Though we know death is inevitable; somehow, we are never quite prepared for it. Whether we lose a loved one at age 16, age 60, or even older, the loss cuts like a knife. But particularly tragic is the loss of a beloved spouse. After many years of “doing life” together, it’s unimaginable to face the future alone. Many women are very dependent on their husbands and find themselves feeling lost and unable to cope when they no longer have their cherished partner to rely on. But even those women who pride themselves on their independent spirit can flounder when trying to imagine a future that doesn’t contain the partner they devoted so many years of their lives to.
Whether the death of a husband was unexpected or came after a prolonged period of illness, the event carries with it tremendous stress. Wives often feel pressured to both grieve and to move forward. Yet grief is highly individual. There is no right or wrong way to process such a monumental loss. During this time, a wife needs to be released from external expectations in order to proceed through the stages of finding peace after the death of a beloved spouse.
There is no set amount of time for grieving. Some will weep right away and seemingly move past the pain in what may be perceived as a short amount of time. Others may seem to be oblivious to their loss and simply go through the motions of living their lives until a crushing wave of grief overwhelms them sometimes six months to a year later. The reality is that people deal with grief in their own way and in their own time. A wife who has lost her husband needs support, compassion, and understanding as she navigates her way through the most significant loss of her adult life.
The Grieving Process
The grieving process is just that…a process. There are many stages that a wife will experience after the loss of a husband. Yet not all wives will go through each particular stage. Some will advance through them very quickly. Others will seem to progress at a glacial pace. All are correct. What one person needs to find peace will differ greatly from what another needs.
Here is a list of some of the things that will help comfort a wife in mourning for her dear husband:
You have experienced a tremendous loss.
Losing a husband is one of the deepest pains you will ever experience in life. The feelings that come with this loss will at times seem so intense that you will wonder if you will ever be able to survive this. It is important to allow yourself to acknowledge the weight of this loss. What you are going through is substantial and deeply painful. You have a right to feel all of the feelings that come along with losing your precious husband. This is not a time for guilt. You have experienced a tremendous loss.
It is okay to cry.
When your spouse has passed, it is quite normal to feel as though you have lost your anchor. It can be difficult to feel connected to anything, and you may even begin to wonder if you will ever be whole again. All of these feelings are a normal part of the grieving process. If you feel like crying, cry. If you don’t, you don’t need to. Give yourself the freedom to feel what you feel.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
You are a unique person, and your relationship with your husband was equally as individual. What does this mean? It means that the path you must tread to begin to heal may not look like the path someone else has followed before you. And that’s okay. Don’t expect yourself to respond as someone else has. Do what you need to do to get through each moment. One breath at a time if necessary. What grieving looks like to you may differ from what grieving looks like to another, and that’s perfectly fine.
It helps to talk about it.
Sometimes talking about it helps. If you find someone who you trust that you can bear your heart to with fear of judgment, you may find this has a very cathartic effect for you.
No, you’re not crazy.
In the midst of deep grief, your emotions will become a muddy mess. At times, you might feel like you are losing your mind and unable to make sense of your own thoughts. On top of it all, you may experience a crushing fatigue that is almost like a grey fog that will not lift. When something so overwhelming happens, it’s very difficult to disseminate our feelings into neat little piles and trying to sort through confusing emotions is, quite simply, exhausting. Allow yourself to feel what you feel even if it doesn’t seem to make any sense. It doesn’t have to make sense right now.
Grief may also sneak up on you seemingly from nowhere. A song or even an image may trigger a very visceral and raw response in you. This is not uncommon, and there is no shame in your feelings. You loved deeply; you will grieve deeply too. This is not only normal; it is a healthy part of the healing process.
Friends can help.
It’s really true that the best way to get by is with a little help from your friends. Surround yourself with people who will hold you up when you feel too tired to carry on.
You can also consider a support group. Sometimes being in the company of others who have experienced a similar loss can be a balm to a hurting heart.
Be patient with yourself.
Don’t expect too much from yourself. Having gone through such a significant loss, it is likely going to take you a while before you can feel and act like yourself again. Be sure to take good care of yourself which includes taking in some exercise, eating nutritious meals, and feeding your soul with whatever brings you peace as you try to heal. This is also a great time to release yourself from unnecessary obligations which sap you of time and energy.
Deal with belongings when you are ready.
One of the most difficult things you will have to face is what to do with your husband’s belongings. Only you know when you are ready to address this. If it’s today, great; if it’s two years from now, great. Don’t feel rushed to deal with something you aren’t emotionally ready for. Only you will truly know when it is time and don’t do it even one minute sooner.
Expect holidays will hurt.
Your life with your husband was chock full of holiday memories. It’s only natural that the first Thanksgiving—the tenth Thanksgiving—without him is going to hurt. When his birthday rolls around, it’s going to be tough to take. Putting in place extra support or even a pleasant distraction such as a day trip during these times may be very helpful for your grieving heart.
Keep your spouse’s memory alive.
Cherished memories will bring a smile through the pain. Take time to look through old photo albums and reminisce about the great times you shared together.
Your grief will help make you whole again.
As much as grieving hurts, it is a necessary path that leads to healing. You will be able to function again, and eventually, you may even love again. But until then, take it one step at a time and allow yourself to progress in a way that feels natural to you.
Losing a husband is incredibly painful. Take time to nurture yourself and allow yourself the time you need to grieve in your own way. You will be whole again some day; in the mean time, be patient with yourself.