can't stop thinking about what happened

In the days following the death of your spouse/partner, you probably find yourself preoccupied with what has happened.

Whether it’s the details of those final days or months, or worries about arrangements/financial concerns, thoughts and images about your loss seem to occupy every waking moment.

In the aftermath of any shock (even when a death is anticipated), it’s normal to be preoccupied with these thoughts and images as your mind struggles to absorb the reality of the loss. Added to this are the other adjustments and tasks you’re forced to deal with as a consequence of the loss itself.

Keep in mind that with time, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your life. Many people feel guilty when this happens, fearful that pulling away emotionally means they will longer love or remember their partner.

What it actually means is that you’ve begun to find a new, different place inside yourself for your loved one. A place that is no less cherished because it doesn't demand constant attention.

If, after about a year, you're still constantly thinking about the death, you may have conflicts or unfinished business that is complicating your mourning process. Consider getting counseling from a mental health professional or trusted clergy person to help you sort through troublesome concerns.


widowhood way back when: revolutionary war veteran's benefits

If you were the widow of a revolutionary war veteran, you had better stick around a long, long time if you hoped to collect on your husband’s government pension.

According to the site lineages.com, we discovered the following about those early benefits:

July 24, 1836: Widows were authorized the pension that would have been available to their veteran husbands when they were living, so long as they had married before he left service.

July 7, 1838: Widows who had married Revolutionary War veterans prior to January 1, 1794 were authorized a five-year pension.

July 29, 1848: Widows were authorized a pension for life if they could prove they had married the veteran prior to January 2, 1800.

February 3, 1853: All widows of Revolutionary War veterans, regardless of their date of marriage, were made eligible for a pension.

March 9, 1878: The final Revolutionary War pension act authorized pensions for widows of veterans who had served at least fourteen days or had participated in any engagement.

Imagine being one of the widows who was finally able to collect benefits almost 100 years after the Revolutionary War!

Gives new meaning to the term "May-December Romance", doesn't it?


coping with the loss of closeness when your spouse/partner dies

We came across this post on the Open to Hope Foundation Network’s site for the death of a spouse. This personal account by thegriefblog.com contributing author Beverly McManus has good suggestions about being kind to yourself at a time when you’re feeling deprived.

“I Need a Hug” – Coping with Loss of Intimacy After the Death of Your Spouse

Yes, I missed Steve’s voice, his laugh, his footsteps on the stairs, and even his snoring. But after he died, I was unprepared for the depth of how much I missed his physical intimacy — the simple human touches we shared almost unconsciously through 20 years of marriage:

…casually brushing against each other as we passed each other in our home.

…the little pats that said, “I hear you.”

…friendly nudges and teasing light pinches.

…ongoing hugs.

…running my fingers through his hair, and vice versa.

…dancing around the kitchen as we cooked together.

…the short good morning kisses, and the longer kisses we shared when we greeted each other after an absence.

…and, oh, yes, the more private intimacy between husband and wife.

These were all now a thing of the past. With one daughter away at college and the other totally involved in her final years of high school, it seemed like sometimes many weeks would pass between me touching someone or having them touch me.

In my pain and initial numbness, I didn’t even know how much I missed this very human need until I was at my hairdresser’s. As Ilya gently shampooed my hair, and tenderly rinsed out the suds, tears came to my eyes as I realized it was the first time anyone had really touched me since Steve died. I realized how shattered I’d been feeling, and how good and human it felt to be touched in a personal way.

New in bereavement, I was of course no where close to developing a new relationship in which the physical touch I’d once shared with Steve would be shared with another. At that point, six years ago, I couldn’t even imagine ever being with anyone else, let along wanting the physical closeness and intimacy that is part of a healthy relationship.

But my experience at the hairdresser’s told me that I not only wanted, but actually needed, to build in some opportunities for sharing human touch. I began to consider some options, and discussed this topic with friends, one of whom jokingly suggested getting a paid escort! Of course, for me that was out of the question, but it did make me realize that there is an entire profession devoted to therapeutic human touch: professional massage therapists.

