“Decide who you want to be,” she writes. “At different junctures in our lives we are given the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. This is one of those times.”
Advice for moving on from the death of a spouse at a young age is similar but more complicated, says Elizabeth Berrien, co-founder of The Respite in Charlotte, N.C.
“Even if your spouse died from an illness, and you knew that death was near, you are never mentally or emotionally ready for this type of life-transforming loss,” she writes. “Aside from the grief, being a young widow(er) can add an extra level of complication to the healing process…. People don’t know what to say, how to approach you, and you may feel like you don’t fit in anywhere.”
She suggests talking about your loss, finding a support system, practicing self-care, grieving at your own pace, and honoring your loved one’s memory.
“It is incredibly therapeutic to talk about what you have just experienced,” she writes. “Losing your spouse is very traumatic, and it can take years to process your feelings and emotions surrounding the story of your loss. It can bring you great comfort to talk about your loved one and most importantly, ‘remember’ who they were and what they brought into your life.”
The intensity of grief often peaks around three months after the death of a loved one, and again when an entire year has passed. “At this point your pain may be as strong as at the moment of your spouse's death,” according to Focus on the Family.
It’s generally agreed that there are four tasks of mourning. The first is accepting the reality of the loss. You need to grieve the physical finality of losing your spouse and come to grips with the fact that you will not see him or her again.
The second is to experience the pain of grief. Too many people try to bypass it by bottling up their emotions or rejecting the feelings. But the only way to overcome grief is to move through it and face the pain that comes with that.
You also have to adjust to the environment in which the deceased is missing. This may mean learning to cook for yourself or learning how to drive to get around. It assumes that you take on many of the day-to-day tasks that were filled by your spouse.
Finally, you need to take the emotional energy you would have spent on the person who died and invest it in other relationships.
“This final task is perhaps the most important of all. Many people feel disloyal or unfaithful if they withdraw emotionally from their deceased loved one and form new attachments,” according to Focus. “If the advice we're offering here affects you this way, remember that the goal is not to forget your husband; it is to reach the point where you can remember him without experiencing disabling grief.”
The most important thing of all is to allow yourself the time and space to grieve.
April 01, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN