It sounds so romantic when a bride and groom say these words at their wedding, filled with hope for a future that seems never-ending in front of them. The harsh reality is that the end is inevitable. The loss of a spouse is one of the most traumatic things any of us will ever have to go through but a day will come when the grief will lessen and life will start to go on again.
Whether it happens unexpectedly or after an illness or old age, losing the person you married will be extremely hard. You will feel many emotions including shock, denial, guilt, sadness, anger and an inability to accept it. Whatever you feel is okay. No two people experience grief the same way and how you deal with it depends on a lot of factors, such as how long you were married, how happy your marriage was and if you have children or not.
The first few days and weeks may be full of activity and intense emotions. Families normally come together and you have to plan the funeral and respect your spouse’s wishes. Once all of this calms down and the family leaves, your sadness will hit you like a tidal wave. It can be a big adjustment learning to do everything in the house, especially when couples have designated tasks, like taking out the rubbish and taking care of bills. It won’t be easy but you will start adjusting to your new life and you will notice that as time goes on, it gets a little bit less difficult.
There is no right or wrong way to mourn the loss of a spouse. If someone tells you that you are grieving for too long or that you did not grieve enough, politely tell them that everyone mourns in their own way and you are coping the best you can. However, grief can get complicated. Depression and grief look similar from the outside but if your grieving goes beyond grief, you might need medical advice.
If you are experiencing any of the following, discuss how you are feeling with your doctor:
– Feeling as though your life has no purpose
– Having difficulty performing everyday activities
– Experiencing continued feelings of guilt
– Blaming yourself for the death of your loved one
– Wishing you had died as well
– Losing the desire to socialise or be around family or friends
Grieving not only takes a toll on your emotions, it also affects you physically. You may have trouble sleeping and have no appetite. It might be easier said than done, but taking care of your physical health should be a priority. Try to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. It may be tempting to indulge in self-destructive behaviour such as smoking and drinking but these can actually exacerbate the pain when you are able to think straight again.
There is no timeframe for mourning a spouse. Even when you start to think you are ‘better’, you will still have good days and bad days. Some days, their memories will bring tears to your eyes and some days, they will bring a smile to your face. You’ll know you’re on the road to recovery when you start having more good days than bad and you slowly start crying less.
Losing the person you chose to spend your life with is one of the hardest things you will have to face, but the good news is that it can be done. It will take time and the process is not easy, but there are many people who come out the other side and go on to live full and happy lives. You can, too.