One of my friends actually treated me to my first session with a lovely massage therapist who seemed to have magic hands, and along with them, a tender, compassionate heart. After the first session, I realized that this was incredibly beneficial and should not be viewed as a luxury, but rather, as a really good way to take care of myself, just as I viewed my regular visits to the hairdresser or dentist.

As she massaged my tense and overworked body, Laura really seemed to help me free up some of the energy I’d been holding, that had been causing knee pain and neck aches. She also very gently encouraged me to open up some of the feelings I’d been holding so tightly, and each week I felt myself getting stronger and more hopeful. I continued my weekly appointments for more than three years, and treated our time together as a sacred “Sorry, this is an important appointment I can’t reschedule” occasion, because otherwise work pressures would have made me miss many of the sessions.

As she worked with my muscles and physical body, Laura also tended to my broken heart and soul, listening with care as over the weeks I explored who I was in my new life without Steve. She helped me process the empty nest I was facing with the high school graduation and departure for college of my youngest daughter. She held me as I grieved the illness and death of my dear aunt, and then shortly thereafter, the loss of my sweet mother. The massages and intense physical touch each week gave me energy and made me feel like a human being again.

What I’ve discovered:
I realized that I didn’t need to limit myself to weekly massages in order to meet my needs for human touch. I consciously began to become a “hugger,” you know, those friends who hug you every time you see them. I found that as I gave a hug, more often than not, I’d receive one too. Ahhhhhh… Heaven. To be held and hugged!

I’m now famous for my hugs - and as often as I can, I encourage others to reach out and hug someone nearby. I was thrilled to see an international hugging movement, in which volunteers stood on street corners holding signs offering “Free Hugs”. What a marvelous gift to give others, one that doesn’t require gift wrap, or to be dusted or stored!

And after my three-plus years under Laura’s tender ministrations ended, I discovered that I could visit local organic grocery stores for impromptu chair massages, where for a very reasonable fee, a massage therapist would iron out the kinks in my back and neck for 20 or so minutes, leaving me feeling refreshed, and yes, touched.

At this point, six years since Steve’s death, I’m gradually yet surely transitioning from the label as “widow” into one as “strong woman who is looking forward to being in a relationship again, at some point in the future.” Yes, for the first time in 26 years, I’m beginning to feel “single” again.

What the future holds is uncertain, yet I am enthusiastically embracing the possibility that once again, I will at some point share my life — and my physical touch — with someone I love, and who loves me.
How have you coped with the loss of physical touch and intimacy after the death of your spouse? What challenges have you faced? What solutions can you share with others? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Beverly Chantalle McManus lives in Northern California with her two daughters, who have each now graduated from college. She is a bereavement facilitator and core team member of the Stepping Stones on your Grief Journey Workshops, and a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of loss and grief. In addition to grief support, she is also a marketing executive for professional services firms.


widowhood way back when: being a widow in salem

In honor of Halloween, we look back at the challenges of being widowed during the 1690’s witch trials in Salem, MA.

According to an excerpt from a paper by Mark Price about accused witch Margaret Scott:

“Another factor about Margaret Scott's character that made her vulnerable to accusations was her status as a widow for twenty-one years. Being a widow did not in itself expose a woman to suspicion.

However, Scott suffered from the economic and social effects of being a widow for a prolonged period. The most dangerous aspect of being a widow was the lack of a husband for legal support and influence.

Also, Scott, 56 at the time of her husband's death, was forced to live off her husband's small estate for twenty-one years. Often widows who were over fifty and not wealthy, were unable to find a new spouse and thus were reduced to poverty and begging. By begging, Margaret would expose herself to witchcraft suspicions according to what historian Robin Briggs calls the 'refusal guilt syndrome'. This phenomenon occurred when a beggar's needs were refused causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser's part. The refuser projected this aggression on the beggar and grew suspicious of her.”

Broomsticks, anyone?

Happy Halloween!


haunting symptoms; part 2: feeling your deceased partner’s presence

(Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)

“Last night I suddenly woke up and was sure I could feel my husband lying there next to me, just like always. It was so reassuring that I was afraid to turn and look, in case it was all in my imagination.”

Many people report finding solace in having “conversations” with their deceased spouse/partner.

