Mourning the Death Of A Spouse
Losing a spouse is one of life’s most heartbreaking events. You may react in a number of different ways: sorrow, fear, even anger (that your husband didn’t look after his health, for example). You can also feel guilty that you have survived, while he hasn’t. You may even feel a certain sense of relief, especially if you have been an in–home caregiver or your spouse has been in a nursing home.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), you may show mourning in other ways, too: You might have trouble sleeping, or lose your appetite, or have difficulty concentrating. Mental-health experts agree that all these feelings and symptoms are normal.
As time passes, your sorrow will likely moderate. (If it doesn’t, talk with your doctor in case you have developed depression.) You will have good days and bad days, the NIA says. Here, the NIA offers tips on how to get through this time in your life:
Look after yourself. Eat right, exercise, and make sure you get enough sleep. Go for your regular doctor visits. Don’t put your health at risk by relying on dangerous crutches like drinking or smoking.
Don’t go it alone. The NIA suggests that you talk to sympathetic family and friends. It’s good to talk with people that will listen to what you say without trying to “fix” your situation.
Join a grief support group. Sometimes the best people to talk to are the ones who are going through the same things you are. Ask community centers, churches, local government agencies and hospitals about support groups.
Don’t make any big decisions. The NIA advises delaying life-changing choices such as whether to move or to try a different job.
Talk with your health care provider. A doctor can refer you to a therapist or counselor. Short-term talk therapy, the NIA says, can help you cope.
Take it one step at a time. Chances are you had some tasks (paying bills, supermarket shopping) while your spouse had others. Having to learn those tasks can be frightening and make you feel even more alone. Or you might need to sort out your spouse’s finances. Try not to be overwhelmed. Write down a plan for what you need to do each day, and start small.
Distract yourself. Volunteer or get a part-time job if you don’t have one, the NIA suggests. You might also want to join a fitness or crafts class at your community center. The NIA also recommends that you think about adopting a pet. If it feels too lonely to eat by yourself at home, ask friends or have a meal at the senior center.
When you are ready, go through your husband’s or wife’s clothes and other personal items. If, like many people, you find it hard to give away your spouse’s belongings, divide them into three piles: one to keep, It may be hard to give away these belongings. Ask your children or others to help.
And don’t feel guilty if you laugh at a joke or enjoy a visit with a friend. You are adjusting to life without your spouse, and you would want the same for him.
Click here to see more advice from the NIA on grieving a spouse.