January 23, 2013

Wisdom About Finding Life Again After Losing a Spouse, from Those Who’ve Been There

Marina Mails, NCC, LPC
Bereavement Counselor II

Last fall a group of widowed people gathered at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro to hear from a panel of “experts.” These experts were widows and widowers themselves, several years into the grief process. The panel discussed their experiences, and what has helped them find a “new normal” after loss.

Below is a summary of their comments and advice:

On finding purpose:

  • Pick up a hobby or activity that you used to love.
  • Get involved in the arts: poetry, music, painting.
  • Try something new.
  • Find a passion for something, an activity, a cause.

 On finding yourself:

  • Losing a spouse means you have to “reinvent yourself” in many ways.

 Regarding social situations:

  • Know that during grief “friends become strangers and strangers become friends.” Social ties will shift during this time.
  • At some point those around you may stop talking about your spouse. Know that you still have a right to bring them up.
  • Look for more single friends.
  • Don’t make comparisons: no one can compare to your spouse.

 About self-care:

  • Learn to be kind to yourself and take good care of you.

 Ideas on how to cope:

  • Journal. Then when you look back, you can see how much progress you’ve made.
  • Write a goodbye letter, over and over.

 Thoughts about the grief process:

  • Your spouse died, you didn’t. This is so hard to swallow, but know that life is for the living.
  • Now you have the freedom to do as you please. This is a blessing and a curse.
  • Recognize and appreciate yourself for the bravery it takes to make this solo journey.
  • Have patience. This does not get better in a hurry.

GriefThese are some thoughts from those who have been there, and continue their journey after the loss of a spouse. Each person’s grief is unique, and no one can tell you what your grief process will mean to you. Sometimes, however, we can find comfort and hope in hearing from those who have been where we are, and somehow manage to keep going.