When you’ve lived with another person for a long time, their presence becomes a part of your physical landscape. Each room holds associations and memories of that person.

It’s not uncommon then, to experience a sense of your spouse/partner’s presence from time to time.

It can give you a comforting sense of connection to your partner in the early period after his or her death. It usually goes away with time.

Share your own experiences with us.


haunting symptoms; part 1: hallucinations

We’re not talking about the paranormal here.

We’re talking about the normal symptoms of hallucinations and/or a sense of your late partner’s presence that are a common reaction to losing a loved one.

Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, Parts 1 and 2 explain more about these sometimes comforting, sometimes worrying symptoms of the mourning process.


“I was in the kitchen one day shortly after my wife died, when suddenly, I thought I smelled her perfume. There wasn’t a perfume bottle anywhere nearby, but the fragrance came to me very distinctly.”

Because bereavement is such an intense emotional experience, it’s normal for your senses to occasionally play tricks on you.

Many people report hearing, smelling, or even seeing their deceased spouse/partner. For most of you, this experience can be very comforting.

Sometimes, however, hallucinations continue to occur long after a loss or reflect images not related to your partner. Overmedication or drug interaction could be a possible cause. It’s important to check with your physician or mental health professional if hallucinations continue.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about experiencing your partner’s presence.


learn how to clean house

If your late spouse/partner used to handle most of the cleaning chores around the house, you may want to learn how to maintain some basic upkeep, even if you choose to hire a cleaner.

A few years ago, I discovered a series of “how to” books by professional cleaners Jeff Campbell and The Clean Team. The basic book, Speed Cleaning, lays out a very simple system for how to tackle basic cleaning chores.

Although Campbell also promotes his own line of cleaning supplies, it’s not necessary to use them.

I continue to use many of the tips I’ve learned in Campbell’s books.

Let us know if you’ve discovered other helpful resources.


reflections by deb edwards: what i know for sure about being a widow - one year later

Although it's been a few years, this early post from contributor Deb Edwards is still inspiring :

Tomorrow will be one year since Dale died. It seems impossible to me. I had a tree planted and a memorial plaque in his memory that finally were installed yesterday at a local plaza in the town where I live.

In preparation for this important anniversary, I "circled the wagons" I am having a small private dedication with my closest friends, followed by dinner. My granddaughters are coming for a sleepover so I won't have to be alone. With all my planning, I will still be glad when it is over.

Now that the day has arrived, Deb shares her reflections:

What I Know For Sure About Being a Widow.....One Year Later

Today is one year since my husband died. This has been quite a journey, with some very unexpected twists and turns.

My writing and the positive feedback I have received as a result has helped me so much with my own healing:

don't waste your energy trying to understand the reasons "why?"-they will never make sense

children and animals can offer a tremendous source of comfort, wisdom and insight in its purest and simplest form

everything and anything seems 10x worse at 2:00am

"alone" does not have to be synonymous with "lonely"

the cereal aisle still makes me cry.........but not as often

just when you think it never will, it does get easier-some days

look for ways in your life to "give back". paying it forward can be unbelievably rewarding-helping someone else can redirect your focus and lessen the pain

the moments that you feel "better" will turn into hours, then days, then weeks and then... there you are crying again

your "alone" time can be a real opportunity to reinvent yourself if you can embrace the possibilities

indulge yourself in extreme "self-care"-whatever works for you-a massage, a walk, a hot bath, brownies (i am a firm believer in the healing power of chocolate!)-anything that makes you feel good

getting through all the "firsts" seems impossible, but you somehow get through it-I hope the "seconds" won't be so tough. planning ahead helps.

don't be afraid to ask for what you need or want-you may be pleasantly surpised at what you get

when you feel like you can't go on, just put one foot in front of the other and eventually you will get to where you want to be

it can be very scary to step outside your comfort zone and try new things-but if you don't try you could miss out on something wonderful

forgive, forgive, forgive....the one you lost, God, the doctors, but most of all yourself

grief is a complicated process so if you think you're over it-you're not and if you haven't experienced it-trust me-you will

endings can also be wonderful beginnings-keep your mind and heart open and don't quit 5 minutes before the miracle

and as always..... remember to breathe

deb edwards


making sense of anger; part 4: handling anger

In Parts 2 and 3 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner, we looked at various ways anger about your loss may be misdirected, either towards yourself or others.

