Terri Irwin is not looking for love. As the widow of Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin told People, “I’ve already had my happily ever after.”
The 53-year-old wildlife expert is starring in a new Animal Planet television show premiering on Super Bowl Sunday. It follows her, daughter Bindi, 19, and son Robert, 14, as they work at the Australia Zoo and their conservationist organization Wildlife Warriors.
On the subject of finding love again 11 years after zookeeper Steve died after being stabbed by a stingray in 2006 in the Great Barrier Reef, Terri told People, “I think it’s wonderful when people who have lost someone find love again, but I’m not personally looking, and I haven’t been on a date in 27 years. In fact, it’s been so long, I’ve had a couple of lovely women ask me out because they figured that’s the case. But I’m content. I have two beautiful kids, a really full plate. I’ve already had my happily ever after.”
Terri and Steve married in 1992, after dating for eight months while Terri was an American tourist in Australia, and the pair devoted their lives to animals, opening a wildlife park, and creating the docuseries The Crocodile Hunter.
Since Steve’s death, Terri has kept his memory alive by connecting to fans, posting about him on social media, and running the family businesses in his honor.
In 2016, rumors swirled that Terri was dating Russell Crowe, but she squashed them by telling Access Hollywood Live that the actor was just a friend.
Terri also explained why she wasn’t interested in relationships. “I haven’t dated anyone in the 10 years since we lost Steve just because I feel a connection still with Steve,” she said. “You know when you take those vows and say, ‘We’ll be together as long as we both shall live,’ I really don’t think I would’ve married if I hadn’t met Steve. And he’s very special to me and continues to be. And I’ve got beautiful kids and a lot of wonderful conservation work, so I’m lonely for Steve but I’m not a lonely person.”
Bindi backed up her mom’s stance by telling US Weekly, “My beautiful mom, she is very much still married to Dad.”
According to clinical psychologist Therese Rando, author of How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies, grief doesn’t look the same for everyone.
“A person may understand logically that their spouse has died, but it can take years to learn what that truly means,” Rando tells Kasy Tech Lifestyle. “The issue is often not ‘moving on’ but rather reconciling where to relocate the love that remains and develop a new relationship with the person who has passed.”
That can be more difficult when a spouse dies suddenly, like Steve did, when there’s little time to prepare for life without them. “As humans, we don’t deal much with permanent goodbyes,” says Rando. “Terri had to learn the reality of her loss by bumping up against the world in Steve’s absence. That takes time.”
It’s also common for widows and widowers to feel hesitant about dating again for fear of emotionally betraying their spouses, not mourning them with respect, or losing an emotional connection. For someone like Terri, whose public persona is so entwined with Steve’s memory and her life’s work based on continuing his legacy, dating may seem that much more unappealing.
There’s no specific timeline for whether someone is able to find love again after the death of a spouse. “There are cultural, generational, and idiosyncratic factors at play,” says Rando. “For example, how a person is psychologically hardwired, whether they have children with their loved one, the amount of social support, and even the nature of the death — sometimes shame around a crime-related death can impact the mourning process.”
Rando emphasizes that it’s impossible to know from a sound bite whether Terri has done the hard work of healthy grieving or if she’s unable to make the shift from a physical relationship to one that’s abstract in nature. Rando says, “Terri may genuinely channel fulfillment from keeping Steve alive through her work.”