Losing someone you love, someone you've spent a good deal of your life with is very painful. There are a number of shocking emotions that bubble to the surface - anger, guilt, shock. Sometimes, the sadness you feel over the loss of your husband or wife can overwhelm you and make you feel as though you are drowning.
As hard as this is, these are normal reactions to the loss of a husband, wife or partner.
So what happens when it's YOU who loses your partner? Or someone you love?
Here are some ideas to help cope with the loss of a husband, wife, or partner.
How To Help Yourself Heal From The Loss of a Partner:
Losing someone who has been a part of your life for many years or decades can rock you to the core, your grief overwhelming you. Going from a twosome to a single is beyond painful, and it may be hard to learn to cope with this loss.
Take the time you need to grieve the loss of your partner. There is no time-table on grief and no set schedule in which you should be "over" it.
The more significant the loss (and the loss of a husband, wife, or partner is very significant), the harder the grieving process may be.
Remember, everyone grieves differently. Just because someone you know didn't feel the same way you do doesn't mean that either of you are wrong - grief is different for everyone.
Do your best to not play the "what-if" game. There is a lot of self-imposed guilt in those scenarios.
Ignoring the pain will not make the grieving process go any faster. It's really important to face up to that ugly grief and let it out.
You don't have to be strong. It's okay to be weak. Losing a partner is a major life change, and the grief can be very consuming.
It's okay if you don't cry - not everyone cries to express their grief. You grieve in your own way in your own time.
Don't let anyone else pressure you to "get over it."
It's common for other people (and yourself) to misunderstand how long it takes to adjust to a new life. It's common to take far longer than a year or two, and that's okay.
Lean on your family and friends, even if your pride hates it. This is the time to let people know what you need from them.
Join a support group for other people who have lost spouses. Grief is a lonely time - being surrounded by people who know how you are feeling can go a long way toward combating loneliness.
Talk to a grief counselor or therapist. Often times, someone trained in working with bereaved individuals can help you come up with new coping strategies for working through your grief.
Take care of yourself - physically. Get enough sleep, eat properly, and exercise. The mind and body have a powerful connection, and it's important to take care of your body while your mind sorts through the grief.
Express your feelings in a tangible way. Write letters to your deceased spouse. Create a memory book. Put old photos in an album that you can look at.
Plan for grief milestones - birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays hold a special emotional significance. Expect that these milestones will be extra hard the first years without your partner.
Never, EVER allow someone to tell you how you should be acting, behaving, or feeling. If they try, cut them off until such time as you can explain why what they said or did was not acceptable.
How To Help A Loved One Who Has Lost A Partner:
When someone we dearly love loses a husband, a wife, or a partner, it is a shock to everyone around them. It can be almost impossible to know how to help someone who has lost a partner. Here are some tips for helping your loved one work through their grief over the loss of their partner.
It's common to misunderstand how long it takes an bereaved individual to adjust to a new life. Some may adjust more easily than others. Stay close to your friend as his or her life changes - it's a long battle.
Be present for your loved one - they have just suffered a major loss.
Listen non-judgmentally and compassionately. Your kindness will never be forgotten.
Remind yourself that grief is as unique as the person experiencing it - there's no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief simply is.
If you're close to your loved one, assist with funeral planning. There's a lot that goes into planning a funeral and reception, and these tasks are both devastating and require a lot of work.
Stay with your loved one if they would like and help to answer the door, the phone, or emails that may arrive.
Help your friend to organize any paperwork, medical bills, and other things associated with partner loss. That way, bills are paid on time, and your friend doesn't feel he or she has one more thing to deal with.
Reach out to your friend. Call. Keep calling. Send text messages. Email. Do this frequently, even if they do not respond. Sometimes it's all they can do to survive. But know that hearing from you can make a world of difference.
Continue reaching out, long after the funeral has ended. Support, by then, has probably dropped off, and it's likely that your friend is really beginning to feel the loss of his or her partner.
Remember anniversary dates and help your loved one during these awful times. Birthdays, anniversaries, the day of the loved one's death - these are all days that will be a lot harder on your loved one. Help by remembering to call, send a card, visit, or otherwise be there for your friend.
Cook frozen meals that your loved one can easily heat up. Many grieving people forget to eat, so having something around that's easily prepare-able can make a huge difference.
Offer practical help - do a load of laundry while you're visiting. Pick up some groceries at the store. Offer to run errands or accompany your loved one on errands.
