The Grief Journey: Coping with the Loss of a Spouse
The loss of a spouse is a profound shift in life. Perhaps you've spent an entire lifetime with this person, raised children, and lived countless adventures, adversities and moments of joy. These shared memories create a tenacious bond that when broken leaves a gaping wound, difficult to heal.
Many senior citizens around the country might one day face the reality of a lost spouse. According to Psychology Today, for seniors especially , there are few things in life that are as likely to lead to depression than the loss of a loved one. Being aware of the power of grief is an important way to keep depression from taking hold.
Signs to Watch Out For
Of course, it's normal to be sad immediately following your spouse's passing. Mourning is a necessary and normal part of the process. It's important to allow these feelings to pass and to try to return to a normal routine and slowly piece your life back together. The National Institute of Aging suggests that typical signs of initial sadness include frequent bouts of crying, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, problems concentrating and completing necessary daily tasks.
For most people, these feelings will slowly dissipate. As the days pass, you will find you're able to experience joy and good days again. If these symptoms last too long, it might be an indication of a growing depression that needs to be addressed.
Ways to Cope
Rituals & Remembering
Experts say that participating in rituals can help the grieving process and achieve some closure. Engaging in rituals such as burials, prayers and gatherings with loved ones encourages grief to occur in a healthy way. The most important aspect of rituals is remembering. Through sharing stories and special memories, we begin to accept that they are gone but rejoice in their life. The Atlantic reports that performing personal rituals is a private way to help deal with grief. This means doing things that remind you of your loved one and that honor them in special ways unique to your life and your time with them.
At some point, you should return to life. Slowly coming back to usual activities that you find helpful and enjoyable is a great path toward recovery. Try to get out of the house and engage in daily activities.
Don't Neglect Your Health
Avoid neglecting your health and well-being. It might be difficult to eat and get out of the house, but a proper diet and exercise are vital to keeping your body strong. Go out for walks around the neighborhood or in a local park to get some air and exercise. Physical activity will help in stimulating appetite, regulating sleep cycles and balancing chemicals in the brain that help regulate mood and depression.
Death is always a shock, and regardless of the circumstances, it's complicated and messy. If your spouse died of drug addiction or substance abuse , the grief might have an extra layer of complexity. Aside from the normal feelings of sadness, there might be additional emotions that make the process far more harrowing. Many family members of addicts experience a direct type of guilt. This might experience anger and resentment that take hold in different ways. Support groups that bring loved ones of addicts together can be a great help to talking about emotions associated with addiction loss.
Reaching out to people is a necessary step toward accepting and letting go of any guilt or anger. It's important to remember that it's not your fault. Online resources can help seniors get back on track through wellness courses, therapy and emotional support.
The poet Henry David Thoreau wrote that the death of a friend means we have been given "the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend's life also, in our own, to the world." In other words, letting go is not easy, but thinking about life as a continuum and the possibility that we may now fulfill our loved one's life on our own, means that we must be happy, continue to explore, live and learn.