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October 7, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

How to Start Over after a Spouse’s death or after Divorce - Ways to Avoid Depression and Loneliness

October 7, 2014 02:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Grief is the human response to loss and the suffering you feel when something is lost or someone you love is gone.  Gone can mean death, as well as merely gone from your life.  The more you loved the person that is no longer with you, the greater your grief will be.  The most common action associated with grief is the loss of a loved one, but many other things in our lives can cause us to suffer, including relationships, things we take for granted, such as a job or our home, or a dream.  It could be caused by a miscarriage, a divorce, or a separation.  It could be caused by you or someone you love being diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Additionally, grief can occur where you wouldn't normally think it would, such as when a pet dies, retirement occurs, your homestead sells, or you move away from home.

Everyone Grieves Differently

It's important to understand that everybody grieves differently.  Some things that come into play with how a person grieves are your life experiences, your faith, and your personality.  Likewise, there is no "official" time limit on grieving.  Some people start to feel better in a few weeks, while others take years to get over a life-changing occurrence.  Healing is gradual and is not something that can be controlled or turned off and on.  It's essential to be patient and allow the grieving process to occur naturally.

Most people tend to believe many myths about grieving, in general.  For instance, many think if you try to ignore your emotional pain, it will eventually go away.  That perception can be more harmful than helpful.  It's important to deal with your grief by facing it and working through it.  Another perception is that you should be strong and face your loss; this is especially true with men.  Feeling sad or afraid is normal.  Crying doesn't show weakness; rather, it shows you are a real, caring person.  There is no need to put on a brave front.  Showing your emotions can help you, and others who are grieving as well, to cope with your loss together.  The most popular myth is that grieving lasts about a year.  No doubt, you've heard people say that a surviving spouse should not sell anything or do anything out of their normal routine for "a year".  The fact is, people grieve differently, and only the person who has suffers knows when they are ready to move forward.

Grief can take on many forms and many processes for life changes, the death of a loved one, or a breakup of what you thought was a good relationship.  Someone who is grieving will likely be faced with denial, anger, negotiating, pleading, depression, and finally, acceptance.  And many times, just when you think you are ready to accept what has happened, you will revert back to anger or denial or some other stage in the process. There is no right way to go through the stages of coping.  It can be best described as a rollercoaster ride with highs and lows and ups and downs.  All of this is normal.

If you are struggling with these emotions following a loss, please know that all of these things are normal and that you will heal in time.  Let the counselors at Orange County Relationship help you heal.  Maybe you need to talk about your loss with someone who is not attached to it.  Our counselors are trained professionals and can help you learn how to cope with the grief you are experiencing. 

Common Reactions to Grief

Although losses affect people in dramatically different ways, there are common reactions to grief.  When you are first informed of a loss, it is normal to feel like you're going to faint, you're having a bad dream, you're going crazy, or you're not able to breathe.  Another common reaction is that people tend to question their religious beliefs.  Right after a loss, it is normal to be in shock and to not believe what happened.  You may feel numb or even choose to deny the truth.  Sadness is another symptom of grief.  You may feel empty or lonely.  You might cry at any given moment causing you to feel emotionally unstable.  You may feel guilty about things you didn't say or didn't do for the person you lost.  You may also feel guilty for being relieved, such as if your pet dies after a long illness, or a friend passes who was suffering from a nasty disease.  You may feel blame and be resentful.  You may blame yourself for not doing enough for a dying loved one, blame God, blame the doctors for not saving your loved one, or blame the person who passed for leaving you.  You may be afraid or helpless.  There are also physical symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, weight loss, and insomnia.

Strategies for Coping

So, what are the strategies for coping with grief?  The most important thing is that you get support from other people.  Express yourself and share your feelings.  Whether your support comes from family members, friends, neighbors, clergy, or your counselor, accept their help and support.  Connecting with other people will help you to heal.  Draw strength from your faith.  Join a support group.  Get in touch with a mental health professional, a therapist, or a grief counselor if you are carrying too much grief.  A professional can help you overcome and deal with your grief.

Be sure to take care of yourself, physically.  When you feel good physically, you will also feel good emotionally.  Try to beat additional stress by getting a good night's sleep, eating right, and exercising.  Never use drugs or alcohol to numb your pain.  Don't let anybody tell you how to feel.  Again, everyone grieves differently, so one person cannot tell another person how to cope with grief.  Be prepared for things to happen that will remind you of the person or thing you lost.  Holidays and birthdays can be especially difficult.  Hearing a certain song that was important to you and your lost loved one can trigger emotions.

Try not to sink into self-pity or feelings of helplessness.  Make changes.  Nobody can do this for you; you will have to do this one on your own.  Find positive, healthy ways to get through loneliness.  Connect with people and vow to move on with your life. Here are some suggestions:

  •  Get involved in organizations or pursue hobbies that you participated in prior to the death of your spouse.  Or, if that's too hard emotionally, try something new.  Choose social activities over sitting at home reading a book or watching television every night. 
  •  Volunteer!  Volunteer at a soup kitchen, your favorite charity, or at a hospital.  Spreading kindness will benefit others while getting you out of the house and available to meet new people and form new relationships. 
  • Start dating again, if you're ready.  Once your heart is healed, ease back into dating.  Please know, that this doesn't mean you are replacing your loved on; just that you're ready to open your heart to a new relationship.

Facing the death of your spouse or facing the end of an intimate relationship is earth shattering.  Expect to feel grief.  This person was the person you chose to share your dreams and build a life with.  Not only was this person your "other half", but many times people characterize these people as their best friend, confidant, and/or traveling buddy.  The passing or loss of someone so significant in your life is bound to leave you restless and emotional.  Be sure to find support from others you love to get through this taxing time.

It is okay to cry.  Tears are necessary and do help.  Crying is a way to heal.  Be cognizant that a lot of people are uncomfortable with death and truly do not know what to say to the one left behind.  They will say and do stupid things.  Forgive them.  They don't know what to say.  They don't know if it's okay to hug you, cry with you, or speak of your loved one. 

Loneliness is probably the hardest part of grieving.  You will likely remember everything that brought the two of you together and you will miss the charm, humor, and strength that molded your relationship.  You will also miss the physical aspects of a touch, a hug, and a kiss.  You will get through your grief by leaning on those who love you.  However, as time passes, if you still feel heartbroken and the days seem dark and lonely, you may need to talk to a counselor.

Try to keep yourself healthy and hydrated.  Eat healthy foods and avoid too much alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.  Exercise and drink plenty of water.  Also, keep your emotional well-being intact.  Holding on to anger, resentment, and hostility can make you physically sick.  Be sure to get out of the house.  Do things that make your heart feel good and bring joy to your life.  Spend time with your grandchildren.  Join a support group. 

The sadness of losing a loved one may never go away completely, but it shouldn't be the center of your life forever.  If grief causes you to never resume your life, you may be clinically depressed.  If your life feels meaningless or empty, you are extremely bitter over your loss, you avoid things that remind you of your loved one, you feel hopeless or worthless, you are unable to function at home or work, or you have thoughts of suicide,  be sure to seek professional help.  Contact the professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County or make an appointment online using our online calendar.  The counselors are trained professionals who can help you work through your grief and can offer you ways to deal with things you may be suppressing.


About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

You deserve to feel better - in your life and relationships. At OC Relationship Center we want to help you find more love, more joy, more peace...and less conflict and less stress. Our licensed and caring counselors can help if you are single, dating, married, divorced.

OC Relationship Center can be found at
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