While it’s important to be aware that you’re feeling anger, it’s equally important to look at what you’re doing with it.

Feeling an emotion and expressing it are two very different things. Everyone feels anger sometimes, but the way you choose to deal with that anger can make a world of difference. You’ll probably feel angry and abandoned by your partner when it comes time to deal with financial headaches, your children, family conflicts, etc. Misdirecting your anger in any way, such as yelling at your family for no reason, won’t really make you feel better or less angry.

Here are some examples of choices you can make in handling anger:


- Verbally or physically attacking others.

- Turning anger inward. For example, scolding yourself, injuring your body by hitting something too hard, or having “accidents”.

- Doing self-destructive things like excessive drinking or drug use, driving recklessly, or neglecting your health.


- Talking about your angry feelings to someone who will understand, such as close friends, grief counselors, widowed groups or religious advisors.

- Writing a letter to whomever you’re angry with but not mailing it, then taking a brisk walk around the block.

- Punching a pillow or a cushioned piece of furniture.

- Sitting in a room at home with the widows closed (so the neighbors aren’t alarmed), and shouting.

If you’ve come up with any other constructive strategies for venting anger, please share them with us.


making sense of anger: part 3: outside targets

In Part 2 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we covered the potentially self-destructive results of turning anger inward.
Here are some common ways that anger about your loss can be focused outward.

“How could God let this happen?”

Some may undergo a religious crisis when their anger is directed at God. In questioning how God could allow your loved one to die, you experience this as a spiritual abandonment.

For more on this, read our posts, Spiritual Comfort, Parts 1 and 2.

Another common target for anger following a death is the medical establishment (doctors, nurses, hospital personnel). While there are certainly situations where anger toward a medical professional is justified, there are times when the real source of upset is the helplessness and frustration that comes with not being able to stop the inevitable from occurring.

In Part 4, we’ll offer tips for coping with anger in constructive ways.


making sense of anger; part 2: when anger turns inward

In Part 1 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we looked at some of the underlying reasons for feeling anger.

It’s important to recognize the some of the ways anger can be misdirected.

“I wish everybody would stop fussing and just leave me alone. What’s the use of going on, if my husband isn’t here?”

When anger is turned inward it can take the form of depression or even suicidal feelings.

If this is happening to you, talk over your feelings with your doctor, religious advisor or a mental health professional right away. If you are seriously thinking about taking your own life, tell someone immediately!

Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Remember: You are important! Get the help you need.

In Part 3, we’ll talk about ways your anger may be directed toward outside sources.


making sense of anger ; part 1: facing this reaction


When a spouse/partner dies, it’s common to feel some anger. You may not recognize it, but it’s usually there. Anger, however, may feel especially uncomfortable when it occurs around a death. Many people feel guilty or uneasy about acknowledging the anger.

“How can you be angry with someone for dying? After all, it’s not like my partner wanted to die.”

Although anger is a natural reaction to having lost your spouse, it may be easier to deal with it, if you give yourself permission to be angry that the loss happened. For example,

“It’s so unfair that this had to happen to us!”

Sometimes anger can cover up other, more difficult feelings, such as:

- ABANDONMENT: “Why did she have to die and leave me? I always thought I’d be the first to go.” Or “Where are you when I need you?”

- HELPLESSNESS: “I took such good care of her, but she died anyway.” Or “I begged him to stop smoking/lose weight, but he just wouldn’t listen!”

These reactions are understandable, if you keep in mind that death creates the ultimate experience of abandonment and helplessness.

More in Part 2.


important contacts after your partner’s death

In the overwhelming aftermath of your partner’s death, you may not be aware of some of the many financial and legal institutions that need to be notified. We came across this useful list compiled by Sheri and Bob Stritof on About.com Guide:

Here are some of the places and individuals you need to notify after the death of your spouse. There is no order in who to contact first.

Don't forget notifying extended and distant family members and friends, too. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, you can avoid hurting others' feelings by asking someone else to do this for you.

