A spouse’s death is a painful experience. During this difficult time, the feelings of emotional loss can be overwhelming. Each of us reacts differently to it. But you have to know that you are not alone in this.
Bereavement is a process, and there is a proper way of grieving. Reading through this article will give you a glimpse of what life can be after grief. Becoming a widow or widower can be another door opening to something that you could attain.
Do you want to become a happier widow or widower, or keep wallowing in sadness? Do you think that your late partner would like to see you in misery? You know you always have a choice.
The Stages of Widowhood
Grieving over the death of a spouse or a long-time partner can be devastating, especially when you’ve planned to spend your whole life with them. You are heartbroken and don’t know how to go on with life.
Grief is the first stage of widowhood. It is when you become a new widow/widower. You may still be in awe, shock, and be processing what just happened. If your spouse used to do the budgeting, you might be worried about facing future financial issues.
The second stage of widowhood is growth. This is the stage when your outlook in life becomes more apparent. You are now ready to move forward and get on with your life. Now you are ready to plan and focus on reviewing retirement plans and investments.
The last stage is grace. It is also referred to as the transformation stage. This is the time when you get up and embrace a new chapter in your life. It’s also the time when you can finally focus on new plans and think of the future.
The Negative Impacts of Widowhood
According to a journal released by the American Psychological Association, the first year of widowhood is the most crucial stage. Researchers found a substantial drop in women’s mental health during the first twelve months of grief. The study revealed an increased rate of depression and poor social functioning in widows.
The effects of being a new widow on physical activity are also associated with negative health outcomes.
Research conducted by Stahl and Schulz finds that widowhood increased mortality rates and suicide attempts of surviving spouses. Losing a husband or a wife exacerbates the pre-existing mental problem and triggers physical symptoms. These include physical ailments and sleep disturbances.
Widows experience a higher risk of mortality compared to married women. The increase in mortality following a spouse’s death is called the “widowhood effect.”
The widowhood effect is evident in women and men of all ages. But a widow’s resilience depends on external factors, such as access to emotional support groups and socio-economic status.
Some widows use alcohol and pain medication at the same time. A widow suffering from grief is vulnerable to addiction. A study shows that a widow with depressive disorders has a higher likelihood of becoming dependent on alcohol.
Getting On with a New Life After a Spouse’s Death
We’ll never know when a loved one will be taken away from us. Some become widows at a young age, while some get widowed after retirement. Moving forward is not easy, but here are some ways to ease the pain and move on.
1. Express Your Emotions
Young widows who are left with children to look after may find it more challenging to face the stages of grieving. Having children to take care of after the sudden death of a spouse can be a different kind of emotional challenge. During this time, moving forward could be the hardest thing to do.
Taking care of the kids while working and dealing with pain is not easy. The living spouse left with this kind of struggle will find it difficult to find hope or the energy to move on. They have to be emotionally steady to support their children as they mourn the loss.
Repressing emotions and having no time to grieve is unhealthy. Emotional expression is vital in the grieving process, so cry and allow yourself to be vulnerable to people who care.
2. Jumpstart Your Own Life
Finding a new focus to face the future can be a special joy. After a spouse’s death, a supportive family and a sense of achievement can become your psychic income.
Jumpstart your life by creating your legacy. Start a nonprofit group or join volunteering activities that can be gratifying. Try working with a local community foundation that might benefit your children in the future.
Engaging in this kind of fulfilling activities can enrich your widowed life. Allow yourself to have a break from the grief. You need to overcome it, but don’t let your life revolve around it.
3. Build Connections
Start building connections and joining support groups. Widows who are at their retirement stage are already susceptible to health conditions due to loneliness, as the loss of a spouse can drive them to depression.
You don’t have to go through the grief process alone. Surround yourself with people who can help you. Having a support system composed of family, friends, and support groups will help you survive this sad time.
You can build new friendships by sharing your experience. Attend a book club or community activities with new faces. Talk to someone from whom you can draw your strength.
Spending time with your kids or meeting new people by taking up a new hobby will help you move on. Being part of something can help you recover and accept the loss of a spouse.
4. Foster an Attitude That Allows Rebirth
If you are experiencing complicated grief where normal grieving doesn’t happen, be patient. Give yourself time. The inability to accept a husband’s or wife’s death may take months or longer. But rest assured, healing will come.
It will take time, so be patient with yourself. Soon you will feel the sadness, anger, and fatigue fading away. You will start to regain interest in others and the outside world.
You will rejoice at the happiness of others instead of getting bitter or being saddened about it. This will be your sign of renewal.
All of this will be in the past. Don’t tell yourself you’ll never get over the death of your spouse.
Our brain can gather evidence to make us believe what we want to believe. Consider having a life after the loss, and your brain will notice opportunities to prove that you are right. Our thoughts dictate what we want to believe. So try having positive outlooks and help yourself find a new life.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs will help you feel better temporarily, but these substances can have a harmful effect both on your physical and mental health.
Some widowers resort to alcohol and drugs to help themselves get through the grief and loss and escape from pain. But these substances can also slow down the recovery and cause new health problems. We all know that these are not healthy coping mechanisms.
6. Go at Your Own Pace of Letting Go
Allow yourself to grieve because your emotions are important. The healing process may be slow, but you’re getting there. The fact that you are reading this article shows that you are slowly making progress in moving on with your life.
Don’t fret if you think you’re not recovering from the pain fast enough. Do what you can without hurrying the healing process, as forcing it to end sooner will most likely result in incomplete healing.
7. Rediscover Your Strength
Find the time to take care of yourself. Find ways to stay active and busy.
Fill your time with activities that you enjoy. Pursue a hobby, get out of the house and bring your kids out for a short vacation. Compassion for others and yourself is important for healing.
8. Talk to a Mental Health Professional
Discussing your inner thoughts and feelings with a professional can help you understand and process your emotions.
Can a Widow or Widower Ever Move On?
They can, as long as they seek support from others. At their own pace, they can lead a rewarding and fulfilling life after going through the pain. With wisdom and support, a widow can doubtlessly survive the grieving process.
It is always possible to move forward and enjoy a meaningful and transformed life. Also, your late wife or husband would not want to see you miserable. They would want you to move on with life and be happy.
Embrace Life After Widowhood
Going through bereavement and grief is a personal battle. Seeking support will help you realize that you don’t have to go through widowhood alone.
Go out there and allow yourself to be part of a group and fill your mind with positive thoughts. Seek medical attention if you think you need it. Heal at your own pace. The loss of a loved one can be painful, but life does not end here.
If you think you need emotional help during these dark times, give us a call. Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) is here to help you. You can schedule an appointment with us here.