Healing Resources

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.


In addition to the bereavement services for the families we serve,  we have provided some helpful grief support links below: 

Crisis, Grief and Healing 

Webhealing.com, the first interactive grief website on the internet, offers discussion boards, articles, book suggestions, and advice for men and women working through every aspect of grief. The site’s founder, Tom Golden LCSW, has provided book excerpts and contact information to help those healing from loss.

GriefNet

With nearly 50 internet support groups plus a wide range of online resources, GriefNet provides support for those dealing with all types of loss. Their companion site, kidsaid.com, helps children and their parents deal with grief and loss in an appropriate and safe environment.

Willowgreen   

Willowgreen offers support and information for those dealing with life transition & aging, illness & caregiving, loss & grief, and hope & spirituality.  The site offers advice, products, and inspirational materials.

Grief and Loss   

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) website contains a Grief & Loss section with grief-related articles and information.

Growth House  

Growth House is an award-winning website that offers international resources for life-threatening illnesses and end of life care. The site features hypertext topic pages that explain major issues across the spectrum of hospice and home care, palliative care, pain management, grief, death with dignity, and quality improvement. It also offers disease-specific guides, an online bookstore, and even their own radio station.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization   

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website provides a host of information and resources for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury and their caregivers.

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