Losing a spouse can be devastating, whether the death is sudden or following a long illness. One day you are married; the next day you are single, alone, and grieving. Between the intense emotions, the lifestyle changes, and the many practical considerations that accompany the death of your spouse, you probably feel overwhelmed and anxious about your future. Over time, the grief will likely subside and you will build a new life for yourself. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you cope. There is no “right” way to feel after losing your spouse. So many variables contribute to your reaction, including how long and happy your marriage was, how your spouse died, how old your children are (if you have them), and how dependent you were on one another. You may feel numb, shocked, brokenhearted, or anxious. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive or relieved that your spouse is no longer suffering if he or she was ill for a long time. You might even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you. You may cry a lot, or you may not. How you grieve is unique to you.1 Be prepared for friends and family who may not know what to say, avoid you, or try to comfort you with cliches (such as “he’s in a better place). Often, well-meaning people are uncomfortable talking about death, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. If you can, tell those close to you what you need (or don’t need). If people avoid mentioning your spouse, for example, and you actually want to talk about him, let them know. Keep in mind that your friends and family are also grieving and may find it comforting to share memories of your spouse. Take Care of Your Physical Health Grieving can take a toll on your body as well as your emotions. You may have no appetite or trouble sleeping. It may be easier said than done, but try to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Try to avoid drowning your sorrows by… read more Coping With the Death of a Spouse
The Grief of Grandparents By Helen Fitzgerald, CT There is no bond greater than the bond between parent and child. When a child dies, the pain of parental loss is near the top of the scale of human grief, and there is an immediate outpouring of sympathy and concern for the bereaved parents. But other grieving family members, including siblings, are often seen as secondary players who must provide support to the distraught parents. Among these forgotten grievers are the grandparents. In many families, the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are every bit as profound as those between parents and their children. The death of a grandchild also ranks high on the scale of human grief – but it is rarely acknowledged. There are few books or support groups addressing the grief of grandparents, and bereavement counselors who specialize in this kind of grief are rare. Grandparents are usually left to cope as best they can. When a grandchild dies, the anguish of grandparents is doubled. Their grief for a son or daughter suffering this tragic loss only compounds their pain at the loss of a beloved grandchild. Grandparents who outlast a grandchild struggle with a death that seems out of order; they may cope with survival guilt, perhaps wondering why they couldn’t have died instead. Moreover, a grandchild’s death chips away at a grandparent’s assumed legacy. Most of us hope to make a mark in the world, and the achievements of our children and grandchildren are a part of that dream. When one dies prematurely, that loss resonates through the generations, and like the bell in John Donne’s poem – “it tolls for thee.” Many families are fractured by divorce, violence or mere inattention, and struggling single parents are hard pressed to provide the consistent and unconditional love that children need. Grandparents fill the role of the enduring presence, the ones who are available and who can be depended upon for affection and support. The deep, nurturing love shared by many children and their grandparents is a bond that is extraordinarily painful when broken by death. It is a grief… read more The Grief of Grandparents
Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss Grief doesn’t magically end at a certain point after a loved one’s death. Reminders often bring back the pain of loss. Here’s help coping — and healing. By Mayo Clinic Staff When a loved one dies, you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the anniversary of your loved one’s death or other special days throughout the year. These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren’t necessarily a setback in the grieving process. They’re a reflection that your loved one’s life was important to you. To continue on the path toward healing, know what to expect — and how to cope with reminders of your loss. Reminders can be anywhere Certain reminders of your loved one might be inevitable, such as a visit to the loved one’s grave, the anniversary of the person’s death, holidays, birthdays or new events you know he or she would have enjoyed. Even memorial celebrations for others can trigger the pain of your own loss. Reminders can also be tied to sights, sounds and smells — and they can be unexpected. You might suddenly be flooded with emotions when you drive by the restaurant your partner loved or when you hear your child’s favorite song. What to expect when grief returns The course of grief is unpredictable. Anniversary reactions can last for days at a time or — in more extreme cases — much longer. During an anniversary reaction you might experience the intense emotions and reactions that you first experienced when you lost your loved one, including: Anger Anxiety Crying spells Depression Fatigue, or lack of energy Guilt Loneliness Pain Sadness Trouble sleeping Anniversary reactions can also evoke powerful memories of the feelings and events surrounding your loved one’s death. For example, you might remember in great detail where you were and what you were doing when your loved one died. Tips to cope with reawakened grief Even years after a loss, you might continue to feel sadness when you’re confronted with… read more Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss
Finding the “New Me” When you’re newly bereaved, you don’t see how you can put one foot in front of the other, much less survive this loss. You’ll never “recover” from your loss nor will you ever find that elusive “closure” they talk of on TV—but eventually you will find the “new me.” You will never be the same person you were before your child died. It may be hard to believe now, but in time and with the hard work of grieving (and there’s no way around it), you will one day think about the good memories of when your child lived rather than the bad memories of how your child died. You will even smile and, yes, laugh again someday—as hard to believe as that may seem. When the newly bereaved come to a meeting of The Compassionate Friends, you will be able to listen and learn from others who are further down the grief road than you. They will have made it through that first birthday, first death anniversary, first holiday, and so many other firsts that you have not yet reached. You will learn coping skills from other bereaved parents who, like you, never thought they’d survive. There are no strangers at TCF meetings—only friends you have not yet met. More than 18,000 people a month find the support they are seeking through meetings of The Compassionate Friends. Please check our Chapter Locator on our national website for the nearest TCF chapter. Or call the National Office at 877-969-0010 and we’ll be happy to give you a referral to the closest chapter and send you a customized bereavement packet at no charge. We have many other ways of providing support including: our national website and Online Support Community; We Need Not Walk Alone, our national magazine available by free online subscription; our monthly online e-newsletter which talks about the organization and its events; our Facebook Page with over 50,000 members; our Worldwide Candle Lighting each December; our national conference; and our Walk to Remember. We will be here as long as you need us. Even though you are… read more Finding the “New Me” When your child has died.
Family & Social If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself. You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find. You’ve been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the “shared experience” aspect of the situation. Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief. Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless. Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child. Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can’t have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment? New friends come into your life who understand some of your grief because they’ve been there themselves.
Physical Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept. You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore. You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks. The tears come when you least expect them. Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.
Emotional You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child. You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying. You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid. Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance. You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.
Psychological Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze. You fear that you are going crazy. You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened. You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith. Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so. You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.
When your child has died, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better. We’ve been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are truly glad that you have found us but profoundly saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in a bewildering experience for which no one can truly be prepared. When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents): REQUEST A BEREAVEMENT PACKET