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‘Til Death Do Us Part: Life After Losing Your Spouse

Losing a spouse is an intensely emotional experience. Although logically, we know that lives come to an end, facing reality feels overwhelming.

Mourning the Death of a Spouse

Losing a spouse is an intensely emotional experience. Although logically, we know that lives come to an end, facing reality feels overwhelming. Keep reading for suggestions on finding a support system, self-care, and help after losing a spouse.

Build a Support System

A support system is crucial for processing your emotions and finding comfort during this challenging period. Here are some key individuals and groups to consider:

  • Adult Children, Family, and Friends: Lean on your loved ones for emotional support and companionship. Share your feelings and cherish the memories of your spouse together.
  • Grief Counselor or Therapist: Consider seeking professional help from a psychologist or grief counselor who can provide a safe space to express your emotions and guide you through the grieving process.
  • Support Groups: Joining bereavement support groups specifically designed for individuals who have lost their spouses can provide a sense of community and understanding. Look for local groups or check with hospice organizations, places of worship, or online platforms.

Engage in Talk Therapy

Grief counseling, also known as bereavement support, is highly recommended to help cope with the loss of a spouse. In therapy, you can process the unique emotions and complex feelings that may arise after losing your spouse. It provides an opportunity to address grief, guilt, anger, and other emotions in a non-judgmental environment.

Tips for Finding a Therapist:

  • Ask for recommendations: Reach out to your primary care physician, friends, or family members based on their positive experiences.
  • Check with your insurance provider: If you have health insurance, contact your provider to understand what mental health resources are covered under your plan. 
  • Research online: Check out online platforms that list therapists and allow clients to leave reviews, such as Psychology Today or GoodTherapy. Search for therapists specializing in grief counseling or have experience working with individuals who have lost a spouse.
  • Ask for an initial session: Many therapists offer an initial consultation session free of charge. Use this opportunity to ask questions, share your concerns, and understand how they understand and approach your situation. 
  • Consider affordability: Discuss the therapist's fees, payment options, and whether they offer a sliding scale or accept insurance. 
  • Trust your instincts: Trust yourself and listen to your gut feelings. If you feel comfortable and understood by a therapist, that is a positive sign.

Identify Signs of Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is a more severe and prolonged mourning experience that can impact emotional and physical well-being. Knowing the signs can help you recognize if you may need additional support. Here are some indicators of complicated grief:

  • Constant and intense negative emotions
  • Inability to find meaning in life without your spouse
  • Avoiding people and places that remind you of your spouse
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you notice these signs, seek professional help.

Find Support Groups for Bereaved Spouses

Consider exploring the following options:

  • Hospice Organizations: These organizations often offer bereavement support groups, regardless of whether your spouse was under their care.
  • Local Groups: Your house of worship or funeral provider can help you connect with in-person grief support groups near you. 
  • Online Groups: Look for online communities and forums where you can connect with others who have experienced a similar loss, like Well Spouse Association, Grief Share, and My Grief Angels

Prioritize Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is essential to navigate the stages of grief and begin healing after losing a spouse. Here are some self-care strategies to consider:

Maintain Nutrition

Cooking and eating alone can be challenging, so consider using home-delivered meal kits or inviting friends for shared meals. Proper nutrition plays a vital role in managing your overall well-being

Establish a Sleep Routine 

Sleeping alone can feel strange and lonely, so create a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation. Listening to calming music or podcasts can help you unwind.

Engage in Physical Activity

Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can elevate your mood. Join a gym, take fitness classes, or simply walk daily to improve your overall well-being.

Spend Time in Nature

Spending time outdoors can offer physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort. Take walks in parks, visit beaches, or go hiking to experience the healing power of nature.

Help Others

Supporting and helping your children, family members, and friends who are also grieving can give you a sense of purpose and provide an outlet for your emotions.

Seek Help from Reliable Resource

These organizations provide additional assistance for surviving spouses:

  • National Council on Aging: Offers programs and partnerships to assist older adults with home repairs, tax preparation, and more.
  • AARP Foundation: Connects low-income seniors with nutrition programs, affordable housing options, and social support.
  • Provides resources for bereaved spouses who suddenly find themselves as single parents.

Give Yourself Time to Adjust

Adjusting to life without your spouse takes time. Seek help with household chores or tasks previously handled by your spouse. Reach out to friends, family, or neighbors for support. Remember, it's okay to ask for assistance when needed.

Get Your Affairs in Order

Ensure that your legal and financial matters are in order:

  • Update your will, advanced care directives, and power of attorney documents.
  • Review and update beneficiaries for insurance policies, trust accounts, and other assets.
  • Transfer jointly-owned properties into your name.
  • Cancel credit cards or accounts in your spouse's name.

It may also be helpful to plan and make arrangements for end-of-life preferences. Seek guidance from Afterall or a professional to assist you with any concerns or questions.

Healing Takes Time

Remember that everyone experiences grief differently. There is no right or wrong way to mourn the loss of a spouse. Create and lean on your support system, prioritize self-care, and seek professional help when needed. Understand that healing takes time, and be patient with yourself.

To read more about navigating life after losing your spouse, take a look at our article Love Lost: When Is It Time to Move On?