Overcoming Mental Agony After the Death of a Spouse

Overcoming Mental Agony After the Death of a Spouse

Losing your spouse is one of the most devastating events that one can live through, whether it is sudden as with an accident or expected as with a long illness.

You’ve lost your partner, your best friend, your equal, the witness to your life.  There are no words that can be said that provide any solace, we understand that.

Here, however, are some of the things that you may be experiencing as you move through this very sad life passage.

Everything you are feeling is normal

That’s right.

From grief to anger to denial and back around again, every single emotion you are feeling following the death of your spouse is absolutely normal.  Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

The numbness? Those mood swings?  The insomnia? Or, conversely, the desire to sleep constantly? 

The lack of appetite, or the non-stop eating?  Perfectly normal.

Do not burden yourself with any judgement calls.  Everyone responds to grief in their own, unique way, and every way is acceptable.  

Be gentle with yourself.

Surround yourself with the support of your family and friends

Most people who have lost a spouse find that allowing themselves to be carried by the grace and generosity of their friends and family is not only helpful, but essential.  

Do not feel ashamed by the full display of your sadness and vulnerability at this time.  People understand that this is incredibly difficult.

They want to be able to wrap you with love, listening, and whatever you need to make it through this time.

You may hear some well-meaning platitudes that make you angry

Lots of people don’t know how to address death, or are uncomfortable around someone who has lost a spouse.  You may find that even your best friend is reluctant to bring up the topic.

They may not know what to say, or fear saying something that will upset you further. 

Statements like “he’s in a better place now, “ or “at least he is out of pain”, or “It’s God’s will” may be annoying to hear.  Few people, unless they are clergy members or therapists, are skilled at saying just the right thing in situations of loss.

Still, if someone says something that you find inappropriate, you are perfectly within your rights to tell them that what they have said isn’t very helpful for you to hear.  And if you find that someone you would’ve expected to have been there for you at this critical time but they just didn’t show up? If you feel strong enough, reach out and ask them to step up and be present for you.

“I really need some support from you right now and I’m not feeling it.  Can you tell me what is going on?” may be all that friend needs to hear to get them to put away their discomfort and be there to help you through this, is this.

Be mindful of your physical health

Be mindful of your physical health

Grief can have you throw every great habit out the window:  your healthy diet, your daily workout, your moment of meditation.  

You may feel zero motivation to tend to those rituals.  But please do continue taking care of yourself, as remaining well-nourished, this is why people bring food over during the grieving period, be well-rested and incorporate at least a little exercise into your day as it is important to keep your inner balance.

There is so much good support out there

Just seek and you shall find. 

It may be very comforting to interact with others in your same situation, if only to validate your own feelings and see how other people move through their grief. 

From online internet forums to widow/widowers’ support groups, to individual counseling, there is an array of therapy available to you.  The camaraderie that forms in bereavement groups, while not replacing your spouse, can help ease your feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Restructuring your social life

It may be awhile before you feel like socializing and that is fine.

It may be that you are not comfortable attending functions where there are exclusively couples, as you aren’t quite sure how you now fit in to your old social landscape. 

You are within your rights to refuse any and all invitations with a simple “No thanks.  I’m not ready yet. But thank you for thinking of me.” If being in groups of people puts you ill at ease, suggest to friends that you meet one on one for coffee.

When it seems like all you do is grieve

In the immediate aftermath of your spouse dying, it is perfectly normal to grieve nonstop. 

But if you find that you cannot seem to get out from beneath the sadness, depression and lack of will to do anything, it may be time to seek some help from an outside expert.  How do you know if your grief is something to worry about?  

Here are some signs to be attentive to if they persist after six-twelve months following your spouse’s passing :

  1. You lack sense of purpose or identity without your spouse
  2. Everything seems to be too much trouble and you cannot accomplish normal daily activities, like taking a shower, cleaning up after a meal, or grocery shopping.
  3. You see no reason to live and wish you had died instead of, or with your spouse
  4. You have no desire to see friends or go out and be social. 

While it may seem impossible, do know that the majority of people who have lost a spouse eventually move forward with their lives, all while holding onto the warm and loving memories they have of their married years. 

It may be helpful to look around yourself and identify people who have been where you are now, if only to talk with them and learn how they regained their zest for life after losing their cherished husband or wife.