· Social Security Administration - 1-800-772-1213. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which your spouse died or thereafter. They need to be returned to the SSA. If Social Security benefits were received via direct deposit, you will need to notify your bank also. You also need to check on survivor benefits for both yourself and your children.

· Dept of Veteran Affairs if spouse was in the military for burial and memorial benefits.

· Automobile registration and insurance

· Work related associates

· Insurance policies

· Banks and Credit Unions

· Utility bills

· Credit cards and Loan Companies

· Organization and Church Memberships

· Landlord or Mortgage Company

· Telephone Company if you want your listing changed


10 quotes for getting through the days

Here are some of our favorite quotes for support through the mourning process.

Have any special quotes that have inspired you? Please share them with us by clicking on "comments" following this post.

1) Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.
---Dean Acheson

2)What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
---Helen Keller

3) If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.
---Gail Sheehy

4) I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.
---Og Mandino

5) Every time you don't follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.
---Shakti Gawain

6) Never run away from anything. Never!
---Sir Winston Churchill

7) Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.
---Arnold Bennett

8) Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.
---Arthur Schopenhauer

9) If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
---Frederick Douglass

10) To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
---William Shakespeare


grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 2

In Part 2 of this excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we provide some ways to cope with the often conflicting emotions that can arise when your late partner has died due to his or her decisions.

It's important to keep in mind that your partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice.

Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving partner for either contributing to or not preventing the death, it’s helpful to talk through your reactions with supportive people outside your family.

Due to some of the above issues, your mourning experience may be more complicated. Try to trust your own instincts about what is right for you and seek supportive counseling to help sort through possibly conflicting and confusing feelings about your loss.


grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1

“No matter how many times the doctor warned him, and I begged, threatened, and tried to help, he still ignored us.”

If your partner’s death occurred as an apparent result of not following medical advice and/or complying with treatment or by substance abuse, it can seem that he/she chose to die. While the term “suicide” is generally applied to a sudden act that results in death, these situations can seem like a form of slow suicide.

After what may have been years of frustration as you tried your best to control your partner’s self-destructive behavior, he/she died anyway. As a consequence, you may see yourself as not having been valuable or powerful enough to stop your partner’s downward spiral.

You may also feel “relieved” that a painful and oppressive relationship has ended, but guilty about expressing this, especially around family and friends, who may see your reactions as “disloyal” towards your late partner.

In Part 2, we'll offer tips on how to cope with these concerns.


young, widowed and isolated; part 2

In Part 1 of this topic, we looked at how isolated and different you can feel by not having anyone your own age who can truly understand your bereavement experience.

Here are six useful tips for coping:

1) Although your friends may not be able to relate emotionally to what you’re going through, they can help in other ways. Try suggesting some specific tasks or chores they can assist with.

2) Check out online resources, such as GriefNet.org, for specialized support groups for young widowed (GriefNet’s online groups are monitored by a clinical psychologist). The Dougy Centers (dougy.org), while offering groups for children, also provide or can refer you to groups for the young widowed.

3) Also go to the Young Widow Bulletin Board (through YoungWidow.org), an online community for exchanging experiences, information, and support for young widowed of both genders.

4) Be sure to look for “widowed” groups, which are specifically for those who have lost a spouse/partner. “Bereavement” groups usually include those who have suffered other types of loss, such as a parent or child.

5) Don’t reject a widowed group with older people. Even with age differences, members can have some useful perspectives to offer.

6) Check your local newspaper community listings for widowed groups in your area. Or contact the Social Services Department of your local hospital/hospices for referrals.

REMEMBER: Give yourself lots of time to process everything that’s hit you.


young, widowed and isolated: part 1

You’re still young and your spouse/partner has died.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Not so soon.

Not when your dreams and plans for the future were based on the assumption there would be many more years ahead.

Suddenly you have to juggle financial issues.

And, if you’re a parent, your children’s emotional and physical needs.

On top of all that, being widowed young can leave you feeling isolated and different.

