Recently, several friends and family member close to me have lost a spouse. All of them were in long term marriages of over 25 years or more. During one these funerals, a distant relative of the deceased who had traveled from out state spoke with me and her words were very enlightening. She told me how she had lost her spouse many years ago and the struggles she faced in starting a life without her lifelong partner. Then she task me with job that I wasn’t prepared for in that moment.
She said, “Since you live so close, you will need to be here for her when everyone leaves. The worst part is when everyone leaves after the funeral. The house gets quiet and you are still in shock. However, there is no one to talk to about what you are going through.”
I was very moved by these words of knowledge and reflected on how very true that is for many people who suffer the lose of a spouse or loved one they resided with for many years. If it was as sudden death, you must adjust to having that person missing in a short amount of time with no preparation. If it is a death due to longer term illness, you may have had the responsibility of caring for your loved one. This may hold conflicting feeling now that the responsibility is lifted. This experience in your life can lead to many feeling of confusion and/or sadness.
As a therapist there are several suggestions I share with clients who have experienced a loss.
Identify a support system. I totally agree with the relative at the funeral. Once all the hustle and bustle of the funeral, wake, or memorial are complete, you may experience loneliness. Find at least 3 people you can call and chat with about your feeling or about every day occurrences.
Become knowledgeable about the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are many books and websites available which explore these stages. Find one that interest you and aligns with your beliefs. Be aware that these stages are not linear and that you may cycle through them more than once.
Give yourself time to heal. Everyone adjusts at the same rate. It may take one person a year and another widow/widower five years to adjust.
Focus on the good memories. Sometimes people refer to funerals or memorial services as “Celebration of Life”. This allows friends and family members to focus on the deceased person’s total life and the happy times that many people remember.
Seek professional help. You may feel like your adjustment period is a struggle. You may experience symptoms of depression. This is a great time to seek help. A degree of short or long term therapy may be beneficial.
If you have recently lost a loved one and are struggling in this area and would like to discuss these life challenges. You can reach me at (919) 925-2274 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.