Grief makes it very hard to do even the simplest things - sometimes having someone else around can give them the strength to brave the store or pharmacy.
Losing a partner, especially if it's been a spouse of many years, will make them feel more alone than they ever have. If possible, spend some time just being with your friend. It's hard going from being a twosome to a single.
Offer to go to weddings, funerals, and other situations in which their partner's absence won't feel as devastating.
Have a weekly dinner arranged to go out (or stay in) with your friend to give them something to look forward to.
So many of us want to "fix" the situation for our loved one, but it's impossible. We cannot fix our friend, we cannot replace their partner - what we can be is a friend. Be there to love them and support them.
Be patient with your loved one. The range of emotions that grief puts us through runs from depression and anger to guilt and sadness. Patience is necessary and important.
Let them talk about all of the ugly emotions they might be feeling - allow them to do so in such a way that they do not feel as though you are judging them.
There may be legal issues involved if the deceased has a complicated family situation (overbearing in-laws, stepchildren, ex-spouse). Offer to help your friend navigate the waters of how to grieve while dealing with the emotions of others closely involved.
Your loved one, especially if you still have a partner, may not want to discuss their loss with you. It's almost impossible to know the unique pain of losing a partner unless you have been there yourself.
If your loved one grieving his or her partner does not feel comfortable discussing the loss of their spouse, suggest local support groups for bereaved individuals.
Remember: you don't have to have been a close friend of the family to go to the funeral and wake. It's appreciated to see that many people are also mourning the passing of their partner.
Remember that the pain of losing a partner will never heal.
Take any signs of depression very seriously. Here is a page about depression for your reference.
Take any talk of suicide very seriously. This is a life-threatening emergency. Read up on suicide here. If your loved one speaks of suicide, call 911. Do not hesitate.
What to Say When Someone Has Lost A Partner:
Acknowledge the death by saying, "I just heard that your husband (or wife) died. I am here if you want to talk about him (or her)."
Express concern, "I'm so very sorry that you lost your wife (or husband)."
Be genuine without hiding your feelings, "I wish I knew what to say, but please know how much I care."
Offer support, "Please tell me what I can do for you."
Ask questions, "How are you feeling?" without assuming you know how the grieving person feels.
How NOT To Help Someone Who Has Lost A Partner:
It's hard to know what to say to someone who has lost a partner. While we've talked about what TO say to someone who has lost their husband or wife, we haven't discussed what NOT to say. Here are some suggestions for what NOT to say to someone who has lost a partner.
Do not expect that your loved one will "get over" their loss on a set time-table. Grief and grieving is unique to each person.
Don't change the subject if the deceased individual comes up in conversation. It may be uncomfortable for you to talk about, but the person who is grieving wants to feel as though their husband or wife is not forgotten.
Don't use "he" or "she" in conversation while referring to the deceased. Use their name.
As everyone grieves in their own way, don't chastise your loved one for being "too happy too soon" or "wallowing."
Should your loved one begin to date "too soon" after the loss of their spouse, remember that it's neither your place to judge or understand coping mechanisms.
As always, avoid platitudes. Special mention goes to "He or she is in a better place." It's dismissive of the tremendous loss, and without knowing the religious background of your grief-stricken loved one, it may not be something they actually believe.
Don't say, "I know just how you feel." Unless you, too, have lost a partner, you do not know how they feel. That comment can cause a lot of anger as it feels dismissive of the loss.
Don't make assumptions about your grieving friend based upon how they appear. Some people are excellent at hiding their emotions.
Do not dismiss your friend's varying range of emotions. Because we each grieve in our own way, we may not experience the same emotions - there are no right or wrong emotions involved in the grieving process.
Avoid telling your loved one about your own grief experiences.
Do not compare grief - grief is different for everyone.
Do not offer unsolicited advice about "getting over" their grief. They will NEVER be over their grief.
Don't offer reasoning about how they should or shouldn't feel.
What NOT To Say To Someone Who Has Lost A Partner:
"You'll get remarried some day."
"He/She was lucky to have lived to such an old age."
"It was God's will."
"He's/She's in Heaven now."
"Be thankful he/she is not in pain any more."
"Think of all the good times you had."
"You'll feel better soon."
"Count your blessings."
"You have so much to be grateful for."
"Time heals all wounds."
"Pull yourself together - be strong!"
"I know exactly how you feel."
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