There is no easy way to say it: the death of a spouse is a traumatic event. Losing a spouse can completely change your world in every way. It can plunge you into grief, make you feel lonely and alone, and even affect your finances and standard of living.
While everyone will deal with the death of a spouse differently, there are some common concerns that everyone shares when a partner dies. Not only will you deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with losing someone you loved, but you’ll also have to begin to put your life back together. And because the loss of a spouse is different from other deaths, this might mean that you have to recreate a life that looks very different from what you’ve been accustomed to.
Dealing with the Death of a Spouse: Grief
Grieving is the feeling of loss or sorrow when someone you love dies. It can look different in different people. Some cry and withdraw. Others show anger. Still others will show fewer emotions, but their habits will change. Their appetite might disappear or grow bigger than it was before. They might stop sleeping or they might sleep all the time.
However those feelings of grief appear for you, it’s important to acknowledge that there is no one way to feel grief. One expression of grief isn’t better than another. What matters is that you allow yourself to feel those feelings, however they manifest. There is no cure to grief but studies have shown that being present in grief in each of its stages is part of healing.
Dealing with the Death of a Spouse: What to Do
Knowing what to do after a spouse dies can seem impossible. If you discussed end of life decisions or pre-planned their funeral, there can be some comfort in knowing their wishes are being carried out after their death. But if the death was sudden, or if you and your spouse didn’t discuss those issues before their death, the burden you feel to do the “right thing” can be overwhelming.
While everyone’s situations are different, there are some things that generally should be done when someone dies. There are resources here that will help you understand what to do after a loved one dies, before the funeral. And there is information here about what you should do after their funeral.
Dealing with the Death of a Spouse: Taking Care of Yourself
It might seem impossible after the loss of a spouse, but that’s why this is even more important. Taking care of yourself as you grieve the loss of your spouse can help you move through grief and give you strength to carry on after they are gone.
Taking care of yourself can be as simple as getting out of bed in the mornings. Getting ready to face the day can mean taking a shower, maybe fixing your hair or applying makeup, if you did that before your spouse died. If you feel good about the way you look, it makes going out into the world just a bit easier, even when your heart is heavy.
You can also nourish yourself with healthy meals, time with people whose company you enjoy, and proper rest. Spending time in nature is often cited by people experiencing grief as helpful and healing, as is participating in a hobby.
That said, it’s also crucial to be kind to yourself, and to be attuned to your own needs. If you are overwhelmed and need time to journal, read, or talk with a therapist, it’s vital to take that time. Balance here is important. Do your best to spend time with others as well as with yourself, and pay attention to how you feel during these different activities. As often as you can, opt for time and activities that make you feel healthy and connected.
Dealing with the Death of a Spouse: Wisdom from Others
Sometimes it helps to know that others have felt what we’re feeling now. This is why quotes about death and the loss of a spouse can be so powerful. They remind us that others have endured the pain you’re feeling and have come through that grief. While these quotes cannot fix everything, they can offer a bit of comfort as you begin to live your life after the death of your spouse.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ― Thomas Campbell
“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” – Unknown
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we deeply love becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch.” ― Jack Thorne
“Here is one of the worst things about having someone you love die. It happens again every single morning.” —Anna Quindlen
“Don’t tell me that you understand. Don’t tell me that you know. Don’t tell me that I will survive, that I will surely grow. Don’t come at me with answers that can only come from me. Don’t tell me that my grief will pass, that I will soon be free. Accept me in my ups and downs. I need someone to share. Just hold my hand and let me cry, and say, ‘my friend, I care.’” —Unknown
“Should you shield the valleys from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their canyons.” —Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
“She was no longer wrestling in the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” —George Eliot
Dealing With the Death of a Spouse: Getting Help
Getting help after a loss so huge looks different for different people. Some might visit with a therapist or grief counselor periodically while some might start weekly appointments. Others might seek help online rather than in person.
However that looks for you, it’s important that you let others help you during this time. Let someone help you with household chores, especially those your spouse once did. Let someone bring you dinner. And let yourself confide in a professional who can help you navigate this new reality.