Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.
First, let me say that rarely has a two-sentence reply changed so dramatically the direction of a question posed to me. What do I mean?
You originally asked about how long a person should be grieving the loss of a spouse and still have it be normal. After your second question, we see that the question really is NOT about grief. It is about your kids' growing up, not needing your daily involvement as before, and you being uncofident and rusty in being social.
And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. Really, the lack of confidence is in making YOUR self the focus of your life. And there are two parts to that. One is gaining that confidence. And the other is exploring who is this self that is you now.
I want to make sure that your confidence system is in place. Because negative thoughts and blame can sap the confidence out of a person. Confidence is something that comes with experience, like the experience of being whole and at peace with oneself and relaxed. But there's an impossible situation here: how can you have something that comes with experience before you've had experience? Well, you can't. You have to have what is "pre-confidence". What is pre-confidence? The motivation to overcome your nervous jitters and lack of confidence, lack of experience in being a woman in her 40s going out into the world. Motivation is what gets you to get started before you have experience and so before you have confidence. In the realm of feeling whole within ourselves, and complete, we have very little materials in our society for how to instill ourselves with motivation. However, we have a lot of materials for how to have motivation in the business and self help worlds. Fortunately, they're not different in principle. Therefore, I want you to start reading motivational books. You need to see if you can let yourself be inspired by them. These are the best out there! If you can, great. It is not a magic cure, though. It is a way for you to change your mindset from "I can't because I was married for so long and I don't know how to be with another man and I'm not sure I want to risk being taken advantage of and I am unworthy" to "I want to move forward and become the confident person I can be"...
I think very highly of the first book on my list, which is a real classic: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is assertiveness thinking, but it is adult thinking all the way and is the book that has helped more people than probably any other.
The second book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.
You can find both of these books easily on the internet with little investment.
I know you weren't expecting that as part of my answer! But the truth is that you need to let yourself overcome the jitters and the rustiness and the worries that will keep you down. Because you need to model to your kids and to yourself that life is a growing and learning and developing experience. You learn about yourself, you develop yourself. So it's not just starting to go out on dates. You need to develop who you want to be as well. What your interests are, what is important to you. Your values. And reflect those things in your social life: who you seek to meet, where, what you want to do with people.
I wish you the very best!
Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, Dr. Mark