I just lost my spouse: How do I navigate this new life?

When we lose the person we planned to spend the rest of our lives with, our entire foundation gets rocked. Here are a few tools to make it through the early days of grieving and move on to a bright future.

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  • Whether by divorce or death, losing your spouse is a life-altering event. You had plans together. You loved each other. You shared each other’s family. And yet, in the midst of dealing with your emotions surrounding this loss, you must also find a way to singularly cope with the responsibilities you were once able to share. Taking quality care of yourself is essential to making it through this transition, and though it may not feel possible right away, your heart will heal, and you will find new meaning.

  • Build a support group

  • Surround yourself with the support of your family and friends. Now is the time to be willing to ask for help. In the early days of the loss of your spouse, it will benefit you to not isolate, but rather to talk openly with those you love about what your concerns for the future are and what needs you have. Particularly if you and your spouse have children, you will want to make sure you are fortified with a healthy, supportive group of people that you can lean on in your time of need. Many people will seek out support groups or counselors in their churches to help get through the initial shock, and whatever emotional hurdles that arise down the road. Take a step back from any negative attitudes in your life, and soak up all the kindness you can from those around you.

  • Allow yourself time to grieve

  • It’s often advisable to stay busy when we’re grieving, and if you have a family, you won’t have any choice in the matter. Try not to allow grief to drown you into an abyss of depression (if this is a risk, find professional support), but do make sure that you allow yourself those moments to feel the loss of your spouse. Grief is a tricky human emotion, and it will come sometimes when you least expect it, but it will come. Burning the candle at both ends to avoid feeling the sadness only delays the pain, and you will find it coming up at the most inopportune times. Honor grief as a necessary part of the loss of someone you loved tremendously. There is no weakness in allowing yourself to indulge in missing your beloved and the life you planned; in fact, it is part of the healing process.

  • Make lists

  • Handling even the most mundane tasks can seem excruciating following the loss of a spouse. If your spouse was responsible for taking out the trash, suddenly it is now your responsibility. These tasks can add up, and when combined with their ability to highlight your spouse’s absence, can feel insurmountable. There may be paperwork and obligations surrounding the loss of your spouse as well, and decisions that have to be made even through the emotional turmoil. Making to-do lists helps you to manage these responsibilities with your regular duties, and not get taken by surprise as things add up. It also makes it easier to ask for help. When your friends say, “How can I help?,” you can easily point to an item on your list. Before long, these tasks will become a part of your natural routine, and it won’t feel as overwhelming.

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  • Prioritize self-care

  • Connect with your spirit and pray. Make sure you are taking the time to rest as much as possible, eat well, and exercise. It is easy to get carried away in all the practical matters, the family needs, and the emotional distress that comes with this kind of change. However, your health is extremely important. Now as the head of the household, the success of your family depends a lot on your personal well-being. Remember to be kind to yourself, and pay special attention to your own needs as you heal.

  • When we get married, we usually imagine spending the rest of our lives with our spouse. If death or divorce alters that plan, it can turn our whole world upside down. It isn’t easy, but you have to find the resources and courage to continue. There is a different plan for you and your family. You can recover from the devastation of losing your spouse, and still go on to live a happy and fulfilling life. Know that through this loss, you can find the gift of a new purpose. Take special care in the early days of your loss, and you will set the stage for a healthy recovery.

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Margaret Crowe is a poet and mother of two from Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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