Loss of a Spouse

Many people who have lost their partners say they feel like an amputee – even though a crucial part of them has been cut off and sent away, they can still sense the presence. Some people say they can still see the visual image and feel the physical touch of their deceased partner. When you have built a life with someone, losing that person feels like losing everything you had accomplished and hoped for in your time together. And since no partnership is perfect, you may feel unsettled or even guilty about challenges in your relationship that had gone unresolved. In addition to many of the common grief reactions and coping strategies listed on this site, here are some specific reactions to and strategies for coping with the loss of a partner or spouse.

You may feel…

  • A deep, aching sense of loneliness, and a terrible fear of being alone
  • Like your can still see, feel and hear your partner
  • Like your security has vanished in an instant
  • As if you have lost not only your partner but your best friend
  • Haunted by relationship issues that were still unresolved at the time of death
  • As if you have lost both your past and your future – your memories and your dreams
  • Uncomfortable when spending time with “couple” friends – you feel like the fifth wheel
  • Overwhelmed by the idea of spending the rest of your life alone – but scared of finding someone new
  • Guilt over the thought of moving on

What you can do…

  • Try to resist the urge to hide your sadness in order to protect your children or other family members.
  • Accept offers of help from family and friends with practical matters, so that you give yourself the psychological space to grieve.
  • Remember that you have lost the person who was probably most attentive to your needs, so now you must be sure to take care of yourself.
  • Talk about your partner and your memories
  • Avoid making major decisions, such as moving, selling your home, or making any large purchases, until you have given yourself the space to grieve and truly consider what your new life will look like.
  • Connect with others who can relate to losing a partner. Consider joining a local support group or online community.
  • Acknowledge the pain of no longer being part of a couple and that no one will ever replace your spouse. At the same time, try to remember other people in your life who love you and who are worthy of your time, attention and love.
  • Allow your family traditions to evolve in ways that both fit the new composition of the family and honor the memory of your partner.
  • When you feel ready, consider renewing yourself – try new activities, make new friends and look for a new focus in your life.