MENTAL HEALTH

Getting on with Life after Your Spouse Dies

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
 | 
October 13, 2017

Moving on takes work and patience with an accent on allowing yourself to grieve. It’s called “psychological resilience.” Learn more here.

Mary Alice Martinez was overcome by the loss of her husband Mickey, unable to even do grocery shopping on her own.

Her first traditional Christmas Eve dinner on her own was traumatic, and she kept thinking of how much easier it would be if Mickey were there.

But she learned to shop, guests did “pot luck” at the annual Christmas dinner, and she hired workers to do repair on her century-old home. Since Mickey had said “no more pets,” she allowed herself the company of a cat and dog.

 

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You gradually learn and adjust, taking on roles and chores that you had never thought about before.

People like Martinez have what’s called “psychological resilience” – their “ability to take life’s blows in stride and get on with it rather than dwell on the pain of loss, no matter how challenging it may seem at first,” writes New York Times health columnist Jane Brody, who, like Martinez, was widowed in 2010.

Brody said she learned the value of staying busy and pursuing the interests she always had.

“Of course, having money and time to pursue such activities does help, as does the realization that life’s pleasures should not end with the death of a spouse,” she adds. “But when a surviving spouse is left to raise young children alone or is forced to find a new or better job to make ends meet, the challenge of adjustment is that much greater.”

Especially after the overwhelming first year of a loss, you should begin to look forward to the future, associate with people who accept the new you, seek out people with similar interests, reclaim your life as a total person, and consider dating, writes Phyllis Zilkha, PhD, a New York psychologist in private practice.

On the flipside, don’t allow people to make you feel guilty, hold onto things, be afraid to remove your wedding ring, think of yourself as missing your “other half,” or rule out the help of a psychologist or support group.

 

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Updated:  

October 13, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN