Facing the death of the one you loveThe death of a spouse or significant other is an earth-shattering event that brings incomprehensible grief. Your partner was, after all, the person with whom you shared your dreams and built your life - the person you loved more than life itself.
Not only is the relationship between spouses or partners defined by the most intimate emotional and physical bonds of any human relationship, but your partner may have filled many other roles in your life as well, such as best friend, co-parent, confidant, traveling companion, or bridge partner. And if the roles within your relationship were clearly defined, your loved one may have been the only one who ever cooked, cleaned, brought home a paycheck, took out the garbage, did the laundry, or paid the bills.
The passing of someone so central to your life is certain to leave a tremendous emotional, physical, and practical void. Your grief may be so profound that you feel like your hope for the future died with your spouse. But although nothing and no one can make your pain go away, you can find in others the support you need as you work through the stages of grief and learn to live with the changes in many areas of your life, including those that follow.
Many widows and widowers say that the hardest part of grieving is loneliness. When your spouse dies, you miss all those qualities that drew you together in the first place and cemented your bond over the years – qualities like personality, intellect, humor, charm, loyalty, kindness, courage, and strength. And you miss your loved one's physical presence, both as a sexual partner and in the many touches you were accustomed to each day – a quick hug before leaving the house in the morning, a reassuring pat on the arm, the straightening of a tie, or a goodnight kiss.
Certainly, no one will ever take the place of your loved one. But finding yourself alone now doesn't mean you will be lonely forever. While your grief is new, lean on friends and family for as much support as you need. Over time, if the days seem too dark and the darkness lasts too long, consider seeing a counselor. Time does heal, and the day will come when you are ready to resume a social life.
What about finances?
The need to attend to financial matters soon after the death of your partner is a cold, harsh reality. In addition to regular bills, you may face large expenses for hospital care or funeral costs. If you are unable to pay the bills all at once, work with your creditors to establish payment arrangements and protect your good credit.
Almost universally, experts agree that one should avoid making any major decisions within the first year following the death of a spouse. However, if you find that your financial situation demands that you move or sell your house, a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor can help you to make sound decisions.
Seek help with financial matters if you need to
If your spouse managed the finances and you are unsure of where you stand, there's no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. In a perfect world, partners would share financial information in life so that a surviving partner isn't overburdened when the other one dies. But many times, death comes suddenly and finds us unprepared. The important thing is to deal with financial matters as soon as you are able, asking for help if you need it. Taking control of the situation will empower you and relieve some of your fears.
Time and energy
Perhaps you're accustomed to devoting a great deal of time and energy to your partner who died. And if your loved one was in poor health prior to death, your whole world may have revolved around caring for your partner for some time. In the early stages of your grief, you probably won't have a lot of energy for anything. But as time passes, finding ways to fill your time will help to combat loneliness. When you are ready, discover new outlets for your time and energy, such as volunteer work, hobbies, or travel.
When a life partner dies, a part of your identity also dies. Instead of being a wife, husband, or partner, you are now a widow or widower. These words are just labels that communicate a harsh reality, but they also represent a truth. Adjusting to your new identity will take time, and the journey may seem unbearably sad. In time, however, you will emerge from your mourning a changed person. As your grief subsides, although you will continue to cherish the memory of your loved one, you may begin to view your life after the death of your spouse as a time to explore new interests and relationships.
Further sources of information
You may find our other articles in the Death of family members section helpful too.
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