Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health | National Institute on Aging March 2013
When your spouse dies, your world changes. You are in mourning—feeling grief and sorrow at the loss. You may feel numb, shocked, and fearful. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive. If your spouse died in a nursing home, you may wish that you had been able to care for him or her at home. At some point, you may even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you. All these feelings are normal. There are no rules about how you should feel. There is no right or wrong way to mourn.
When you grieve, you can feel both physical and emotional pain. People who are grieving often cry easily and can have:
- Trouble sleeping
- Little interest in food
- Problems with concentration
- A hard time making decisions
If you are grieving, in addition to dealing with feelings of loss, you may also need to put your own life back together. This can be hard work. Some people may feel better sooner than they expect. Others may take longer. As time passes, you may still miss your spouse, but for most people, the intense pain will lessen. There will be good and bad days. You will know that you are feeling better when the good days begin to outnumber the bad.
For some people, mourning can go on so long that it becomes unhealthy. This can be a sign of serious depression and anxiety. If sadness keeps you from carrying on with your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor.
What Can You Do?
In the beginning, you may find that taking care of details and keeping busy helps. For a while, family and friends may be around to assist you. But, there comes a time when you will have to face the change in your life.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
- Take care of yourself. Grief can be hard on your health. Try to eat right, make exercise a part of your daily routine, take your medicine, and get enough sleep. Bad habits, such as drinking too much alcohol or smoking, can put your health at risk. Keep up with your usual visits to your healthcare provider.
- Talk to caring friends. Let family and friends know when you want to talk about your husband or wife. It may help to be with people who let you say what you’re feeling.
- Join a grief support group. Sometimes it helps to talk to people who are also grieving. Check with hospitals, religious communities, and local agencies to find out about support groups.
- Try not to make any major changes right away. It’s a good idea to wait for a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs.
- See your doctor. If you’re having trouble taking care of your everyday activities, like getting dressed or fixing meals, talk to your healthcare provider.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Sometimes short-term talk therapy with a counselor can help.
- Remember your children are grieving, too. You may find that your relationship with your children has changed. It will take time for the whole family to adjust to life without your spouse.
- Mourning takes time. It’s common to have rollercoaster emotions for a while.