Do you know the biggest challenge in losing a spouse or partner? (Hint: it affects lots of us at times.)
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Who This Article is For: grieving partners, those thinking about future loss, supportive friends and family members.
Today I’d like to talk about losing a spouse or partner. Whether you use those terms, or boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other, dealing with the death of your “person” is heartbreaking. Perhaps this has happened to you, a family member, or a friend. Maybe you’re wondering about your own future. Perhaps you’d like to be supportive to someone who is now alone.
The Biggest Challenge
Certainly not everyone develops the same symptoms after losing a spouse, and of course there are enormous differences in circumstances. How you grieve is related to things like the kind of relationship you had with your loved one, the manner of their death (suddenly and unexpectedly, or after a long illness), and how dependent you were on one another.
It’s common to experience intense emotions, like feeling numb or shocked; disoriented and confused. It’s also typical to feel broken-hearted, fearful, and anxious as you think about life going forward. Other universal feelings include guilt, anger, and overwhelm with the enormity of the unwelcome change that has happened.
And one of the most challenging aspects of this type of loss is the resulting loneliness. With the death of a spouse or partner comes a total lifestyle shift; almost nothing will be the same as it was before. Every part of the day is different, especially bedtime. And socializing is completely different, as everyone seems to be part of a couple.
Often with this one death comes the loss of several important roles: friend, lover, ally, co-parent, confidant, business partner, and travel companion to name a few. Now there are many voids in life that seem impossible to fill, leaving a person unsure how to move forward in life.
Loneliness can also lead to being less active, possible risky behavior, or not caring for yourself. Even though we have so much available contact through social media, online social support is often not enough.
I wish I had the answers for how to make loneliness go away, but I actually don't think it's possible. We continue to work on accepting, adapting, meaning-making, and replenishing -- yet the loneliness persists in varying degrees and intensities.
Coping Strategies in the Meantime
Whether you are a bereaved partner or you are thinking of someone who is, here are a few tips that can help to cope with loneliness as it ebbs and flows.
I came across an article recently on the site Grief in Common about what not to do when you’re lonely after loss, and it really resonated with me. Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out:
Loneliness: 5 “Don’ts” if You’re Lonely after Loss
That’s it for this month; I hope you’re staying warm and cozy, and I’m always ….
Wishing you peace and healing,
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Essays on Grief Resilience