Advice for Coping With the Death of a Spouse

No one ever expects to lose a spouse. But when death comes unexpectedly, it can be utterly devastating. If you find yourself struggling to cope with the loss of your husband or wife, know that you're not alone.

Losses of this magnitude will stay with you forever, so instead of thinking of this as a journey back to “normal”, think of this as navigating a new stage in your life. Here are a few tips that may help you get through this incredibly difficult time.

Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself time to grieve

Grieving is a natural and necessary part of life. No one escapes from experiencing loss. After something has been lost, we must go through the process of understanding and accepting it before we can begin to heal and move forward.

It's important to acknowledge your feelings by expressing them in a healthy way; talk with someone you trust or do something that brings you comfort. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the space and time for self-care, so that eventually the sadness will transform into joy.

Remind yourself that you are never alone. You can often find solace in knowing that there are others who understand what you are going through.

Seek out support from friends, family, or a support group

Getting help when experiencing emotional distress can be difficult, especially when you feel like your emotions are impossible to explain. Support from friends and family is invaluable in times of need, but sometimes it's just not enough. And that's where specialised support groups come in.

Seeking out assistance from a professional group of people who are understanding and empathetic can give you the guidance and peace of mind to alleviate your pain. Don't be afraid to take the first step; having someone who truly listens will make all the difference.

And these people don’t have to have all of the answers for you, they simply need to be willing to listen and empathise with your situation. Every time you speak your emotions aloud, you’ll heal another part of yourself. So while it might feel repetitive, it’s an important step in healing.

Find healthy ways to cope with your emotions

Everyone experiences their own emotions differently, but that doesn't mean you have to struggle with them alone. There are healthy and productive ways to inhabit your feelings without allowing them to consume you.

Exercise is a great way to channel emotions into something positive. Not only does it provide an outlet for stress, but it can also be part of a healthier lifestyle overall. You might also find that exercise helps you to manage your moods and may even improve your sleep.

Journaling can be another helpful tool for exploring your emotions and understanding yourself better. Getting into the habit of journaling every day can help you to process the complex feelings you are experiencing and will also help you to see how far you’ve come in your grieving. It can help you to spot unhealthy patterns of behaviour that might be holding you back from healing.

Avoid making any major life decisions in the first year

Losing a spouse can be one of the most devastating experiences a person can endure. It makes sense that you aren’t in your right mind during this time. During the initial period after their passing, making any significant life decisions can complicate your grief and recovery process.

After years spent with a partner, adapting to living alone can take months or even years; going through this kind of transition while also having to make major decisions can be too much for many people.

For this reason, it's important to exercise caution and patience in the first year after the death of your spouse and think long-term when deciding what steps to take in moving forward. Take your time getting back on your feet, reconnecting with yourself and family, and gaining strength – both mentally and emotionally – before facing big life decisions.

Be kind to yourself with self-care

It's so important to take the time needed to take care of ourselves both physically and emotionally. Being able to do this helps us have the strength and resilience in order to cope with all of life’s stresses and pressures.

Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook self-care due to our busy lifestyles that can, at times, leave us feeling worn out or exhausted. However, when we make an effort to pause, even for a short amount of time just for ourselves, we are more able to navigate life's obstacles in a healthier way.

There are many ways in which we can practise self-care, such as taking walks in nature, journaling inner thoughts, doing a hobby that you enjoy like reading or crafting, meditation or yoga – whatever works for you. Taking care of ourselves is essential and it's worth making the extra effort to do it.

If you have children to care for, it can be hard to find time to focus on yourself. Instead, try looking for ways you can all spend quality time together and process your grief as a family.

Remember that it is okay to laugh and enjoy life again

Life can be full of difficult, heartbreaking moments that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s normal to feel this way during these times, but it’s not sustainable or healthy to remain in a state of constant grief and sadness.

As time passes, your heart will start to heal and you might find that you are able to find brief moments of joy. But these moments are often met with guilt or disgust in the beginning. It can feel like a betrayal to laugh or enjoy your life.

Allowing yourself to experience moments of contentment does not invalidate your struggle or take away from the things you and those around you have experienced. In fact, allowing laughter back into your life can be a powerful tool for regaining hope and pursuing a path toward finding peace.