That’s because:

a) Odds are, none of your friends or most people your age can relate to what you’re now going through. Those who have been divorced may tell you they can understand the pain and anxiety you’re experiencing, but they don’t realize there’s a big difference between losing a partner to divorce and having a partner die. Death is final. Their former partner is still alive somewhere.

b) There’s the expectation from others (and maybe yourself), that because your loss has occurred early in life, you can bounce back more quickly than an older survivor. This may result in well-meaning family and friends urging you to “get on with your life” and pressure you about dating before you’re ready.

In Part 2, we’ll offer six proven tips for handling the problem of isolation.


i'm done with dating

In this couple-oriented culture of ours, there is often pressure from well-meaning family and friends to date soon after your partner has died.  Although this usually occurs more to younger widowed, pressure at any age is unwelcome.

Any decision about dating is yours alone.

You may need more time to heal from the loss and are clear about not wanting to date at this time.  But you may change your mind down the road.

Or you may be clear that you are definitely not interested in another romantic relationship.

Whatever your choice, it’s a personal matter and others need to respect that.

Here’s some suggested ways to respond in these situations:

1) "Thanks for your concern but I’m really not interested (at this time)."

2) "While I appreciate your concern, my dating days are over - and I’m really okay with that."

Keep in mind however, that after losing a partner, it’s important to eventually form new (not romantic) relationships that will provide friendship and support.

Remember too, that you are the best judge of what is right for you.

(Our thanks to Beth Chaparral for suggesting this subject.)


how to travel without your partner

One of the most difficult steps after losing your spouse/partner is planning your first vacation without him or her. You probably aren’t feeling like your usual self, so it can be hard to summon the happy anticipation that “getting away” used to bring. Visiting familiar places can bring back the pain of the loss.

Before you start making reservations, consider the following:

a. Team up with a family member or friend who is compatible. If you’re uncertain how you’ll get along, try going away for a weekend together before committing to a longer trip.

b. New places can offer new experiences and a chance to create new memories.

c. Keep in mind that feelings of loss may come up unexpectedly. Give yourself permission to grieve even though you’re supposed to be “getting away” from things.

d. If you find yourself traveling constantly the first year after the death, it may be a way of avoiding the mourning process. Grief has a way of catching up when not attended to.

e. Don’t be surprised if, when you return home, there’s a moment when you expect to be greeted by your spouse/partner.

Despite some discomforts, taking a vacation on your own can also be filled with pleasurable new discoveries and opportunities for gaining self-confidence.

One of the most difficult steps after losing your spouse/partner is planning your first vacation without him or her. You probably aren’t feeling like your usual self, so it can be hard to summon the happy anticipation that “getting away” used to bring. Visiting familiar places can bring back the pain of the loss.

Before you start making reservations, consider the following:

a. Team up with a family member or friend who is compatible. If you’re uncertain how you’ll get along, try going away for a weekend together before committing to a longer trip.

b. New places can offer new experiences and a chance to create new memories.

c. Keep in mind that feelings of loss may come up unexpectedly. Give yourself permission to grieve even though you’re supposed to be “getting away” from things.

d. If you find yourself traveling constantly the first year after the death, it may be a way of avoiding the mourning process. Grief has a way of catching up when not attended to.

e. Don’t be surprised if, when you return home, there’s a moment when you expect to be greeted by your spouse/partner.

Despite some discomforts, taking a vacation on your own can also be filled with pleasurable new discoveries and opportunities for gaining self-confidence.


patience: easier said than done

It’s difficult to “be patient” while the pain of your loss feels so intense. But the saying, “time heals” is actually true.

We live in a culture of instant gratification, where we’ve come to expect results literally within moments. Unfortunately, this makes it even more difficult to tolerate the natural process of mourning. Keep in mind that historically and in nearly all cultures, the death of a partner has been recognized as a lengthy (usually a year) period in which to give the survivor the necessary time to go through a range of normal and necessary reactions.

It can also be hard to tolerate the unpredictability of the experience.

As we discuss in Part 1 of our 3 posts, When Will This Be Over?:

“The mourning process is often described as feeling as though you’re stuck on a roller-coaster.

Nobody chooses this ride, but once it starts, you have to hold on tight and trust you’ll eventually be back on solid ground. The first few dips can be unsettling, and just when the track straightens out and you think you can finally relax, there may be a few more dips before you get to the finish.” 
(Read more)

It helps to remind yourself how far you’ve come since the beginning. Give yourself a pat on the back for the progress you have made.

