The number one stressor on every chart is the death of a spouse. Half of all married couples will experience this loss at some point in their lives. Learn to find ways in which to honor a loved one's memory while moving on in a healthy, life-affirming manner.
Recognize Your Loss
Few events in life are as painful as the death of a spouse. You may be uncertain you will survive this overwhelming loss. At times, you may be uncertain you even have the energy or desire to survive, much less try to heal.
It's Okay to Mourn
Your husband or wife has died. This was your life's companion. You may feel uncertain and confused without their companionship, like a part of you is missing. When you experience the death of someone you love, live with, and depend on, feeling disoriented is natural. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death of your spouse, and is an essential part of healthy healing.
Your Grief is Uniquely Your Own
No one else had the same relationship you had with your spouse. Your experience will also be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the death, other losses you have experienced, your emotional support system and your cultural and religious background. Because of this, you will grieve in your own special way. Don't try to compare your experience with that of others or to adopt assumptions about just how long your grief should last. Take a one-day-at-a-time approach that allows you to grieve at your own pace.
Talk About Your Thoughts and Feelings
Articulate your grief honestly. When you share your grief with others, healing occurs. Don't be afraid to talk about the circumstances of the death and your feelings. Share the special things you miss about your spouse. Talk about the sort of person he or she was, the types of activities you enjoyed together, and memories that allow for both laughter and tears. It's important not to ignore your grief. It's okay to speak from your heart, not just your head, because we love (and miss) with both!
Anticipate a Multitude of Emotions
The death of your spouse affects your head, heart and spirit, so you will likely experience a variety of emotions as part of your grieving process. It takes a great deal of energy and effort work through such a traumatic experience. You may feel confused, disoriented, fearful, guilty, relieved and angry all at the same time! As bizarre as some of these emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Permit yourself to learn from these feelings, and don't be surprised if surges of grief suddenly come out of nowhere, at the most unexpected times.
Find a Support System
The most compassionate self-action you can take is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Find out if there is a support group in your area that you might want to attend. There is no substitute for learning from others who have experienced the death of their spouse. Avoid individuals who are disapproving or who try to tell you how you should grieve. Seek out those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings— both happy and sad.