After your husband or wife dies, people will give you tons of advice. But unless they’ve experienced it, usually what they say is ill-formed at best and horrifying at worst.
What I started doing is smiling and saying, “thank you.” It ends the awkward conversation and sends them away feeling good. You don't have to do what they said.
This is what is true: you will survive after the loss of your partner. There is life after death.
Grieving is a personal journey. Depending upon your culture or religious beliefs, you may have a mourning period to follow.
If you can, don’t make any major life decisions for 6 to 12 months after the loss of your spouse or partner. You need time to focus on creating your life without them while keeping them alive in your best memories.
After that period, however, the loss of your partner doesn't just go away. You aren't magically happy all of the time. Who's happy all the time anyway?
It would be wonderful if grief were linear and you could pass through stages and never return. It's more like the Family Circus comics with dotted lines all over the place.
Grief does not fit into your plans. You'll be shopping and see something in the store that reminds you of them. Big, giant crocodile tears may steam up your face. That is totally normal.
Grief isn’t selfish. There’s plenty to go around. And, if you allow it, your grief can be shared. Share stories with your stepchildren, college friends, and coworkers. All who knew them will grieve as well. They will share it with you. Remember that it isn’t a competition. No one wins the award for having the right to grieve the most.
You always love your partner. And your heart will allow you to love others again. It's not a replacement, but it is a way you’ll continue to love. Your partner loved you and all of those reasons why they loved you will attract another person.
As much as you don’t want to try new things or feel happy in the middle of your grief, do something different. Learn a language. Take up sudoku. Too tired she online Thai Chi.
It’s okay to be proud of an accomplishment and feel good about doing something on your own. These small achievements, though they seem trivial, will help you realize you can move forward in your grief.
Grief is funny that way. You’ll be out with people and laugh. That first time you really laugh, you feel a tinge of guilt. Did I dishonor my partner’s memory? Believe me, you didn’t.
Grief and happiness are not mutually exclusive as we like to believe in our western culture. You will always love your partner and you will also rebuild your life. You are not alone in this feeling.
Grief never really leaves. It will diminish and step aside enough for you to enjoy life. Let people know it’s okay to bring them up in conversation by doing it yourself. Being happy is good. Laugh at stories you share about them with friends and family. You will survive the loss of your partner. You will thrive in spite of it. I promise.
(Written with love from a widow of 4 and a half years.)