What becomes of the broken hearted?
Following the death of a partner, it can take time to get used to the fact that you are no longer part of a couple. The life you shared together is over and coming to terms with this fact can be difficult and memories of happier times can cloud your vision. In the early days, these feelings can, of course, cause a great deal of heartache and frustration.
If you have children, especially young children, then your recovery will very likely be more motivational, and your time will be focused on smoothing the way for them as you help them though their recovery during this difficult time. Letting them see that you are coping and ensuring they understand that you will always be there for them will help them to accept that life can go on, regardless.
If your relationship has been good and based on the love you had for each other and the life you shared together, it is these memories that can help to keep you going. Knowing you have experienced being in love is a vital component for your recovery. Not everyone is so lucky.
Every individual is different in the way they navigate life’s journey and losing a partner is surely one of the greatest of all hurdles. Looking towards the future is hard, as you see yourself coping alone. However, it is hoped you will eventually come to terms with your loss and meet the challenge awaiting you.
Gradually adapting to the new life ahead and acknowledging that life can go on, should give you the impetus you need to carry on.
Reflections arousing sadness and longing
The love you once shared with your partner is understandably a treasured experience and there will always be occasions which evoke special memories. Even reflecting upon very basic memories like cooking together or working in the garden will be recalled as special moments.
Inevitably, you may find yourself looking on at couples and longing for the everyday experiences they share. Missing having someone to hold your hand, or bringing you tea in bed, are typical inner reflections arousing sadness and longing. It is the everyday common place experiences that are missed most of all.
These are the moments most likely to cause an emotional reaction and confronting these feelings can be difficult. At times like this a bereavement counsellor may be able to offer conciliatory help to guide you through these challenging times.
Keeping the memories of your deceased partner close to you
The time it takes to come to terms with being a widow or widower will be different for everyone. There is no set schedule for this and some will feel motivated and want to move on; while others will need a little longer.
If you were together for a long time, it is hoped there is a bank of fond memories to remind you of how lucky you were to have experienced the love you shared with your partner. These memories are your ‘armour’ and you can recall them whenever you feel the need to reassure yourself that you have loved and been loved and nothing can take this away.
The vision you create for your future may not be quite how you imagined. However, it can be a time in your life where you step out and challenge yourself to discover pastures new. If you find you’re missing having someone to share life’s experiences, whether physically, spiritually or mentally, there is no harm in at least dipping your toe in the water to see how it feels.
Are you dating too soon?
In her book ‘It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok’, Megan Devine describes the feelings we can experience when contemplating the prospects of change and new beginnings:
‘You don’t have to change anything until you’re ready. There are weird family politics to contend with at times for sure, but for the most part, what you do with things in your home or on your body is up to you. When you make larger than life decisions – like when (or whether) to date, sell your house, or change careers – is entirely up to you. No time is the right time. Nothing is too early or too late.’
Taking this into account, prematurely seeking a new relationship can end up being a confusing and unsettling experience. However, if you feel the time is right, you will find there are plenty of others hoping to find the same thing too.
Family and friends may be able to introduce you to other singles. There are meet-up groups for widows and widowers, as well as special events organized exclusively for singles. There are, of course, dating apps and websites, which abound online, offering various matching options, including widows and widowers.
If and when you meet someone you think you would like to get to know further, enjoy the moment. However, if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable and as though you’re under-valuing the relationship you once shared with your partner, you may need to take a step back. This is the time to ask yourself if you’re ready to be involved with someone new.
If it doesn’t feel right, then you may need to think again about whether you want to actually pursue another relationship at this time. It is important to know that having a partner in life is not a pre-requisite for happiness and being single is also absolutely fine. For some, remaining single is the best option.
Embracing your independence
Your independence, even if it was unexpected, can provide an opportunity to step out alone and discover aspects of life you had not previously had time to explore. Travel or study, for example, will give you focus as you get used to being single again.
If you have young children of course, your plans will have to be flexible, incorporating them as well.
Ultimately, as you come to terms with being alone, you know you have at least experienced sharing love. With this in mind, you have achieved what some others may have never experienced and if this is the case, you have reason to be thankful.
Founder of Widowsorwidowers.com. Writer/Blogger. Publications include Huff Post UK, Esme, High 50 and Living Better 50.