Important Things Seniors Should Know About the Grief of Losing a Spouse
Posted with permission by Jackie Waters
The loss of a spouse is something that you cannot possibly prepare yourself for. No matter how many times you may have thought about it, or how many books or articles you read on the subject, when the moment hits, it is an indescribable feeling. The grief you feel is swift and immense. The first thing to know is that your grief is healthy and normal. Never feel ashamed of how you feel. Here are some more things you need to know about your grief.
You may never “get over it” and that’s okay
How do we define success when it comes to overcoming grief? Some would say it’s when we aren’t sad anymore. Others may say it happens when we first find happiness again. The one thing to know about your grief is that you may never “get over it” in a traditional sense - and that’s normal and ok. What you will do, eventually, is move on from it.
“Quit worrying about being ‘over it’ and quit worrying about the people who are telling you that you should be ‘over it’. Embrace that you are not ever going to be ‘over it’; that you are instead going to move forward from the experience that was losing your beloved spouse and that you are going to do so in your way and in your time,” says The Huffington Post.
You may emerge from your grief a completely different person
For elderly couples who have been married for 30, 40, or even 50 or more years, their sense of identity and purpose are often wrapped up in each other. When you spend your entire life with someone, this comes as no surprise. So, when your partner dies, you lose the identity you’ve had for a very long time.
The loss of a spouse can cause severe personality changes in the short term, and can alter one’s entire self in the long term. To fully emerge from your grief, you will have to develop a new identity - one that no longer involves your spouse. They are always with you, yes, but you must learn to move forward.
While you can’t just stop grieving, you can do things to help yourself along the way
While it’s true that grieving can take a long time and there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy to wallow in a sort of grief stasis. You can do things to make your life easier while you grieve, like hire a housekeeper to keep the daily chores and laundry handled. It’s hard to keep up with the little things during this difficult time - so you should think about giving yourself a helping hand.
You can also keep your mind and body healthy (it’s going to need it) through the big three: diet, exercise, and sleep. If you fail to pay attention to any of these, you can find yourself succumbing to unhealthy habits.
Your grief can turn into something unhealthy
For some, a normal, healthy grieving period can become a prolonged, unhealthy condition.
“Some bereaved people believe that they can’t find a pathway forward into what seems like a dark and menacing future without their loved one. Others feel that grieving intensely is the only way to honor the person who died, or the only way to stay connected to that person. When issues like these take hold, acute grief can go on and on with little respite. This is complicated grief,” notes Columbia University.
If this begins to sound like you, it’s important that you seek help from a doctor or therapist. While grief is normal, complicated grief is something that needs to be addressed.
Grief following the loss of a spouse is unavoidable. It’s impossible to prepare for the flood of emotions you will feel in the days, weeks, months, and even years after. But the more you know about what’s to come, the better you’ll be able to deal with it.