come across on Tinder. But I know that I have to tell people I have the potential to become romantically involved with, and that is not an easy conversation to have. Some people overreact, saying how awful it must be and try to fix it even though they can’t. Others don’t react at all and just ignore it entirely. I’m honestly not sure which is worse.

I was not ready

As the date came closer, I realised that I was not ready to have this conversation yet. I wasn’t ready to open myself up to someone I didn’t know because I felt that I had to give them all of me so they could decide if they wanted me or not. I realised that being in a relationship wasn’t going to fix things. It wouldn’t fix my depression nor make me like myself. In fact, there was a strong possibility that it could just make things more complicated. And my life is complicated enough as it is.

Opening yourself up over and over again is tiring and it harms your mental health. I know that I’ve used my mother as a defence, to say that anyone who can’t cope with me in the midst of my grief doesn’t deserve me. I’ve used it to say that if nobody can “handle” me, then fine, I’m happy to be alone. Yet as I see so many of my friends, colleagues and strangers in happy relationships, I begin to wonder if I’ll ever be happy at all.

Hard work

Not having something means it’s easy to overestimate the importance of it. I know that I’m over-romanticising what it’s like to be in a relationship. They’re hard work and require patience and energy, things that I don’t have an abundance of currently. I know that for my own sake, I need to be selfish and look after myself. This means sacrificing dating and meeting new people. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. That being said, some nights I do wish I had someone to lie to me for a little while and tell me everything is going to be okay.

But life doesn’t work like that and so I cancelled the date, giving an honest reason and deleted Tinder from my phone.

I haven’t sworn off dating entirely, but I’m not actively looking for it either. I’m trying to become more comfortable in my own skin and come to terms with the loss of Mum.

I’ve all the time in the world for romance but right now, I need to look after me.