Surviving the Death of Your Spouse or Partner

The funeral is over. Concerned friends and family members, having expressed their deepest sympathies, have returned to their busy lives. Their condolences and offers of support were sincere, and you know they will be there for you again when you need them. But left in a quiet house to face life on your own, one question echoes in your mind – what now

The death of a spouse or significant other is a grief of earth-shaking proportions. This person shared your memories and your dreams, and your lives were deeply intertwined. Now you understand why people use the phrase “my other half” to describe a life partner, as you suddenly feel like half of you has been cut away. What now, indeed?

More Than a Lover, More Than a Friend

Strong ties bound you and your loved one as you shared the most emotionally and physically intimate of all human relationships. The roles you filled for each other included everything from best friend and co-parent to traveling companion and bridge partner, and you can’t imagine what life will be like without your loved one to accompany you on life’s journey

Because each of you assumed your own responsibilities around the house, you may suddenly find yourself overwhelmed with all you have to learn about managing the finances or maintaining the house and car. Even small daily chores like shopping, cooking, or mowing the lawn may seem insurmountable without your loved one to share them.

And then you miss all the qualities that attracted you to your loved one in the first place – charming personality, intellect, quick wit, passion, fierce loyalty, kindness, strength. You miss your loved one’s physical presence – a quick hug before leaving home in the morning, greeting each other with a kiss at the end of the day, snuggling in a warm bed at night.

Living Alone – Rediscovering Yourself

Your loved one’s death created a huge void in your life, and you can’t imagine how you’ll ever feel whole again. It’s not just about all the things you miss about your loved one – it’s really about who you are.

Suddenly you’re no longer a husband, wife, or partner; instead you are a widow or widower. And if your loved one was sick before he or she died, your sense of self may be even more elusive. The time and energy you devoted to caring for your loved one is now free, but how will you fill it?

Strategies for Survival – Caring for Yourself

Take heart in knowing that the sadness and loneliness you feel today will subside, and you will enjoy life again. You can’t speed the process, but there are actions you can take to make yourself more comfortable as you ease back into living.

Allowing yourself the time and space to grieve is a balancing act. There will be times you feel like doing nothing, and that’s okay – don’t allow yourself or others to pressure you into doing things you really don’t feel ready for. At the same time, it’s important to take small steps toward building a new life. Even when you don’t feel like it, make it a point every day to bathe, eat well, and get some fresh air and exercise, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block. Soon you’ll be ready to take on bigger challenges, renewing old interests and relationships and exploring new ones.

Connecting With Others

When you’re ready to socialize, start slowly. Inviting a small group of friends for a potluck dinner is a wonderful way to let them know you’re ready to live an active life again.

Look for group activities where you can meet people who share your interests. A reading group at your local library, adult education classes, and church events are some non-threatening ways to connect with others. In time you may find a special someone to share your life on a deeper level, but remember that love isn’t something you can force. Instead, focus on making and building friendships…you never know where those paths may lead.

Have You Survived the Death of a Spouse?

What was the hardest part for you? How did you go about establishing life on your own? What about pitfalls others may wish to avoid?

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