Dealing With the Death of a Husband

You’re too young to be a widow.  You never expected to lose your husband so early.  So, what do you do now?

My best friend lost her husband to cancer.  He was 52, she was 48.  Way too young for both of them.  That was seven years ago and I have watched and participated in the way she has dealt with things.  She was so devastated when it first happened and she continues to deal with the aftermath to this day.  It has gotten much better for her but that hole in her heart is still there.  I’ve wanted to write about this for awhile because it is so heart wrenching.

Here are some tips I’ve learned:  Number One is the most important.

  1. Give yourself time and space.  If you can’t give it, take it.  Take time to grieve.   Allow yourself the space to do it.  Your husband will be missed terribly.  Not just because he was the love of your life but because of all the other things in your life that were wrapped up in your spouse.  You traveled together, you fixed up your home together, you had similar interests and desires – all of these things are now changed and it’s part of what grieves you.   Allow yourself time, lots of time.
  2. Try not to feel guilty.  What could you have done?  What should you have done?  Why am I angry?  You shouldn’t be crying all of the time… shouldn’t talk about him all of the time… should be coping better….you should be doing something….you shouldn’t, you should, you must.  These are guilt trips that you don’t need.  These are expectations you put on yourself and others inflict on you.  Don’t feel guilt for coping in your own way.
  3. Don’t be surprised when you have feelings like you want to die, too.    What are you going to do without him?  There’s nothing to live for.  These feelings are very common.  The answer is very simplistic sounding but oh, so true.  Wait it out and don’t do anything rash.  The feelings will gradually decrease as you find ways to cope in your own time.   Be patient with yourself.
  4. Wait until you’re ready to do a number of things like parting with possessions, socializing, finding new interests and activities.  As you progress through the process you’re motivation will improve.
  5. Get a pet.  No, really:  get a pet.  My friend already had 3 little dogs.  They were a god-send to her.  She credits them with getting her through the lonely times.  So, if you have a pet already, that’s good!  But, if you don’t, get one.  Pets help you focus your attention on something else beside your pain.  They take care and feeding and attention and give nothing but love and laughs in return.  Shelter animals are great because they sometimes need a little more attention, they are relatively inexpensive, and you are doing a good deed by taking them home and loving them.  It is something to feel really good about and this is the time you need that.
  6. Humor can heal.  Research has shown that being able to draw on happy memories of your husband helps you heal — those who are able to smile when describing their relationship to their husband six months after the loss were happier and healthier 14 months out than those who could only speak of the deceased with sadness, fear and anger. As hard as it might be, try to focus on good memories and feelings about your relationship, as it is the positive emotions that can protect your psyche and help you find serenity.
  7. You can say goodbye in your own way and time.  The present, with all its pain and sorrow, is the only reality you have. Memories are very important, but they cannot be used as a shield against the present. At some point in your grieving, you will be ready to try to say goodbye.
  8. You are going to have to deal with other people.  They might say and do dumb things because they don’t know what to do for you.  Forgive them for their stupidity.  They want to help but don’t know how.  Forgiveness is very big in the healing process.  Learn to forgive yourself, too.  It takes some work but it heals the heart.
  9. Get prepared mentally to deal with holidays and special occasions.  Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays bring a flood of memories.  Plan ahead for them and do what you want to do.  If you would rather spend them alone at first, that’s okay.  If you need your friends and family around you, that’s great but don’t let yourself be manipulated by family and friends into doing something your really don’t want to do.
  10. Travel might be a good idea.  Perhaps you could go visit family that lives in another state.  Maybe you could travel to a spa destination for relaxation and stress relief.  But traveling alone presents some problems and rewards that I will be covering in my travel category.
  11. Look to the future.  Your life will go on even though it’s doesn’t seem like it at first.  There is hope, hang on to that.

These tips and many others you might read about won’t bring “closure”.  What a hideous word.  If you have truly loved someone, you do not ever want to close off the memory of that love, the richness of that experience.

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