9 Tips for Coping With the Loss of a Spouse

Whether the death was anticipated or unexpected, the loss of a spouse is one of the most devastating experiences a person can endure. You will cycle through intense emotions and significant lifestyle changes during this time. Due to the increased stress, it’s normal to feel uncertain or anxious about what lies ahead.

There isn’t a single way to grieve such loss. However, here are some tips that can help you cope.

Practice Self-Compassion

It is crucial to be kind to yourself during this vulnerable time. You may feel guilty, angry, or ashamed over what happened. You might blame yourself or wish that you had died instead. While these feelings and thoughts are normal, it’s important to be mindful of how they might consume your well-being.

Instead, try to be patient and loving towards yourself. You will need patience and support, and it’s okay to ask for that from others. You will also need to graciously allow yourself to grieve, even if the grief process feels scary.

Self-compassion also means remembering that, to some degree, suffering is universal. Everyone experiences loss, even though no two instances are exactly the same. Regardless of how lonely it feels, you are not truly alone. With that in mind, people can and will want to help you cope.

Self-compassion means embracing emotions while also being patient, forgiving, and loving towards yourself. It also means setting boundaries and asking others for what you need.

Pause Before Making Large Decisions

In the initial grief stages, you may be faced with needing to make several life-changing choices. This is particularly true when the death was unexpected or if you are processing multiple losses. You may now hold the sole responsibility for overseeing serious matters, like shared assets, finances, and estate plans.

It’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed by all these tasks. You may feel pressured to act immediately, even before you have all the information. You might also feel tempted to make decisions quickly to avoid more pain.

However, pausing is essential. You are probably not thinking entirely rationally or acting in the best state of mind right now. In addition, you may need time, resources, and professional support before taking these executive actions.

When in doubt, it may be helpful to ask yourself, Does this need to be decided today? If the answer is no, consider the benefits of delaying.

You might want to make a list of the most critical tasks and assign any relevant deadlines to them. From there, you can ask a supportive friend or family member to help you move through these tasks in the appropriate order. Remember to account for the time you may need to hire a lawyer, financial planner, or other professional.

Lean on Support

The feelings associated with grief intensify when stuck in isolation. Being alone with your thoughts and feelings for too long can stunt your growth and well-being.

Right now is the time to reach out to people who care about you. If loved ones ask how they can help you, let them know. If you need food, ask for it. If you want help running errands or cleaning the house, see if someone is available.

Many people feel uncomfortable or uncertain about how to respond to grief. Therefore, it can be helpful when you provide clear direction about what you need.

You should also consider joining a bereavement group. These groups are typically free and offer a sense of peer support for grieving individuals. Being around like-minded individuals can provide invaluable comfort- it’s a reminder that you’re not alone in your feelings.

Maintain Some Structure

In the immediate aftermath of grief, it’s easy to feel consumed by the loss. As a result, you may find yourself wandering through the days, feeling directionless and numb.

This is a normal part of grief, but it’s important to be aware of how it can impact your emotional well-being. To heal, you need to maintain some sense of identity and implement healthy coping strategies.

As much as possible, try to stick to a consistent routine each day. Adhering to a schedule is beneficial for your mental health- it provides a sense of grounding despite the heavy emotions.

Even if nothing else, try to begin by committing to three non-negotiable tasks each day. These tasks may be as simple as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and walking the dog. Aim to complete those three tasks every day for at least one week. After one or two weeks, consider prioritizing another task.

Following a routine won’t make you automatically feel better. However, it can slowly restore your energy and give you a sense of purpose. Over time, building out your routine establishes more meaning and fulfillment in your life.

Limit or Avoid Escape Behaviors

The perils of drugs, alcohol, or other numbing behaviors may entice you after experiencing a traumatic loss. This desire is understandable, and many people self-medicate their feelings to avoid pain.

Even if some of these actions provide brief relief, the solution is short-lived. Numbing doesn’t eliminate feelings- it only pauses them. Once you’re in a clear state of mind, the feelings come right back- often with a vengeance.

Instead, try to focus on being present. Identifying and sitting with your feelings will be challenging. But committing to this process honors your loved one and honors your healing process. The more you choose to embrace what’s happening right now, the more you allow yourself to grieve your loss fully.

Honor Your Spouse

How do you want to remember your spouse and recognize their worth after they’re gone? What do you want people to know about them? How can you leave a standing legacy? And, most of all, how do you want to remind yourself of the love you two shared?

Honoring your spouse can restore a sense of purpose amid an arduous grief process. There are many creative ways to engage in this process, including:

  • committing to small acts of kindness on their behalf.
  • planting a tree or memorial garden.
  • getting a relevant memorial tattoo.
  • supporting a relevant charity in their honor.
  • visiting special places you two both enjoyed.
  • asking others to write down favorite memories and collecting them in a book.
  • creating a keepsake box or scrapbook.
  • organizing an endowment or scholarship.
  • repurposing their old items into art.
  • committing to living a full life in their honor.

You may not feel ready to engage in any of these activities right away. But as time progresses, it can be healing to find ways that help you remember the good times.

Do Things When They Feel Right

When is it time to go through your spouse’s closet? Or when is it best to get rid of their work documents, passport, or even their beloved wallet?

These questions may haunt you, as they have haunted many other grieving spouses. There are no right answers because there is no set timeline when it comes to grief. In time, you will know when it’s best to make those choices.

However, as a general caveat, it’s important to avoid making rash decisions after a loss. You may feel tempted to eliminate all traces quickly, but you might regret that decision after a few weeks.

Instead, it’s usually helpful to continue embracing the mindset of “pausing and trusting.” In other words, pause before making a big decision, and trust that your intuition will tell you when it’s the right time.

Stay Open to Experiencing Happiness

Many people feel guilty at the thought of experiencing happiness, joy, or meaning after the loss of a spouse. It can seem like a betrayal. Consequently, they may worry that others will judge them for “moving on.”

Remember that you are entitled to good feelings. You shared a wonderful love with your spouse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience wonderful things right now. Moreover, if you could reverse the roles, there’s a good chance you’d want your spouse to pursue joy and love.

So, when you catch yourself smiling or laughing (and it will happen at some point), embrace that feeling. You are alive, and you are healing, and it’s okay to enjoy those good moments.

Seek Grief Therapy

The death of a spouse is ranked as the number-one stressor a person can experience. There is no doubt that the impact of this loss will affect you profoundly.

Therapy offers support, compassion, and resources during this time. In addition, you can learn how to understand your emotions and cope with whatever thoughts your grief brings.

While therapy cannot, of course, change what happened, it can offer you a sense of hope in moving forward. At a time where things may seem futile, hope might be one of the most important things you can treasure.

Final Thoughts

Grief can be complimented, and coping with the loss of a spouse may seem insurmountable at first. Taking care of yourself is an essential part of your healing process.

You are not alone in your journey. I am here to support you in understanding and coping with these challenging feelings. While the loss may be permanent, it’s possible to experience joy and fulfillment again. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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