Please share with us your own tips for coping with impatience.


reluctant to visit the gravesite?

Have you found yourself reluctant to visit your late spouse/partner’s grave since the funeral?

If so, do you find you just can’t bring yourself to go? Even when family and friends offer to accompany you?

Is there guilt because this ritual is one a widowed partner is "supposed to observe"?

Actually, there are no rules about this. Although some faiths mark the end of the first year of mourning by observing a memorial for the deceased, visiting the gravesite is otherwise a very personal choice.

While some people find regular visits comforting, others find it too upsetting and choose not to visit. Some visit only on special occasions or holidays.

As with all other aspects of mourning, you should trust your own sense of what feels right for you.

What are your thoughts about this?


When it's wise to stay home; part 2

In our last post, we explored some of the reasons you may feel tempted to accept an invitation to visit out-of-town family and friends in the weeks following your spouse/partner’s death.

By leaving town so soon after the death however, you may interrupt some critical aspects of your mourning process. Some of the problems that can come up include:

- Feeling disoriented when you arrive at your destination. Now that your whole world has been turned upside down by your loss, the new location will lack the comfort of familiar objects.

- Promises of being cushioned by loving attention from adult children or friends may not turn out to be what you expected. As a “houseguest”, you may find yourself left alone while others are at work or asked to baby-sit at a time when you aren’t up to that sort of responsibility.

- Once you return home, your local family and friends may assume you’ve “moved on” and no longer need them as you did before you left. Their intense support will no longer be there.

Although painful, the adjustment period right after your spouse/partner’s death is an extremely important one.

So give yourself plenty of time before taking out that suitcase.


when it's wise to stay home; part 1

If your spouse/partner has recently died, out-of-town family or friends may have urged, “Come stay with us. It’ll be good for you.”

In the early weeks following the death, this heartfelt invitation can seem like a welcome reprieve from painful daily reminders of your loss.

The lure of being with children, grandchildren or close friends who are otherwise far away is especially strong when you’re grieving. It can also be tempting at a time when you’re struggling to adjust to life without your spouse.

Don’t start making travel plans just yet.

Unless your current surroundings are fairly new or your local support sysytem is very limited, waiting a month or so can make an important difference because:

1) As the shock of the death itself (even when it was expected), wears off, the familiarity of your own home helps you adjust to the gradual realization of what has happened.

2) Emotional and physical support from local family and friends is greatest after the death itself. Support tends to decrease over time. as others assume you're adjusting to life without your spouse.

When you leave town, you interrupt these critical aspects of a healthy mourning process.

In our next post, we’ll look at some common problems that can arise from this interruption.


how past losses can kick in now; part 2

In our previous post, we looked at some of ways that old losses can complicate how you mourn the death of your spouse/partner.

To become more aware of the confusing, hidden influence of past losses, ask yourself the following:

1) What other significant losses have I experienced in my life? Your relationship to that loved one is what counts here. Not whether you were “related” or not.

2) How did my family react to major losses? Were we able to talk about what had happened and express feelings of loss or was the whole thing “hushed up”?

3) Do I want to mourn in a way that’s different from what I learned in my family?

4) Have I truly allowed myself sufficient time to mourn past losses? If not, is there some emotional “unfinished business” I still need to address when I’m feeling up to it?

5) Are there aspects of my current loss that stir up similar reactions to my prior loss/es?

By considering how past losses influence your current mourning, you may be able to better understand and defuse some of the distress you’re currently experiencing.

Keep in mind that the more you do the “work” of mourning, the more quickly you’ll truly be able to move forward.

And don’t forget that every tear counts.


how past losses can kick in now; part 1

As you struggle through the recent death of your spouse/partner, there may be other losses hovering in the background, influencing your current mourning process. Former losses can include the death of a parent/s or anyone else significant in your life.

So what? you may ask. That loss is over and done with. Why should I think about it now?

Because those past losses can now affect you in the following ways:

- The length of time it takes you to mourn his or her death.

