Many people say emotional pain is more agonizing than physical pain. No one knows this better than a grieving spouse does. If your husband or wife recently died, it's likely you're having a difficult time dealing with the sadness and anger that often follows such a traumatic event. Understanding what you can do to help yourself through this nightmare may bring some relief.
Tips on Coping with the Death of a Spouse
Nothing can really prepare you for the death of your spouse. While there's nothing you can do to completely take the pain away, it's important to work out your grief and mourning as you go. There are ways to cope and make the pain more manageable.
Recognize the Loss
It can be easy to slip into denial when your spouse dies. Instead of allowing that to happen, remember the good times you had with your spouse, and hold on to them. Your memories will carry you through some of the hardest days you'll go through.
Experience Grief the Way You Need To
No one can tell you how you should feel after your spouse dies. If you want to cry or if you don't want to cry, that's okay. You need to do what you have to do to get through this time, and no one should dictate to you how to do it. Be patient with yourself as well. You may feel like you are done with the pain, but your mind and body may not be done with it yet. Allow yourself to grieve, so that you can get through it in a healthy way.
Take Care of Yourself
While you may not feel like eating, try to eat some healthy foods throughout the day. Even just a small healthy snack can keep your energy up. The same goes for sleep. Try not to sleep your days away, but also don't stay up all night. Speak to your doctor if you have trouble calming your mind at night because he may be able to help you.
Avoid Hasty Decisions
When grieving, many people are under extreme stress. For this reason, do not make any important decisions, if you can help it. Your mind isn't clear, and you don't want to make a decision that you'll regret later.
Try Not to Feel Guilty
You are not the reason why your spouse died. You should not feel as though you are responsible for anything leading up to and upon his death. Try to reject all of these guilty thoughts because they usually stem from the depression you're experiencing.
Accepting the Loss of a Spouse
As time passes, you will find that you will begin to accept the loss of your spouse. It's important to see this as a process, rather than a single event.
Embrace the Emotions
Embrace the emotions you're feeling. Many people will try to push away the excruciating pain of losing someone they love. They won't talk about it, or they sleep more often, so they don't have to deal with anything having to do with their spouse's death. While this does keep the reality of his or her death at bay, it doesn't do anything for the acceptance process. Instead, cry when you are sad or at least reflect on your sadness. When you're angry, don't be afraid to admit it, and talk about it. Good friends and family members are perfect for this type of venting because they understand, and many of them probably have the same feelings as you do.
Make Small Changes
Make small changes to your life as a mark of moving forward. It's not easy, but it can help with accepting that your spouse is truly gone. Going through your spouse's belongings, moving furniture around, or even trading in his car for a new one can help you start the journey towards moving on. It will sting, but embrace the emotions, and you'll soon find yourself being able to get through it with strength.
Continue the relationship spiritually. There's nothing wrong in continuing the connection you had with your spouse via spiritual methods. Visit the gravesite to talk about how you are doing with your spouse, carry a photo around of him to speak to it when you're having a particularly difficult day, or even write letters about your love, longing, and sadness. By bringing your spouse into your life in a new way, you will start to realize that even though he is physically gone, the effect of his love will last a lifetime.
No one understands grieving a spouse as much as someone else who has experienced the same situation. This is why organizations around the United States have grief support groups available for spouses. In the support groups, you'll be able to listen to others who are feeling the same as you do right now. You'll also hear from others who are a bit further along with their grieving process, which will help you because they can provide tips. To find one in your area, you can ask the funeral home director, your local social services, or even your physician. You can also use the searchable database of the Association of Death Education and Counseling to find a counselor in your area that specializes in helping the grieving.
Depression Vs. Grief
When people grieve the loss of a spouse, many times the symptoms mimic those of depression. Since traumatic situations often spark depression in people susceptible to the disorder, it's important to be on the lookout for the signs. According to HelpGuide.org, which is a trusted non-profit resource, some of the warning signs that your grief has led to depression include:
- Suicidal ideation
- Inability to care for oneself
- Intense sense of guilt over the death
- Slow speech and body movements
- Inability to function or perform daily tasks
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to seek professional help from your primary care physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist. One of them can provide you with a thorough evaluation to determine if you are suffering from depression and give you the help you need to handle your difficult situation much safer and healthier.
With patience, compassion, and strength, you will be able to overcome some of the emotions you're feeling right now. Just be good to yourself, and take each moment at a time. Little by little, you will find the pain lessen as you remember your spouse, and the days ahead will look a little brighter.