Coping with the loss of a spouse may feel like an impossible task, but grief recovery is crucial to the physical health and emotional well-being of the surviving spouse. In our Sixty and Me community, we have heard many heartbreaking stories from women who have outlived their partners. Most of all, we have seen their courage and determination to live on while respecting the memory of the person that they loved and lost.
There is no prescribed "right way" to get through it or predetermined time frame. Grief is not linear; it's a messy forward and back process. There are as many paths to recovering from loss and grief as there are people who must go through this very personal process. That said, if you are dealing with the loss of a partner, the following advice may help.
Take Care of Your Body with Diet, Exercise and Sleep
There is no more important time to give loving attention to your physical body and emotional health than after the death of a loved one. Stress can take a tremendous toll on our bodies, so it's imperative to practice self-love during this difficult time. Although you may not feel like eating, you can eat small amounts and supplement with vitamins. Walking can give you both the exercise you need and some restorative time in nature. Sleep may not come easily, but maintaining regular sleep habits may help.
Seek Support to Get Through Loss and Grief
Of course, accept the love and support of family and friends at this time, but understand that they may not know what to say or do. Sometimes, talking with other people who are sharing your experience can be valuable. A community or church loss and grief support group is a good place to get the encouragement you need. If you're a more private person, consider bereavement counseling with a professional.
Give Yourself Time to Accept the Loss of a Spouse
While it's important to seek support, it's also important to remember that time is a great healer. If you think you should be over your loss by a particular point and you're not, accept what is. As Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club says, "Remembering that sometimes nothing helps can stop you from blaming yourself in the middle of your grief."
Handle Financial Essentials After the Death of a Spouse
Though it may be the last thing you want to do, financial consultant John Taylor says there are some financial concerns that must be addressed within the first few weeks after the death of a spouse. He recommends obtaining multiple death certificate copies as soon as possible to deal with these issues. He also suggests planning ahead by knowing where important documents are kept. The most important thing is to not make any big financial decisions for at least a year.
When You're Ready, Look Ahead to New Beginnings
In the midst of grieving, accepting the loss of a spouse can seem unachievable. However, you will eventually find your way through the five stages of grief to acceptance. It is no surprise then that many men go on to remarry faster than women. We understand that we're still here, and that life goes on. But, when you are ready to start looking for new friendships or even love, be gentle with yourself. Take your time and only allow people into your life who make you feel positive and strong and who respect your unique past.
If you've met the challenges that come with the loss of a spouse, what advice would you give the community? Please add your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation in the Sixty and Me forum for women over 60.