loss of a Loved One
Guide for the Newly Widowed
a loved one — whether through unexpected or anticipated
circumstances — is always traumatic. This is especially true
with the death of a spouse. It is one of life's most profound
losses. The transition from wife to widow, husband to widower,
is a very real, painful, and personal phenomenon. The trauma of
trying to adjust to this new identity while being besieged with
a multitude of urgent questions and decisions can be
Here are several things to remember
when faced with the death of your spouse. While they may seem
simple, they are very important points to remember:
yourself permission to mourn:
Men and women both need to give themselves
permission to mourn. Postponing a confrontation with your
feelings by filling each day with frantic activity will only
delay and compound the grief reaction. Denying your grief can be
helpful in separating yourself from the pain. But, the agony is
still there and it will stay there until you acknowledge it.
Be aware that you may experience a range of emotions:
Your reactions to death may cover a wide and confusing range of
emotions (such as shock, numbness, anger, pain, and yearning).
It may help to think of grief as clusters of reactions or fluid
phases that overlap one another. Grief does not proceed in an
orderly fashion any more than life itself does.
effort, you can and you must overcome your grief:
the myths about mourning is that it has an ending point, that if
you just wait long enough, it suddenly stops hurting. It
doesn't. It requires work. More than time, bereavement takes
effort to heal. Mourning is a natural and personal process that
only you can pace. It cannot be rushed and it cannot happen
without your participation.
When needed, find the strength to take action:
newly widowed person, there may be urgent financial and legal
decisions you must make following the death of your spouse. You
have just suffered an emotionally devastating event and the last
thing you want to deal with is money matters. But money does
matter, now and for your future, so try to do the best you can.
Postpone, however, any decisions that can be put off until you
feel better emotionally.
Work to tame your fears:
When the first impact of death wears off, you may feel you are
losing control. This is a normal part of the grieving process.
Unlike mental illness, the strong feelings suffered during grief
gradually and permanently disappear. Because you may experience
a feeling of temporary instability, it's important to remember
that you have the ability to cope. This is a time when much of
your adjustment to widowhood takes place.
In your own time, in your own way, you can say good-bye:
The present, with all its pain and sorrow, is the only reality
you have. Memories are very important, but they cannot be used
as a shield against the present. At some point in your grieving,
you will be ready to try to say good-bye.
wreak havoc on your health:
The effect of grief on our
health is just beginning to be measured. While guarding your
health can be among the least of your concerns during the throes
of grief, you must work toward maintaining your health as soon
as you feel able. This means beginning some form of regular
exercise, getting proper nutrition, and reporting physical
complaints to your doctor.
If interested, consider
employment, continuing education or volunteer opportunities that
match your needs and interests:
Entering the job market
after a long absence, or for the first time, can be one of the
most challenging tasks that widowed persons encounter. If
interested, look for ways to enhance, capitalize and build on
the skills you've developed over the years. Don't be afraid to
ask about employment opportunities whenever and wherever you
can. Prepare well for your job search. If you do not need to
return to work immediately, you may decide to go back to school
or to contact Elderhostel, which offers educational
opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. There are also volunteer
opportunities that are meaningful and personally fulfilling in
your community, which you may want to consider.
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