It might seem like you will never get over the death of your wife or husband. But in the natural course of life, grief fades. Many spouses will get substantial relief from their sadness after six months; for others, it takes longer. But for most people, that terrible empty sense of loss will eventually give way to feeling normal. Read on for tested coping methods.
Focus on the good times you had
It’s easy to focus on the last six months or year of your relationship when your spouse was sick. But don’t let that become your only memory of the person you loved for decades.
Make a point of remembering the good times with your loved one. Research coming out of California State University shows that people who remember their spouses with a smile are happier than those who hold onto anger and devastation.
Happy people have learned that they are largely in control of their inner monologues. If you find yourself thinking about when your loved one was sick, deliberately switch over to memories of a pleasant time in your lives.
Learn new things
If you are over 50 and have lost a spouse, learning new things can be a very important part of recovering from your loss. You can start with things your spouse used to do for you. This might mean learning to cook. Learning how to make your favorite meal gives your mind something positive to focus on.
You may now need to know how to take care of things around the house, like changing filters and lightbulbs. Or you may need to learn the language of car maintenance. Science shows that these simple activities, also called “restoration orientation,” will help you overcome your grief more successfully and increase your confidence in being able to live alone.
You should also learn a few things that are just fun to do and have nothing to do with your shared life with your spouse. Go ahead and take those salsa dancing lessons you always wanted to take. Or take a college class in film history.
Volunteering in your community is another good way to learn new things and meet people. According to the good people at Thrive Global, volunteering provides camaraderie and purpose. And those are exactly the things we lose when we lose a spouse.
According to AARP, the spokespeople for seniors, some bereaved spouses will need counseling, and others will not. If your spouse died of old age, knowing that you loved him or her and your happy memories may get you to the other side of mourning with little assistance.
Other deaths are more complicated. If your spouse committed suicide or died as a result of an addiction, your grief may be mixed up with feelings of guilt, disappointment, and anger. In that case, grief counseling or a class in grief management is strongly recommended. Counseling will help you discover and deal with a mixture of feelings that can get in the way of healing.
The death of a beloved spouse is never easy. It will help to focus on learning the skills you need to survive without him or her. Honour your spouse by making a point of remembering the wonderful adventures you had together.