How To: A Guide to Dealing with the Loss of Your Spouse

Today we are featuring a guide to dealing with the loss of your spouse by Jackie Waters. She and her husband have been helping her father-in-law through the grieving process following the death of her mother-in-law. "It has been a tough but rewarding process," she says, "I've learned a lot about what I need to be doing to help my own parents as they age, and I'd love share what I've learned with others." Jackie strives for balance, which she believes is key to living a healthy, happy life. She started to share what she has learned over more than a decade of striving for cleanliness and sustainability.

Your spouse is your lover, best friend, confidant, and shoulder to lean on, and now that they have passed away, you are left wondering which way to turn next. While there isn’t a set of rules to get you through this time, there are several tips to make the journey a little easier as you navigate this new world.

Grief is Universal, but Different

Grief is a feeling everyone experiences when they have lost a loved one, but how you deal with it varies from person to person. You may feel numb or in shock. It’s possible that you even feel angry with your spouse for leaving you even though they didn’t intend to do so. The silver lining is that there aren’t any rules as to how you should grieve, and there is no such thing as a wrong way. Grief can manifest itself both mentally and physically such as crying spells, problems sleeping, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, or having a hard time making decisions. Pair these feelings with trying to get your life back to some sort of normalcy, and you quickly find that it is hard work.

Whether you were married for a few months or decades, suddenly being apart is jarring. Rather than sitting home alone, write out plans and fun activities for each week to keep you busy and engaged. It can be something simple like taking a walk with a friend, visiting the library, joining a hobby group, volunteering, or taking up a part-time job. If you don’t feel comfortable going out just yet, look for other ways to bring a little happiness to your life such as inviting a close friend over for dinner or spending time with the grandkids.

 Know Your Limitations

 There is absolutely nothing wrong with living alone, but it may take a few adjustments to ensure that your independence is safe. Aging brings inevitable challenges such as decreased mobility, vision changes, and issues with balance. Asking for help is a sign of power, not weakness, as it shows that you are taking charge of your situation and doing whatever is necessary to keep on keeping on. If driving is an issue, consider having the essentials delivered right to your door with online grocery shopping or a home aid to help you run errands. The biggest limitation you will face will be your own home. What was once an easy climb to the second floor is now a tiring trip with a high risk of falling. In order to continue to age in place, alter areas in your home that pose a risk. For example, you can install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet, add lighting to increase vision, lower pantry shelves to assist with reaching, or install railings for added support and assistance.

 While you would love to remain in your home, there may come a time when you need to consider changing your living arrangement. Your large family home may have become too much for you to maintain or living alone is no longer a feasible option, making it necessary to downsize and purchase a home, or move into an assisted living facility. Many seniors are afraid of moving, citing fear of change, fear of downsizing, emotional fears, financial challenges, and loss of independence as the reasons for shying away from change. However, most seniors found that in talking with other senior friends and family members who have moved, the result of their move was happiness and satisfaction, as well as a healthy answer to their living situation.

Take your time as you navigate this new season of life – there is no need to rush. Don’t forget to take care of your basic needs, and spend some time away from home with others if you feel comfortable. Make the necessary adjustments in your life whether it is hiring home help, downsizing, or making home modifications. No one knows your needs better than you do.