Glossary of Terms

How To Deal With Grief After Losing A Spouse

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By: Jackie Walters


The depression and anxiety that can set in after the loss of a spouse can be devastating, and most of us don’t know quite how to deal with those feelings, especially when they hang around for weeks or even months. Losing a spouse is difficult for everyone, but for seniors the experience is a little different, as they are entering a stage of life that makes leaning on a lifelong companion a comfort. Because everyone copes with grief differently, there’s no one way to handle it; knowing what works best for you is important for you to be able to heal.

 

It’s also important to understand that grief and sadness take a while to come to terms with. Many people still feel an acute sense of loss 18 months after losing a loved one, although those feelings tend to abate soon after that. The key is to remember that you will begin to feel better after some time has passed, and that those feelings won’t last forever.

 

Here are some of the best ways to cope with grief and sadness.

 


Be kind to yourself

 

It’s important not to place any expectations on yourself during this time. Everyone grieves differently, and although there are typically five stages of grief that most people experience – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – you may feel a completely different range of emotions, or they may come in a different order. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s normal after the loss of someone who was close to you. You may feel angry at your spouse for leaving you, or wish it was you instead of them. Allow yourself to have those feelings and try not to place limits on yourself. Grief is unique to each and every person.

 

Don’t keep it inside

 

Find ways to express your feelings. Keeping your emotions bottled up, either because it’s painful to talk about your loss or because you don’t want to burden anyone with your grief, can make the process worse. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, consider seeking a counselor or therapist who specializes in grief, or join a grief support group. Or, if that’s not right for you, keep a journal and write in it daily. Being able to get your thoughts out onto paper can be extremely helpful.

 

Stick to your routine

 

It might seem difficult or impossible, but sticking to your normal routine can help you cope with your feelings a little better. Try to do something productive every day; make a piece of art, clean a room in the house, or go for a long walk with the dog. In fact, spending time with animals can be very helpful during this time, as they can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can be hard to stick to your routine if your spouse was the one who kept things in order by cleaning the house, staying on top of bills, or keeping up the yard. Don’t shy away from hiring help to get your life back to normal whether that is hiring a housekeeper or caregiver. You might ask a trusted family member to help with the financials and ensure you don’t miss a payment.

 

Take care of yourself

 

Grief and sadness can make you feel like all you want to do is sleep, or you might feel like you never want to sleep again. Your eating habits will change, your stress levels will fluctuate, and your moods might make you feel like you don’t even know yourself. This is all normal, but everyone copes with these things differently, and it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with them. Turning to alcohol to “numb the pain” might seem like a good idea at the time, but alcohol only makes things worse when the effects wear off. Instead, turn to exercise or volunteer at a local charitable organization. Use this difficult period in your life to grow closer to your children and grandchildren - who will be sure to put a smile on your face; or seek the solace of friends. This too shall pass, but you must take of yourself while it does.


As the planning begins, you may be introduced to new words and terms that are associated with the funeral planning process. We have provided a quick glossary for your reference.

Arrangement conference – The meeting with the funeral director in which you discuss your wishes for the funeral and the disposition of the body

Burial – Also called interment, earth burial at a cemetery is the most traditional method for final disposition of the body

Celebrant – A person who provides personalized services to a family to create a meaningful ceremony or ritual during a life transition

Columbarium – An above-ground structure for final disposition of cremated remains

Committal service – A brief graveside ceremony held with the casket or urn present before it is lowered into the ground

Cremation – A form of disposition that involves reducing the body through intense heat to cremated remains

Crypt – An above ground burial site in a mausoleum

Direct cremation – Cremation without a funeral or memorial service

Embalming – A method of preserving the body for a number of days following the death, allowing the family to view the body and hold the funeral service on a day that is convenient for out-of-town friends and relatives

Entombment – Placement of the casket in an above-ground structure called a mausoleum

Funeral – The ceremony that honors the end of a person’s life

Grave liner – An unlined outer burial container

Honorarium – The fee typically paid to a clergyperson or celebrant for officiating the funeral ceremony and to musicians or soloists for their contributions

Mausoleum – A small building in a cemetery that is like a burial plot above the ground

Niche – One of a number of recesses in the wall of a columbarium where the urn containing cremated remains is placed

Obituary – A notice in the newspaper that announces the death to the community, summarizes the person’s life and invites readers to attend the funeral and/or make memorial contributions in the name of the person who died

Pallbearers – The people who carry the casket from the ceremony to the hearse and from the hearse to the gravesite

Urn – A small vase-like container specially designed for holding cremated remains

Vault – A concrete or metal container into which the casket is placed before burial at a cemetery

Visitation – A scheduled time for family and friends to see the person who died, perhaps for the final time

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