When your spouse dies, your world changes. You are in mourning—feeling grief and sorrow at the loss. You may feel numb, shocked, and fearful. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive. If your spouse died in a nursing home, you may wish that you had been able to care for him or her at home. At some point, you may even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you. All these feelings are normal. There are no rules about how you should feel. There is no right or wrong way to mourn.
When you grieve, you can feel both physical and emotional pain. People who are grieving often cry easily and can have:
If you are grieving, in addition to dealing with feelings of loss, you
may also need to put your own life back together. This can be hard work.
During this time, you may be surprised by some of your feelings, but they
are a part of mourning. Some people may feel better sooner than they expect.
Others may take longer. As time passes, you may still miss your spouse,
but for most people the intense pain will lessen. There will be good and
bad days. You will know that you are feeling better when the good days
begin to outnumber the bad.
What Can You Do?
At the start of your grieving, you may find that taking care of details and keeping busy helps. For a while, family and friends may be around. But there comes a time when you will have to face your new life alone.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
Do Men and Women Feel the Same Way?
Andrew, age 73, felt like the wind had been knocked out of him when his wife died. He began sleeping all day and staying up at night watching TV. Meals were mostly snacks like cookies and chips. He knew it wasn't healthy, but he didn't know what to do. Across town, Alice woke up in a panic. It had been 5 weeks since Jeff, her husband of 41 years, died. She cared for him during his long illness. How was she going to cope with the loneliness?
Men and women share many of the same feelings when their spouse dies. Both may deal with the pain of loss and both may worry about the future. But because many couples divide their household chores, there can also be differences. For example, one person may pay bills, clean house, and handle car repairs. The other person may cook meals, file income taxes, and mow the lawn. This splitting up of jobs works well until there is one person who has to do it all.
Some men are at a loss when it comes to doing household chores. But these jobs can be learned over time. Men are sometimes surprised when they're widowed. For those men who are both widowed and retired, grief may cause depression. If you or any family member is having this problem, see your doctor. Treatment can help.
Facing the future without a husband can be scary for some women. Many have never lived alone. Some women will worry about money. Women who have never paid bills or balanced a checkbook will need to learn about managing money.
Women may also worry about feeling safe. It's a good idea to make sure there are working locks on the doors and windows. If you need help, ask your family or friends. You'll need to get in the habit of taking care of your house and car. It takes time, but it can be done.
Taking Charge of Your Life
After years of being part of a couple, it can be upsetting to be alone. Many people find it helps to have things to do every day. Write down your weekly plans. You might:
Some widowed people lose interest in cooking and eating. It may help to have a noon meal at a senior center, cafeteria, or with friends. When home, some people find that turning on a radio or TV during meals helps with loneliness. For information on nutrition and cooking for one, see the General Nutrition Resource List for Seniors at www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/olderadults.htm or look for helpful books at your local library or bookstore.
Is There More To Do?
When you feel stronger, you may need to think about:
When you are ready, go through your husband's or wife's clothes and other personal items. It may be hard to give away these belongings. Instead of parting with everything at once, you might make three piles: one to keep, one to give away, and one "not sure." Ask your children to help. Think about setting aside items like clothing, a watch, favorite book, or picture to give to your children or grandchildren as personal reminders of your spouse.
What About Going Out?
Having a social life can be hard. It may be scary to think about going to parties alone. It can be hard to think about coming home alone. It may be even harder to think about dating. Some people miss the feeling of closeness and affection that marriage brings.
Here are some things to remember:
Take care of yourself. Get help from your family or professionals if you need it. Be open to new experiences. Don't feel guilty if you laugh at a joke or enjoy a visit with a friend. You are adjusting to life without your spouse.
1984 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, VA 22102
1984 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, VA 22102