After a spouse passes-on, the world can never be the same. One enters a state of grief, moving from feelings of shock, fear, and numbness, possibly into a state of guilt for being the one to survive. It’s not uncommon to feel anger towards your partner for abandoning you. There is no clear roadmap for grief, and emotions that arise can be startling and confusing. All of this is normal.
Symptoms of both emotional and physical pain come uncontrollably in waves, fits of crying, or disorientation. Many experience difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate and make decisions.
For some people it doesn’t take long for these reactions to subside, for others it can take a very long time. But for all people in grief, the gripping pain eventually loosens. Some days seem to be easy and others very hard, but at some point the easy days begin to outnumber the hard days.
Sometimes mourning goes on too long, and can lead to depression and anxiety. If you feel your grief has not subsided for a very long time and you cannot perform your everyday tasks, talk to your doctor immediately.
Simple things you can do
In the beginning, you might find it best to keep focused on things you need to do to keep yourself busy. Friends and family members are around a lot during this time, but eventually you’ll need the courage to face the more solitary time. Taking care of yourself is your top priority. Do your best to exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid too much alcohol or tobacco which puts your well-being at risk. Visit your doctor at the usual times, and take all necessary medications.
Be open with the friends that you trust. Sharing the truth of your feelings will help you to heal. You might also consider joining a grief support group. Talking to people in a similar situation, such as groups in hospitals and religious establishments can help you feel like you’re not alone. Individual therapy is also an option. Keep in mind that mourning takes its own time and runs its own course. For a while you might feel tossed-about by your feelings, but this too shall pass.
How to help a family member
If your parent or loved one loses a spouse, be sensitive to the fluctuation of their emotions. Allow them to experience their grief in whatever way it happens for them and be responsive to their needs. Gentleness, an open ear, and an open heart are some of the best gifts to offer.