Love After Bereavement: Coping After the Loss of a Spouse
The first thing to remember is you don’t have to cope alone.
There are many resources out there, which can help you through this period and they are there to be used. Resource services have the information you need at their fingertips and can provide you with the contact details of organizations nearest to you.
Help that is offered by family and friends will also be invaluable. It is likely some will have already experienced the grieving process and will have first hand guidance to offer. You may not always feel very receptive to their advice, but they might have something to say which could be of help.
A friend or neighbor who delivers a ready-made spaghetti bolognese and a chocolate cake for you and your family’s supper, is a friend indeed. So, too, are those who collect your children from school or offer to drive your teenagers to-and-fro because you’re dealing with other post-bereavement issues.
Having children at home will probably put you two steps ahead. You will need to put all your energy into letting them know they still have one parent, and that you’re coping well. Letting them feel they also have an important role to play, will instill confidence and help them to feel more secure. Giving them a specific job to do on a daily basis will also help them to feel vital in what is going on. Washing up, sweeping leaves, or perhaps, keeping an eye on a younger sibling are small tasks that will mean a lot. Let them know they are really helping. It is reassuring for them if they have a sense of purpose and giving them responsibilities will help them to appreciate the importance of ‘pulling together’. Knowing they are helping you and any siblings will make them stronger and they will be better able to see the wood for the trees.
The period following a bereavement can leave you feeling completely bereft and wondering if you will ever feel happy and whole again, and this is understandable. Your future happiness, it seems, was totally dependent on the existence of your partner, and for some this may be the sad truth. However, we all have different thresholds, and after a period of time you may find yourself wanting to take a few positive steps outside your comfort zone.
You can do this by asking yourself if there is any element to your life or lifestyle since your partner died that has improved. It may be that whilst he/she was alive you did everything together and although this was a joy at the time, there was little opportunity to explore individual pastures new. Whilst you may have been content and happy with this arrangement, having the opportunity to look within yourself at unexplored potential could launch a period of advancement and self-fulfillment.
When a friend’s husband died recently, her family was very concerned for her. She had been married for more than 30 years and she and her husband were absolutely devoted to each other. However, although they did have some shared interests, he did not enjoy eating out or having friends over to dinner and had little interest in things of a cultural nature. She was happily resigned to staying home with her husband and never considered how life would be if she could be a little more creative with her time.
These days, she’s discovering a social life that had once only been the preserve of others. Joining a fitness class, meeting with family and friends for the odd meal out and planning visits to art galleries and other places of interest has really given her a new lease of life. She’s finding her feet and with the encouragement of friends and family is discovering that there is life after loss.
If you find coming to terms with your new single status is difficult, especially if you don’t have young children to look after, and time on your hands, volunteering can be very satisfying. Helping out in a charity shop can be fun and where you will meet plenty of other people. Animal charities always need extra help and if you don’t mind being outside you could derive a great deal of satisfaction shaking a bucket for a favorite good cause.
However you cope with your post bereavement blues, you must do whatever suits you best. In time you will hopefully feel like getting on with your life and be grateful that you have at least enjoyed the relationship you had with your partner and accept that he/she in the long run, would want you to be happy.
Whatever you choose to do and however you go about it, I hope there will be friends and family to see you through and that eventually you will feel like the true survivor you are.
One more thing I will mention is the possibility of seeking bereavement counseling. Coping alone is not an obligation or a measure of your inner strength. When my husband died I had enough support from friends and family to see me through and I feel I coped well. Though I encouraged my son and daughter, ten and thirteen respectively, to seek counseling neither of them wanted it and I didn’t feel able to push them into it. However, retrospectively, I sometimes think that some counseling would not have been a bad thing.
This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.