When your spouse dies, you are thrown into a great lonely emptiness. Part of you is gone. If your spouse's death is sudden, the shock, disbelief and simply trying to adjust to the fact they are gone can be smothering. If their death comes after a long period of illness, you may have found yourself grieving their loss before they have died. You may find yourself feeling relieved that they are gone and their suffering is over, while at the same time, feeling guilty and ashamed about feeling relieved.
You may be emotionally drained. Either way your life is changed forever. Initially, you may feel like you can't go on. Many people who are widowed face two major questions: "How will I get through this?" and "Will I get through this?" One is a "How" question and the other is a "Hope" question. Successfully navigating the emotional, spiritual, and practical waters of widowhood consists of a process to be lived through rather than steps to be checked off. Here are some important things to understand about grief, loss and yourself. Understanding these things is the key to dealing with your loss in a healthy way.
When you lose a loved one, you live in two worlds. One world is that of almost universal emotions that grief can trigger such as: sadness, feeling abandoned, the blues, depression, inability to make decisions, inability to focus, fear, uncertainty, and denial to name a few. You may be angry at the person who died. You may be angry at yourself for not doing more. You may be angry at doctors and family. You may be angry at God. Your grief can be tinged with despair.
The other world you find yourself in is a world unique to you. It is how you express your grief and the intensity of these emotions. Each person grieves differently. Your grief is shaped by your faith, your emotional make up, your attitude towards life, your personality, and the nature of the relationship with your spouse. While there is healthy grieving, there is no one right way to grieve. There is no time table for resolving grief.
After the funeral is over, and the cards, flowers, and visits taper off, you may find yourself resenting the fact that all of your friends have returned to their lives, and you can't return to the life you knew. Your life is changed forever. You may experience a growing frustration as you try to deal with the details of life such as paying bills, dealing with a will, cleaning out closets, and your spouse's things. You will find things that trigger tears and memories. You will find yourself having to do both the tasks you normally did, as well as the tasks your spouse did. For example, who do you call to fix the furnace? How does the online bill payment work? All of this can be overwhelming. Don't panic.
Avail yourself of a grief counselor or some close friends who will listen to you, support you, and walk with you through your grief. You will want trustworthy persons who will keep confidences and be gently honest with you. You may want to ask a friend or family to help sort through things. Don't be afraid to ask for help or ask questions. There are many grief support groups in communities that you can contact. Don't grieve alone. Don't make any major decisions that you don't have to right away. Outside of funeral preparations, there are very few decisions that have to be rushed. If faced with a major decision, talk it over with friends and family first.
The first year is the year firsts. Holidays and annual events will be without your spouse. These may be difficult. If you need time alone, plan for it. If you receive invitations from friends take them up on it. Spend these times with family. While these firsts may be full of emotion and memories, don't be afraid of them.
Don't feel guilty about beginning to enjoy life again. You can navigate these waters. Your heart can heal. You can live again.