It’s been some time since the death of your spouse, and “letting go” seems so far beyond where you’re at mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. You’re still feeling the depth of the loss as you wake up each morning, realizing you’re alone and yearning for that familiar morning routine with your best friend by your side.
Drinking coffee together in the breakfast nook. Exchanging pages from your favorite newspaper while discussing the latest events. Planning your day with each other in mind. Anticipating the comfort that your soul mate’s well wishes will ultimately bring…
The one with whom you shared these treasured routines is absent, and the idea of letting go is just too painful to imagine.
The grief that follows a spouse’s death is full of unique challenges, so be patient with yourself during this tough time. Don’t feel pressured from well-meaning friends and family members who urge you to move on.
What does “moving on” even mean? Knowing that the healing process means something different for each person should bring you a little bit of comfort.
If you’re finding it difficult to let go after the loss of your partner, then the following information will be helpful to you.
Letting Go of Loved Ones: Myths & Facts
So many people claim to be experts when it comes to grieving the “right way,” and they’re more than willing to give advice and proclaim it as the truth.
The truth is, however, there is no certainty when it comes to the grieving process. Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. So don’t let the words of others get you down or make you feel as if you’re doing it the wrong way.
There will be good days and bad days as you face this new reality, but there’s no need to rush. Especially in the early stages of your grief.
Let’s clarify some common myths with some realities.
Myth: Letting Go Means Moving On After the Death of a Spouse
If moving on means leaving the past behind, then this is certainly a myth.
No one should feel the need to let go of the memories shared with a loved one and tuck them deep within the recesses of their mind. Memories play a vital role in taking those next steps toward healing and building that new daily life on your own.
Memories should be at the forefront, ready to be called upon at any time.
Reality: Healthy Grief Remembers
It is only healthy to remember your loved one, so you should allow yourself to reflect upon the years shared together as often as it brings you happiness.
By remembering the happy times and special days spent with someone, you are honoring that person.
Though your loved one is not here in the physical sense, he or she can still be an important part of your everyday life in a spiritual sense.
- Talk to them. It’s ok to “talk” to your loved one and discuss whatever is on your mind. Have an internal conversation about your worries as well as the pleasant events in your day. Though a one-sided conversation, it can nevertheless help with your feelings of loss because you’re allowing your loved one to continue to be a part of your life in a small way.
- Celebrate them. Continue to celebrate your spouse’s birthday, your wedding anniversary, and even the anniversary of their passing. Gather family members together for lunch or dinner and have a toast to the memory of your loved one; pack a lunch and picnic at the graveside; plan the day around your spouse’s favorite activity like spending an afternoon at the beach or hiking a favorite canyon.
- Write a letter. If writing brings you solace, then write your thoughts and feelings in a letter to your loved one. This is another opportunity for you to tell your spouse about the latest special event in each family member’s life.
- Play a favorite song, cook a favorite meal. Put on your loved one’s most cherished album while you cook a special meal. Don’t stop doing the everyday activities that brought the two of you so much joy. Instead, continue the fun with your spouse in mind.
Here are some life celebration songs to inspire your playlist.
Myth: Letting Go Means Getting Back to Normal
There really is no “getting back,” so the natural, loving process of letting go will still reflect the reality of your beloved’s life and great loss.
Yet your own life as a widowed person will take on a new normal. So don’t expect to carry on as usual after the loss of your spouse, and don’t be afraid to create a new way of life for yourself.
It will be hard work, but it’s an essential part of healing and taking good care of your own emotional, spiritual and physical health.
Reality: Your “Normal” Has Changed, and You Must Also Change
Spending multiple years with a person, you inevitably created habits and routines that got you through each day.
These were created with two people in mind, and the routines suited both of you. Now, however, you have only yourself to please, but don’t feel guilty about it.
- Create routines that suit your new solitary role. For instance, if your spouse was someone who shied away from participating in clubs at church or in religious groups, but it was an idea that you entertained for years. Go ahead and join that choir or prayer group.
There is nothing wrong with creating a new normal that caters to you alone and your personal needs.
- Be productive. If your loved one was the main breadwinner in the family, you may find yourself having to work in order to make ends meet. Such a change might seem dramatic, but consider it as an opportunity for you to grow.
A new job may be just what you need to find part of yourself that you never knew existed! It could be a door to a new identity for you.
- Find new ways to give care and support to others. If you were in a position where you cared for a sick loved one, you might find yourself not knowing what to do with your time and feeling a deep void.
