When you lose a partner, you experience a unique, unexplainable pain that seems unending. Just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day becomes an overwhelming challenge.
In a room full of people, you feel alone and separate.
Well-meaning friends tell you that they know how you feel, because they’ve lost a parent, grandparent, or sibling. They don’t understand the difference―that you lost your other half, your best friend, maybe the parent of your children, the likely person with whom you planned to spend the rest of your life. You have not only lost your spouse, but also the future that you planned for.
Others may compare your loss to divorces or relationships that have ended, not realizing that they can still see and talk to their former partners. They may continue to share parenting. They may even have hopes of reuniting. For you, none of those things will ever be possible. In addition, you may grieve for your children who will never again have an opportunity to be parented by your partner, unlike children whose parents have separated who can still have a relationship with the other parent.
Healing from the grief of the death of a spouse can last many years.
Although you may at times feel better and go about daily life, you may revisit strong feelings of grief. You may even feel that life is not worth living. In the midst of what may be the most intense emotional experience of your lifetime, you may also face:
- Change of identity and social isolation – You may suddenly feel alone socially because you are not included in the world made up of couples.
- Feeling of being disenfranchised – If you were not legally married, or perhaps a gay couple, people may not give significance to your relationship, and therefore to your loss.
- Loss of dreams – Plans and dreams you made as a couple may no longer fit or be possible.
- Financial loss – With the earning power of one person instead of two, maintaining your former lifestyle may be difficult.
- Increased family and household responsibilities – If you have children at home or work commitments, you may experience pressure to “get on with things.”
- Increased vulnerability to health problems – Grieving will leave you tired and exhausted, thus making you more susceptible to illness. (If you have suicidal thoughts or find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your pain, call a healthcare professional, family member or friend for help.)
Experiencing these dramatic changes in your life may result in:
- Feelings of sadness, despair, emptiness, anger, depression or guilt
- Restlessness and sleep problems
- A sense of inadequacy and concerns about health and well-being
In the midst of these changes, realize that you will heal.
You can put your life back together again.
What can you do to put your life back together? How do you pick up the pieces and go forward? It may not feel like this is possible, but there is hope. Although you can’t have your old life back the way it once was, you can build a new one.
You will never forget the partner that you lost, nor would you want to. Moving on doesn’t mean leaving your loved one behind or forgetting that the person ever existed. It means moving forward and bringing the memories of your loved one with you, but moving forward just the same.
You can work through your grief.
You can’t go over, under, or around grief. Working long hours or keeping constantly busy doesn’t prevent the misery – it just delays your healing. The only way to work through the many complex feelings of grief is to experience the pain of your loss.
You may find it easier to allow others to help you heal.
Support groups can be found through churches, hospitals, social service organizations, and funeral homes. If you’re not ready to join a support group, WidowedNet; GriefNet; Grief, Loss and Recovery; and ChapterTwo offer online support and a way to communicate with other individuals who have lost partners via message boards.
Also, your local hospice has support groups that provide a safe place where you can talk about your grief and be listened to with compassion. I have found that people who participate in these groups are often able to heal and to adjust to their new lives more quickly.
Adapted from HealthAtoZ by Diane Griffith
Provided by Gerard’s House, a grief support center for children, teenagers and their families in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more information please contact us at (505) 424-1800 or gerardshouse.org.
This article was published in “The Grieving Heart,” written and edited by Bob Dorsett, LLC, www.silentseas.net