Death of a spouse or life partner
Death of a spouse or life partner and companion is emotionally and spiritually devastating. Bringing with their loss many secondary loses as you now find yourself with everything to do, paying bills, form filling, household tasks and children perhaps to nurture and help understand. All at a time when you feel lost yourself, alone, confused and heart broken. Decisions need to be made and life just got as tough as it could; one moment you were a couple and now you are single and the pain feels like it will never go away.
The effects of such a death brings a feeling of emptiness, shock, numbness, you may be operating on automatic pilot and days and nights merge into one. You can feel anxious and fearful of the future, for some guilt and anger seeps in and can be hard on yourself. All this is normal following the news of the death of someone you shared your life with and expected to do so.
Many people in mourning feel like they want to shut others out; yet this is a time to enlist people you trust to support you through this painful loss. Your pain will lessen as you adjust to them not being around. You will miss him or her for many years and perhaps for the rest of your life. Be gently and kind to yourself as you walk towards your personal path of peace!
Following the death of our loved one, an enormous change has taken place which cannot be undone; we begin to realise life can never be the same again. Reality tells us there is nothing which can be done to bring our loved one back; what we can do is begin to look at the way we think, feel and behave following the death of our beloved companion.
Grief is like a ball of hot intense emotions all tangled together; this intertwining makes emotions difficult to understand and the person grieving will not be able to make sense of the emotions and may be unable to articulate how they are feeling for some time.
Numbness on hearing the death of a loved one can last for, days weeks, months and even years this is normal and the effects of shock, it is more productive to go with the flow of your numbness rather than push against it until it disperses and emotions begin to re-enter your conscious space (for many around three to six months).
Please note: these emotions can be intense even if years have passed since the death of a loved one; numbness is nature’s way of protecting us!
Signs of stress i.e. heart palpitations, tight throat, jaw/chest pain, dry mouth, nausea, sweating, shaking….: These symptoms will be short lived on hearing about the death of a loved one and the result of shock and/or panic. However, any symptoms of this nature after the initial hearing of the death MUST be checked out by a trained medical person since they can be the signs of a heart attack and should be treated with urgency.
We are all doing the best we can with the understanding, knowledge, awareness and skills we have.
When we lose someone, we love we also lose the unique relationship we shared with him or her. For example, if you are daughter or son of a parent who has died, if you are the spouse of the same person, an ex-partner or a friend you will all experience grief for the same person. However, each person’s grief will be experienced in a different way. This is because you shared a unique relationship with the person who died; each and every person grieving the loss of a loved one is suffering a truly unique personal experience.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to work through your loss and arrive at a place of ‘Gracious Remembering’. Whilst the loss of your precious loved one is truly individual and unique; grief, usually has an overall pattern.
After the death, many people have probably told you ‘time heals’ the problem with this statement is it implies when time has passed your grief will have passed with it. Almost ‘as if’ our sorrow, despair and pain will have dissolved by some unseen energy; so, when we find ourselves some weeks, months or even years from our initial shock we may still be feeling deeply bereft and with some intensity.
What time does however is give us some breathing space until we gradually arrive at a time when we feel we may need to let go of the ‘pain and sorrow’ and begin facing our here and now living. We may gradually come to realise that we owe it to ourselves, our loved ones who are still sharing our life and to the person we have lost. Turning away from our despair and sorrow does not mean leaving our loved one it means to let go of the pain, despair and sorrow we associate with their death.
With this realisation, it is possible to discover new ways of being by becoming more aware, gaining understanding to what makes you ‘tick’ and to discover within yourself strengths that you did perhaps not know existed or have not acknowledged before.To discover and achieve new strengths it may be necessary to raise our awareness, skills and knowledge; this is where counselling can support you to work through your grieving process; to offer you deeper clarity, insight and tools to support your journey through your grieving progression.
Please remember anything new and any change takes time and constructively undertaken one step at a time for lasting results; exploration, awareness and insight as described here needs to be thought about with imagination, respect and empathy towards others paying equal respect and empathy towards yourself. Being kind and gently towards yourself and others who are grieving helps support the chaos and despair you may find each other in.