If your time as a caregiver provided you with a greater sense of personal fulfillment, then continue it. Look for new opportunities to get involved in your community by volunteering and taking care of others in a new way.
- Deepen friendships and forge new relationships. Use the time to reconnect with friends whom you may not have had time for before. And be open to new friendships, especially those that center around hobbies, work, healthy activities, and volunteering.
There may be time to love again, perhaps a new relationship, but don’t feel any need to rush it.
Myth: You Will Always Grieve and Feel the Way You Do Right Now
While it may seem as if the hurt will forever remain at the current level, the saying “time heals” is true. Letting go at this point in time may seem impossible, but it will happen naturally with time.
The complicated grief that you feel right now will lessen over time, but it’s important to maintain a healthy level of self care so that your grief can mature.
Reality: You Will Always Grieve, but Your Grief Will Mature
Your grief will always be there, but, over time, it won’t feel as overwhelming. The further that time takes you away from the moment of loss, the less intense pain you will feel.
During this transition, it’s important to accept help so that your grief takes on a new perspective. Having a support system in place will go a long way in this difficult time. More than you may think.
Support groups, a grief therapist or grief counselor, and self-help books are healthy resources that can help you deal with grief and look at it in a new way. Simply reaching out to friends and family, communicating your needs, and accepting their help can also lead to healing.
By making self-care a priority, you will soon be able to think of your loved one and the moments you shared together without feeling the immediate gravity of the loss. Instead, you will look on those memories with more maturity and clarity of mind.
How to Rebuild Your Life After the Death of a Spouse
So, you’re committed to letting go in a healthy way that still honors the memory of your loved one. How do you go about rebuilding your life after the loss of someone so vital to you?
1. Grieve Your Loss
Grieving is a personal experience, so take time to grieve your loss without feeling pressured to place a time limit on it.
Grieve in your own time and in your own way. The worst thing you could do is rush yourself after the loss of a spouse.
2. Arrange a Beautiful Funeral
Funerals are meant to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away. Arranging a beautiful funeral is a wonderful way of paying special tribute to your loved one. Through the process of arranging the celebration, you will, once again, feel a connection to your spouse.
Providing yourself and others an opportunity to celebrate your loved one with honor and shared devotion will help you mark the moment you say your final farewell.
3. Make Initial Adjustments
Rushing into major life decisions in a time of great sadness is not recommended. Concentrate on making only minor adjustments in the beginning.
Consider making a list of tasks and prioritize the items. Determine which adjustments need to be made immediately and which can wait.
Ask for expert help when it comes to financial or legal matters, especially if you’re someone who wasn’t in charge of such responsibilities. Contacting a trusted lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor can make the pressing matters easier.
4. Expect Ups & Downs
Thinking of your loved one on any given day could bring you back to your grief while other days could make you happy to remember. Often, there is no rhyme or reason for the roller coaster emotions you will experience, but it’s important for you to expect the complexities of loss.
Many days, the hardest thing will actually be letting go of the little things. The coffee routine you shared in the mornings, the favorite sit-com you watched almost religiously every evening before bed, the weekends hunting for treasure at your local thrift stores…
Reach out to family members or close friends when feeling especially down, as their support can help you through the emotional pain. Our own families are often goldmines of personal support.
5. The First Year After Losing a Spouse
The first year after losing a spouse is always the hardest. The simple act of celebrating holidays can be quite difficult. Try to focus on adjusting to your new life and finding comfort in the solitary moments.
If possible, give yourself a year before making any life changing decisions such as moving.
Focus on pursuing a new hobby, rekindling friendships, traveling, volunteering at local hospitals or a religious organization, or taking an exercise class. This first year should focus on you and your overall well being. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help, such as counseling. Grief can have many physical effects, too, so take care of your body as well as your mind.
6. Remember & Celebrate
The beautiful thing about remembering your spouse is it provides you with opportunities to celebrate their vibrant life.
Remember the time you spent together and acknowledge those memories when you’re with friends and family, or in those smaller, quieter moments when you’re alone.
7. Build & Grow
Don’t consider the changes you ultimately make to be signs of getting over the loss of your loved one.
The love you have for your spouse will always be there, you’re simply learning to live with their abscence.
Seek opportunities to build yourself up and grow while always having your spouse in mind. Consider this as the beginning, as the first step, of your new journey.
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