Those who have lost a spouse need time to scream, cry, plead and think. They need a respite from the strained formality of a funeral and the agonizing tedium of finalizing their loved one’s personal affairs. Then they need love and the support of an understanding, nonjudgmental listener, someone to hold their hand and share thoughts and feelings. And they need a way forward. Emotional momentum. An escape from grief. There’s no schedule, no time limit on bereavement, only its presence and the need to cope with the weight of it.
There are many strategies for finding strength and new purpose after the loss of one’s life partner, but there’s no universal way out and up, no one-size-fits-all program. With faith, the help of family and friends and the healing power of time, a new life slowly emerges. When you’re ready, you’ll reach out to others and when you do, you’ll find that healing and growth can take many forms.
The human touch
Therapy and group counseling are two common means of seeking relief from the chaos of emotional distress. A therapist can provide valuable insights that help you make sense of your feelings. If you have some reluctance or misgivings about therapy, think of it as a way to understand and come to terms with grief. Group counseling is another forum for emotional sharing in which people with common experiences help each other find healing. Try to find a group of people who’ve lost a spouse in the same manner you have rather than one whose members have had disparate experiences with bereavement. Bear in mind that the Internet offers a number of opportunities for support through a formal online programs or via blog posts and chat rooms.
Bereaved people re-engage socially in many different ways. Some prefer to jump back into their social routines and surround themselves with sympathetic friends and acquaintances, while others are more comfortable taking it slow. Sometimes, losing a spouse means losing touch with people with whom you interacted as a couple. Making new connections can be intimidating. Social media sites can help you find like-minded people who understand what you’ve gone through and who might be looking for someone to interact with, either online or in person. If you’re new to social media, there are websites that offer tutorials on Facebook, Snapchat, and others.
Physical and mental well-being
It’s important to engage your body and mind in activities that keep you energized and feeling empowered. Regular exercise, whether it’s walking every day or joining an aerobics class, helps you stay in shape and boosts self-confidence. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain that help you feel better and support the healing process. Yoga, with its strong mind-body connection, mitigates the emotional and physical effects of grief through a discipline that puts you in touch with inner reserves of emotional strength. Meditation is also a powerful healing medium that teaches you to quiet your thoughts and shut off emotional turmoil.
Try something new
The death of a spouse can be an opportunity to make a new start, to try something you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t have the time or confidence. Learn a new language online, earn an online degree, take a trip abroad or start an online business venture – there’s no limit to what you could accomplish. Occupying your time and thoughts with purposeful activities is an important part of the healing process and it can take you places you never thought you’d go.
Remember that grief is a bridge to a new understanding, a hard-earned wisdom about life and loss. Allowing yourself time to grieve and surrender to the pain you’re feeling will strengthen you emotionally. As you walk this path, don’t be afraid to reach out for personal and professional support.
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