Losing one’s life partner is a huge wrench. Not only do we lose a partner, but also a friend, confident, pal, someone whom has walked with us on our much of our life’s journey, sometimes for years. We lose someone we shared children with and now we must journey on alone, without the committed other half of the equation.
The following are some suggestions for widows and widowers to consider when faced with the devastating loss of a life’s partner. It may be possible that you will encounter other situations or feelings. Grief is personal and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Doing what feels right for you and your children, is the right thing to do. These suggestions are listed in no particular order.
- Focus on today. Don’t feel that you have to immediately plan the future. If the day is too long, focus on the next hour. Focus on yourself and your children.
- It is not unusual to experience many different feelings while working through your grief: numbness, denial, fear, disbelief, confusion, anger and panic (how dare they leave me alone with young children!). One widow remarked – “I know nothing of being a single parent. Heck, I know nothing about being a widow.” All of these are normal feelings. You may even laugh at a remembrance or joke, as strange as it sounds, but laughter even when grieving, is a normal human response.
- If someone offers to help out, either with the children , cooking, errands, etc. accept their help.
- People want to help and don’t always know how. If you need something, ask, e.g. I’d really love a cup of tea, or could you drive the kids to their swimming lessons? This is no time to feel shy.
- Keep memories of your spouse alive and allow your children to do the same. You all might fill a decorated jar with pieces of paper on which you and your children have written your favorite memories.
- Do not feel rushed to clean out your spouse’s clothing, books, photos or knick knacks. Doing so quickly will not relieve the pain and may, in fact, cause even greater pain in the long run as treasured memorabilia are no longer present. Take your time in this matter, there is no rush.
- Depending upon the ages of your children, you may or may not involve them in the funeral arrangements and/or take them to the Funeral Home for visitation. When not included, children may internalize their parent’s death. Making them apart of the funeral arrangements can be helpful to them in coming to terms with the finality of death, and reassure them that he/she has not moved, or driven away, never to return.
- Don’t use clichés or euphemisms when discussing death with your children. “Mom/Dad has gone to sleep” may produce a fear of going to bed for your children because they fear the same thing may happen to them. Even using the word “lost” or “gone” can plant the idea that the parent may eventually be “found.” These may increase the children’s anxiety levels. It is perfectly alright to use words like “died” or “dead” to describe what has happened.
- Watch for scam artists. There are people out there that will willingly take advantage of you. You can be extremely vulnerable over the mourning period. Some people will go as far as to read obituaries to know where to strike next.
- Let your children know that nothing they did could cause the death.
- Reassure them as often as necessary, that people die for various reasons, never because of an argument or mean thoughts.
- Allow your children time to work through their grief. Don’t try to make it go away. Grieving is an important part of life that they will have to experience from time to time. It is part of being a living creature.
- Make new happy memories together as a family. Start new family traditions. Holidays can be rough but you cannot celebrate every holiday in their memory.
- Have fun. Both you and your children need to enjoy the simple things. Revel in each others’ company, walk in the rain and blow bubbles in the sunshine.
- Leave yourself open to new things. Your whole life is still ahead of you, enjoy it and don’t feet guilty about enjoying it.
- Keep yourself open to new friendships. You may be open to future pain but you are also open to new joys. Be alive.
- If you feel overwhelmed and cannot find your equilibrium in all of the pain, ask your doctor for a referral to an appropriate grief therapist. Sometimes we might need some help in getting through some of the tougher times. It will be of help to yourself and your children to seek professional assistance if you need to.
- If you feel that your children may benefit from a children’s bereavement support group, don’t hesitate to ask you doctor for a referral. Connecting with others in a like situation relieves the sense of isolation and can add perspective, e.g. Mom/Dad didn’t die because I was naughty.
- If your spouse was terminally ill, do not feel guilty if you feel somewhat relieved with his or her death. To someone we love in constant pain and discomfort is very hard to bear. To know that the pain has ended for them can be a relief. This doesn’t mean that we don’t miss them terribly but don’t feel badly about feeling some relief that they are not longer in pain.
- As impossible as it may initially seem, life can go on without your partner. Enjoying a new life will not erase the love that you once shared.
- Make sure that you are not in too much of a hurry to find a substitute partner. Someone new may temporarily fill the void or dull the pain but will not make the pain go entirely away. You need to complete the mourning process and forgoing ahead too quickly does not complete the mourning process and quicker.
Adapted from an article written by Becky Burrell.