Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies

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Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies

One of the most painful events in life is the demise of your spouse. You may feel uncertain if you will survive this overwhelming loss. At times, you may feel like you don’t have the energy or desire to try to heal. You are beginning a journey that is frightening, overwhelming and lonely. This article provides practical suggestions to assist you in moving towards healing in your personal grief experience.

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Allow Yourself to Mourn

Your husband or wife has passed away. This was your companion and confidant, the person with whom you shared your life. It is normal if you feel confused, you have lost a part of yourself. Feeling disoriented is natural when you experience the death of someone you love, live with, and depend on.

Now you are faced with the difficult but important need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the demise of your spouse. It is an crucial part of healing.

Recognize Your Grief is Unique

The grief you feel is unique because the relationship you had with your spouse was exclusive. Your personal experience will be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the demise, other losses you have been through, your emotional support system and your religious background.  You will grieve in your own special way. Don’t compare your experience with others or assume just how long your grief should last. Take your personal healing process “one-day-at-a-time”.

Talk Out Your Thought and Feelings

Express your feelings openly. When you share your grief with others, healing begins. Communicate about the circumstances surrounding the demise, how you feel, and the special things you miss about your spouse. Speak about the type of person your husband or wife was and activities that you enjoyed together.  Remembering memories will bring both laughter and tears. Don’t ignore the grief you are feeling. You are wounded by this loss.  Be sure to speak from your heart. This is a normal part of the grieving journey.

Expect to Feel a Multitude of Emotions

Experiencing the death of your spouse affects your head, heart and spirit, so you may experience a variety of emotions. It is called grief work because it takes a great deal of energy and effort to heal. Emotions such as confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, relief and anger are just a few of the feelings you may have.  These emotions may follow each other within a short period of time, or they may simultaneously occur. These emotions may seem unnatural, but please know they are normal and healthy. Learn from this grief. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at unexpected times. These grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. These attacks are, however, a natural response to the demise of someone dearly loved. Find someone who is caring and understanding to your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

Find a Support System

You may find it difficult to accept support when you are hurting so much.  The most compassionate self-action you can take at this difficult time is to turn to your understanding caring friends and relatives who will give you the support system you need. You may want to find a support group in your area that you might be interested in attending. There isn’t a substitute for learning from other persons who have experienced the demise of their spouse.  Avoid people who are critical to your situation. They may tell you “time heals all wounds” or “you’ll get over it soon” or “keep your chin up.” These comments are probably well-intended, but you don’t have to accept them. Find people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings-both happy and sad. You have a right to express your grief in your own way and no one should take that from you.

Be tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits

The loss and sadness you feel will leave you fatigued. Being overcome with grief can leave you feeling confused and disoriented. Listen to your body and mind  and get daily rest. Try your best to eat balanced meals and lighten your schedule as much as possible.  Don’t place inappropriate expectations on yourself.  Ask yourself: Am I treating myself better or worse than I would treat a good friend? Am I being too hard on myself? You may think you should be more capable, more in control, and “getting over” your grief-this can affect your healing.

Take Your Time With Your Spouse’s Personal Belongings

You are the only one that should decide when and what is done with your spouse’s clothes and personal belongings. Don’t force yourself to go through these belongings, take your time and do this when you are ready. Right now you probably don’t have the energy or desire to do anything with them. Some people will measure your healing by how quickly they can get you to do something with your spouse’s belongings. When you have the energy to go through them you will. Again, only you should determine when the time is right for you.

Be Compassionate With Yourself During Holidays, Anniversaries and Special Occasions

You will find that some days make you miss your spouse more than others. Days and events that held special meaning for you as a couple, such as your spouse’s birthday, your wedding anniversary or holidays, may be more difficult to go through by yourself. These particular events emphasize the absence of your husband or wife. The reawakening of painful emotions may leave you feeling fatigued. Learn from your feelings and never try to take away the hurt. If you belong to a support group, perhaps you can have a special friend stay in close contact with you during these difficult times.

Treasure Your Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after your spouse passes away. Treasure the memories that comfort you, but also explore the ones that trouble you. Share memories with those who support and listen to you. Recognize that your memories may make you very emotional. In either case, they are a lasting part of the relationship you had with the special person in your life. It may be comforting to find a way to commemorate your spouse’s life. If your spouse liked nature, plant a tree in loving memory-a tree you know he or she would have liked. If your spouse liked a particular song, play it often while you embrace some of your favorite memories. Or, you may want to create a memory book of photos that portray your life together. Remember-healing in grief doesn’t mean forgetting your spouse and the life you shared.

Embrace Your Spirituality

Express faith in ways that seem appropriate to you. Put yourself in the company of people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you are angry at God because your spouse passed away, accept this feeling as a normal part of your grief work. Find someone who will listen to your thoughts and feelings.

Someone might say, “With faith, you don’t need to grieve.” This is untrue. Having your personal faith does not mean that you shouldn’t talk out and explore your thoughts and feelings. To deny your grief is to invite problems that will only build up inside you. Express your faith and your grief.

Move Toward Your Grief and Heal

Remember, grieving is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant, as you work to relinquish old roles and establish new ones. No, your life won’t be the same, but you deserve to go on living while always remembering the one you loved.