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Coping With The Loss Of A Spouse

An unfortunate reality is that it is most likely that one member of a couple will die before the other, leaving one to grieve for the other. Loss of a spouse is unique in grief as it is the loss of someone you lived your life with. This can be the most painful loss. Losing a spouse leaves what feels like a gaping hole in the life of the remaining partner. The person you saw everyday is no longer there and you are constantly reminded of this by their absence.

Tasks that were done by the deceased now become the responsibility of the surviving partner. Items around the house can be constant reminders of the deceased from simple food items to pictures on the wall. The home that was shared becomes a more difficult place to be. The bereaved often comment how they are happier at work than at home where there are constant reminders of their deceased spouse. Work is sometimes a break from the feelings of grief experienced at home.

Effects of Spousal Loss

Some of the most difficult things about dealing with the loss of a spouse are:

  • Coping with persistent reminders of the deceased spouse
  • Dealing with the spouse’s belongings (clothes, sports equipment, tools etc)
  • Missing that person with whom to discuss decisions
  • Loss of desire to do a hobby you shared
  • Going to bed and waking up alone

IDealing with a spouse’s personal effects is often something that gets pushed back. It is a difficult thing to deal with but can play an important part in the grieving process. In addition, it is a significant undertaking as we have a lot of personal belongings. Clothes, tools, make-up, hobby items etc. Although this is a difficult thing to do, it does help by removing some of the reminders of the deceased and facilitates coping in your home a little easier.

widowed man in a park

Tips on How To Handle the Loss of a Spouse

It will take time

Understand that grief is a complicated emotion and how it affects you is unique to the individual. Loss of a spouse is never easy, so understand that what you are feeling is normal and can last a long time.

Take Care of Yourself

Emotional status has a big effect on your health as it can change your desire for food. Many people lose weight due to the stress and anxiety of the loss of a loved one but it is important to take care of yourself by eating, exercising and sleeping sufficiently or as much as you can. It may be difficult to sleep and food is usually the last thing on your mind but take some time out of each day and make sure you take care of your physical fitness. Drowning your sorrows by drinking to excess is another thing to be avoided for both mental and physical well-being.

Risk of death for the surviving spouse increases significantly during the first three months after loss.


What Should You do if You Are Overwhelmed?

The aftermath of a loss is not to be taken lightly. Research has shown multiple psychiatric disorders have been shown to have increased incidences of occurrence following the death of a loved one. You may feel it is more than you can handle and if you get to this stage, you should seek help. These feelings range from extreme loneliness to depression. There are many places you can turn to for help. Funeral directors are an excellent resource for grief support and will be able to provide local resources to help you out.

Your personal physician will also be able to refer you to support groups and develop the best course of treatment/therapy. Clergy members usually have support group contacts and you should be able to talk to family or friends who can give you support throughout the ordeal. They will most likely be offering to help anyway so don’t be afraid to take them up on their offer. Simply having someone to talk to about it can be a great help.

overwhelmed man sitting at a tree

How Grief Counselling Can Help

Grief counselling can take multiple forms, one-on-one or group sessions.

Regular discussions with a professional grief counsellor or therapist can help people to learn to accept a death, and in time, get to a stage where they begin to live their new life. This can, and most likely will take a long time but if it is necessary to get you to that point, it is worth doing.

Counselling support groups are a group of grieving people and may be led by a professional counsellor, or someone who has gone through the experience themselves. Seeing others go through the same grief and experiences helps those suffering to see a potential future for themselves.

Social Adjustment

After a significant amount of time, you may want to begin socialising. Your social life will most likely change. You may not feel like socializing the same way you did when you were a couple such as couples dining or dancing. However, this may be a good opportunity to take up a new hobby or class. Sometimes a change of scenery can be helpful for you to adjust to living your new life. 

bereaved lady hobby cycling in a park

Spousal Grief & Bereavement

Spousal loss is a life-changing event and should be treated as such. Some people are so weighed down by grief after the loss of their spouse that they cannot move forward with their own life. In this case, the survivor should seek assistance from trained medical professionals and seek support groups where they can discuss their feelings openly and share with others in the same situation. 

grieving woman head in hands

In Conclusion

Spousal bereavement is not something you are expected to get over, however, it is something you can learn to live with and still make the most of your life. Through the use of grief support resources, you can get back to living.

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