7 tips for coping with grief when a spouse dies

Though there is no single way to cope with grief after the death of a spouse, Alan Wolfelt, founder and director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, suggests several practical coping strategies in his article “Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies.”

1. Allow yourself to mourn.

Feeling disoriented is natural. Mourning is an essential part of healing.

2. Recognize your grief is unique.

There is no universal experience of grief. Don’t try to compare your experience with that of others or adopt assumptions about how long your grief should last.

3. Talk out your thoughts and feelings.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your deceased spouse. Find out if there is a support group in your area you might want to attend. There is no substitute for learning from others who have experienced the death of their spouse.

4. Expect to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, relief and anger are just a few of the emotions you may feel. As strange as some of these emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings.

5. Treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exists after your spouse dies. Treasure those memories that comfort you but also explore those that may trouble you. Share memories with those who listen well and support you.

6. Embrace your spirituality.

You may hear someone say, “With faith you don’t need to grieve.” Don’t believe it. Having your personal faith does not mean you don’t have to talk out and explore your thoughts and feelings. To deny your grief is to invite problems to build up inside you. Express your faith but express your grief as well.

7. Move toward your grief and heal.

Remember grief is a process not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Be compassionate with yourself as you work to relinquish old roles and establish new ones. No, your life isn’t the same but you deserve to go on living while always remembering the one you loved.

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