According to the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale (2016), the loss (death) of a spouse is the most stressful and painful event that a person experiences.
Truth-be-told, losing someone you love is hard…really hard. And, grieving is one of the hardest, most depressing events that you have to experience. You don’t have a choice, you can’t live without eventually dying or losing someone close to you, however, that doesn’t make the loss any easier. A loss is especially challenging when your spouse dies. In other words, when you lose a spouse, you not only lose a romantic partner, but also a friend, who hangs out with you, a confidant that you share life experiences with, and the main person, who makes you feel special, important, and unconditionally loved on a daily basis. Coping with this profound, and often sudden loss can feel unbearable and very lonely.
The deep loneliness stems from being separated from the person you vowed to love forever. Although, this is undoubtedly a very hard time for you, hope is not lost. There is a light at the end of the dark tunnel, you are currently traveling through. But, please understand that your spouse would want you to keep living. He or she wouldn’t want you to be lonely, sad, or isolated. Therefore, by reaching out to the loving and supportive people in your life, and accepting and utilizing valuable resources, you can cope with loneliness after the loss of your spouse.
Listed below are ways to cope with loneliness after the loss of a spouse:
Take Your Time
You just lost your husband or wife, so you are probably not feeling like doing much of anything. I mean, the funeral is hard enough, and quite draining. Truthfully, you just want to be still, but you don’t know how to tell the well-meaning people in your life. No, actually, you want to reverse time, but that is impossible. You may feel as if you should “just get over it,” but, truthfully, no matter how hard you try, you can’t. You just lost the love of your life – forever. So, do not rush. In other words, take your time. Just know that the severity of your grief will pass. Don’t get me wrong, you will always miss your spouse, but the agony of losing that person will diminish over time.
And, although, you will eventually need to pick up the pieces of your life, and live; it is important that you grieve, on your own terms, for as long as you need to. The goal is to ultimately move towards acceptance, so you can remember and embrace the good times you shared together and the love you formed between you. So, take the time you need to accept your spouse’s death, along with all of the accompanying effects of losing your life partner. Take baby steps and please do not expect too much from yourself, especially during those first few months.
And, keep in mind that a loss of a loved one, especially a spouse, can wreak havoc on your mind and body, so take care of yourself, as much as possible. For instance, start out by doing the basic necessities (i.e. getting out of bed in the mornings, taking a shower or bath, washing and brushing your hair, getting dressed, caring for pets and/or children, brushing your teeth, getting the mail or paper, and eating – two or three meals a day). Then, when you feel stronger, add in another one or two of your old routines (i.e. watching your favorite television shows, housecleaning, cooking, calling old friends and relatives, reading, etc.).
Then, when you feel a little bit stronger, add in a couple more routines (i.e. exercising, grocery shopping, going out with friends and family, going back to work, doing something you enjoy like going to the movies, going for a morning, afternoon, or evening walk with a close friend, getting ice cream, having a spa day, etc.). Just by doing one or two tasks at a time, you are taking steps towards healing. There is no timeframe for healing. Truth-be-told, grieving is a grueling process, so there is no need to rush it. Just try to be as loving, understanding, patient, forgiving, and gentle with yourself as possible.
***Note: If you are spiritual person, you may find solace in the pages of your holy book. So, if you feel alone and lonely, read a few pages or scriptures. Knowing that there is someone bigger than yourself, and that there is a special place that people go (when they die) and are reunited with loved ones, may take the sting out of the loss. After all, it is easier to believe that it is only a temporary loss, rather than a permanent one.
Seek Support from Loved Ones
Although, you may not feel that you need support from loved ones, immediately following the loss of a spouse, in reality you really do – even if you don’t know it. Yes, you don’t feel like talking about your loss right now, and that is normal and understandable, but your loved ones know you, which means they most likely know what you need, even if you can’t see it through your grief. You don’t want to talk – they know that, which is why they will sit and watch your favorite show with you – the one that your spouse used to watch with you. You don’t feel like “entertaining others” right now – they know that too, which is why they will sit in the corner of the room or lie next to you silently will you think, rest, grieve, and cope.
