Grieving the Loss of a Spouse or Partner

The death of a loved one is always painful, however, grieving the loss of a spouse or partner, for most people, is often a life-changing trauma, made more complicated, because not only will you experience grief, you may also have to manage or re-arrange household tasks, finances and other responsibilities alone.

You’ll experience a whirlwind of emotion when your life-partner dies: deep sadness, emptiness, longing, fear, regret, and even anger. Each of us grieves differently, so there isn’t a template to follow or a right way to grieve. When grieving, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Accept your feelings as they are and allow yourself to experience them without self judgement.

What to Expect While Grieving a Spouse

While you are mourning, you’ll experience many difficult emotions. You my have trouble sleeping, eating, concentrating, working, or sticking to a regular schedule. Over time, the trauma of your spouse’s death will fade, a little at a time, although you’ll still miss them and will still have moments of grief. You may find that you are fine for days, even weeks at a time, only to be hit by a landslide of grief when you least expect it. The ebb and flow of your grief is normal, although there are things you can do to help yourself while grieving.

How to Survive Grief

Grief isn’t something you “overcome”; it is something you survive. There is no way around grief. One must go through it – one way or another. The following are a few things that you can do to help yourself.

Honor their memory

Honoring the memory of your spouse can help you feel a continued connection. Share stories and memories with family and friends or write a memorial for online tribute pages. Memorializing your spouse or reading online condolences left by others remembering your spouse, will help you clarify your memories, feel connected, get in touch with your feelings, and be grateful for the time you had together.

Honor yourself

In the days and weeks after your spouse’s passing, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Don’t push away emotions, feel guilty about emotions, or judge yourself for what you are experiencing. Allow yourself to grieve your way, in your time.

Postpone major decisions

Postpone major decisions until after you are feeling less emotionally raw. Your grieving and emotional state may cloud your judgement or lead you to make decisions in haste.

Take care of yourself

At first, you may not feel like doing anything, let alone taking care of yourself. Grieving the loss of a spouse takes energy, so resting, eating right, getting some exercise and re-establishing some routines will make grieving just a little easier and less draining.

Surround yourself with family and friends

While you may be tempted to curl up into a ball and escape grief in sleep, drink or distractions, isolation stokes the fires of grief. If you spend most of your time alone, you’ll feel lonelier and your thoughts and emotions will have free rein. Remember that others are also grieving your spouse’s death. In most cases, the bereaved is not alone in their grief. Leaning on friends and family, particularly in the weeks after your spouse passes, will help you and them. Being with others who are grieving, sharing your emotions and supporting one another is a tremendous help.

Establish a routine as soon as you can

Re-establishing a routine as soon as you can will ensure the rest of your life doesn’t spin out of control, compounding the painful emotions you are already experiencing. On those days that feel like you are walking in quicksand, try to accomplish one routine task that will make your life more manageable. It could be as simple as paying the bills or grocery shopping. Your spouse or partner would want you to survive and thrive after their passing. They would want you take care of what is necessary to carry on.

Continue managing your health

If you are on medications or taking other treatments, continue to do so. Let your doctor know what is happening. They may have helpful suggestions and can lend a listening ear.

Seek professional or peer support

Talking to others, or a professional support person, can help you feel less lonely and provide you support from others who understand what you are going through. Contact your doctor for a referral to a therapist or contact information to find a bereavement support group near you.

Remember that you are allowed to laugh

Laughing, smiling, or showing interest in other aspects of your life is perfectly fine! Many people feel guilty when they feel humor or other “lighter” emotions while they are grieving. Although painful emotions are heightened when you are grieving a spouse, other emotions are still there, and it’s healthy to feel them. You are not a robot who can flip a switch to turn emotions on and off.

When to Get Help Grieving a Spouse’s Death

Contact your doctor or health care provider if your grief doesn’t seem to be getting better with time. Get help if you:

  • Are self-destructive or having thoughts of suicide.

  • Feel debilitated by grief and the grief doesn’t seem to get any better.

  • Can’t eat or eat very little for days at a time.

  • Can’t sleep or sleep too much.

  • Have anxiety and/or depression that is disrupting your life.

  • Have lost interest in many aspects of your life.

  • Have become emotionally volatile.

  • Can’t re-establish a routine: get back to work, eat regularly, sleep regularly.

Disclaimer: Although we at The Memorial Post have experience with grief, we are not counsellors or health care experts and this article is not intended to replace advice or care from a doctor or professional. If you are having difficulty with grief, please contact your doctor or other qualified health professional.