Surviving the Death of Your Spouse — 8 Tips to Help

beauty girl cryby Cathy Neville, LPC, and Aisha Simmons on July 21, 2014 in Grief and Loss

You’re a survivor.

I know it doesn’t feel like it right now.

The road ahead seems muddled with memories and unfamiliar turns.

You want a hand to hold, but the hand you’re used to holding just isn’t there.

It’s true; the solitary quiet of a new life without your spouse doesn’t feel like life as you know it.

But try hard to keep going. Life still holds so much for you.

Survival begins with a decision to live.

It means taking a deliberate breath, as painful as it may be.

It means courageously deciding to see what the next moment holds.

You can make it.

Here’s how to begin:

  1. Go slow. Avoid major decisions. Problem solving is often difficult during periods of extreme loss. Don’t relocate, sell assets, or exercise major financial options until you grow more accustomed to life on your own. It’s okay to give yourself time to adjust. Ask for help from a trusted friend or loved one with decisions that must be made quickly.
  2. Don’t Detach. Be with people. Consider a pet. Resist isolation.
  3. Mourn your own way. Honor your unique grieving process. Go “there”: feel the pain, cry the tears, don’t hide it. Don’t let other’s perceptions or discomfort guide your grief. Your intimate relationship with your spouse demands that you grieve your way, in your own time.
  4. Ensure emotional help. Things are different now. Your emotional equilibrium has shifted. Perhaps your emotional energy has been poured into months of caregiving and you’re now feeling listless and empty. Maybe you’ve spent so much time managing the shock of your spouse’s sudden loss that you’re now struggling to find peace. Your emotional wellbeing is critical to your ability to move forward. Seek out a therapist or support group who will walk alongside you and help see you through.
  5. Procure practical help. The life you shared was a combination of shared tasks, cooperative chores, and little favors you did for each other. You may start to feel the impact of your loss in new ways as you begin to manage your everyday life alone. Reach out for help. Running errands, household repairs, and meal preparation don’t have to be a burden. You’re not as alone as you may feel. You’ll see that people are looking for ways to be there for you.
  6. Manage memorabilia. The memories of your married life will never be forgotten, but you may find it cathartic to let go of your spouse’s personal possessions in the effort to ease your grief. Think special photos rather than a closet full of clothes. Consider keeping a bottle of your spouse’s favorite scent instead of maintaining his or her bathroom drawer of toiletries. Gifting or donating items can be an incredibly helpful way to reduce the number of grief triggers you’ll have to encounter every day.
  7. Pursue a passion. Allow yourself an enjoyable, gratifying mental break. Throw yourself into your hobbies or long-desired interests. You needn’t feel selfish or anxious about reengaging in these activities. It’s okay to permit yourself some time to enjoy life again and acknowledge your new identity.
  8. Reinvest your heart. You can go on, you can survive this. If you allow new relationships to form and old relationships to flourish, you can also be happy again. Remember, it is possible to honor your previous life while moving forward. You don’t have to sacrifice your future happiness to honor the past.

Be encouraged to live the full life your spouse would have wanted for you.

Grieve well. Reach out.  Breathe in each day deliberately until life is good again.

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