You don’t have to “put on airs” when you are with loved ones. Remember, they know you. So, reach out to others when you are sad, lonely, and lost, because they will help you through the grieving process. You are not alone. And, lastly, friends, children, siblings, co-workers, and even your parents are not only an outlet to express your feelings, if you are ready to, they also provide the warmth, companionship, understanding, and unconditional love, you have probably been missing since the loss of your spouse.
Talk About It
Talk about the person you lost. Many times people try to block out their memories of their deceased spouses. It’s an awkward, sad time for everyone. Loved ones, co-workers, and friends avoid mentioning your spouse’s name for fear it will upset you. They mean well, but, truthfully, they aren’t helping you heal. So, do something to honor your loved one instead. Hold a get-together and invite people to it.
Ask them to come prepared with their favorite memories of your spouse. And, if possible, videotape the “shared memories” and play them back, when you start to feel lonely. A wonderful treasure, even though you may not recognize it right now, is memories of your spouse – from you and others. These memories will give you strength and touch your heart. They will also help you heal – and “live” again. Yes, your heart will still be broken, but it’s important to move – even if it’s an inch at a time.
Give Yourself Permission to be Happy Again
If you are coping with the loss of a spouse and find yourself feeling sad and lonely, give yourself permission to be happy again. Don’t get me wrong, feeling happy again takes time – lots of time, but it is “doable” with lots of patience, a strong support group, and a positive attitude. After time has passed and you feel stronger, you will need to take those first steps at living again. Going out with friends, co-workers, and family is a good way to pick up the pieces, socializing, laughing, smiling, and enjoying life again.
Truth-be-told, humans are social beings, who need love, attention, and affection. Therefore, it’s natural to feel lonely when you lose someone you love. The good news is that you don’t have to stay lonely. You have a choice. Life (good and bad) is an amazing thing. The world is still beautiful, and the love you shared with your spouse is still very much alive. And happiness…is something that will slowly creep back into your life, and before you know it, you will be laughing, instead of weeping, smiling, instead of frowning, loving, instead of aching, and enjoying life, instead of dreading it.
If you are lonely, following the loss of your spouse, help others. In other words, volunteer at a charity or non-profit organization. There are millions of people in need, who are lonely just like you. And, just like you they have lost a lot. Maybe, making a positive impact in the lives of others will be a gratifying experience for you. And, maybe, just maybe, it will take the edge off of your loneliness. So, if the silence becomes too much for you to bear, help the elderly, poor, sick, abused, and homeless regain some happiness in their lives. Helping others will not only occupy your time, it will help you see your loss and the world, in general, in a brighter light.
Seek Grief Counseling or Join a Bereavement Group
Lastly, if the loneliness, sadness, and grief is too overwhelming and persistent, you may benefit from grief counseling and/or a bereavement group. It’s important for you to know that you are not alone. There are people, who actually want to help you heal. In fact, people understand that one of the hardest things about losing a spouse is feeling isolated by and lost in your pain. Seeking grief counseling or joining a bereavement group can help you process your fluctuating emotions, accept the loss, meet others, who understand your pain, and learn coping skills that will help you deal with the loneliness and despair you are feeling. It is important for you to feel the pain of the loss; however, if you feel “stuck in a never-ending loop that never seems to stop,” it is time for you to seek help.
Mind Tools. (2016). The Holmes and Rahe stress scale. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_82.htm
Moody, B. (2011). I’m crushed by loneliness without my husband to look after. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2035792/BEL-MOONEY-Im-crushed-loneliness-husband-look-after.html
University of Florida: Counseling and Wellness Center. (2016). How to deal with loneliness. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/how-to-deal-with-loneliness.aspx
Vitelli, R. (2015). Grief, loneliness, and losing a spouse. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201503/grief-loneliness-and-losing-spouse