- Your experience of puzzling or frightening reactions that don’t seem connected to your current loss.

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

1) The ways you’ve observed family members mourn a past death has given you (rightly or wrongly), a blueprint of how to grieve. Was it important in your family and/or culture to appear “strong” and unemotional?

2) How did you yourself mourn those earlier losses? Was your grieving process cut short by circumstances or your own attempts to “get over it” too quickly?

3) If a prior death occurred recently, you may feel too overwhelmed by the additional trauma of your current loss to adequately mourn either death.

By becoming aware of these hidden issues, you'll gain more confidence over some of the puzzling reactions that may be complicating your ability to mourn for your partner.

In our next post, we’ll look at some important questions you should ask yourself to better understand the impact of past losses on the here and now.


recognize your progress!

While you’re in the midst of grieving for your spouse/partner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and at times defeated by the burdens of new tasks and responsibilities. Caught up in the day to day struggles of surviving your loss, it may feel discouraging to think about how much still lies ahead of you.

It’s important however, to pause and notice how far you’ve already come since the death. Try to remember how you were functioning a week, a month, or months ago.

Picture yourself as you were back then.

- Consider all the little steps you’ve achieved since those earlier times.

- What challenges have you faced and managed to deal with?

- What strengths have you discovered within yourself that you never realized before?

Now give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

You might also consider recording your progress in a journal. It’s a good way to keep track of how far you’ve come.


you and your adult child: emotional guidance

Have your adult children begun to look to you for some of the emotional support or guidance that your late spouse/partner used to provide?

It’s understandable to feel uncomfortable in a new role with your family. You may feel some resentment that you are the sole parent taking on all the responsibilities.

Try thinking back to what your partner used to say in similar circumstances. After years with him or her, you can probably imagine what would be said. Let this guide you and trust your own judgment as a parent.

Rather than providing a “solution” to your child’s concerns, he or she may just need the reassurance that one parent is still around for support.


tips for using online support groups

Online support groups can be a convenient way to find reassurance and connection with others who have lost their spouse/partner. We’ve excerpted some useful pointers from “Online Grief Support Group” by Mary Beth Adonmaitis from the Death and Dying category of lovetoknow.com.
According to Ms. Adonmaitis, “Whatever stage of the bereavement process you are in, you can always seek online support. Many choose this style of therapy because grieving about their loved ones happens from the privacy of their own homes. Most of these groups are founded by those who have lost a loved one or who have done extensive research about bereavement support.

Online support groups offer individuals:

-A chance to share their grief with others who went through the same situation.

-Information about memorials and funerals.

-A place to talk about their loved ones without feeling un-welcomed or uncomfortable.

-A safe place to post poetry, photographs, journals or articles about the person who died.

-The ability to remain anonymous.

-An opportunity to meet locals who can offer support; many times people who meet online and live in the same area often get together.

-A secure place to share joys, sorrows and memories about the one who died.

-The chance to feel less lonely in your grief.

-A place to learn coping skills, stress management techniques and ways to relax.

-An all-around sounding board.

Beware of the Dangers
Just as there are dangers to online dating or social networking, there are risks to joining an online grief support. Visitors to these sites should heed the following warnings:

Never give out personal information to anyone. This includes your full name, address, phone number, computer or online passwords, credit card or bank information or other identifying factors.

Make sure the group you join is a secure private website. Registration should be required and approved.

Legitimate groups will not ask for a registration fee; many will take donations since they are non-profit organizations, but it is not mandated.

Do not believe everything you read. It's hard to believe that scam artists invade personal and emotional sites such as this, but they do.

Report suspicious behaviors to the group's moderator or website owner.

Be careful what you post. If you are unsure about the website, don't post photographs of your loved one. It is very easy to steal someone's picture on the Internet.”

In a final note, Ms. Adomaitis adds, “Support groups, whether they are online or in-person do not and cannot resolve a person's grief. Nothing can do that, because in one way or another, that grief will always be present. However, the person who received the support can now learn to lead a new normal life, knowing that it's okay to be happy again”.

Initial Author: Mary Beth Adomaitis
Recent Contributors: Gregory Thompson, Debbie Vasen Read the complete post.