Updated: Sep 21, 2021
The death of a partner is many losses in one because a spouse or partner plays so many different roles in our life. One of the biggest roles a partner plays is that of the person who is there, in our daily life. They are the person we see the most, talk to the most and have the most experiences with. This can make their absence painfully obvious every day as they are missed doing the most mundane things.
Our partner may have been our best friend or our sounding board or the support we could count on. All partners, no matter what the relationship was like, played multiple roles in our life, whether it was in terms of financial support, listening, home maintenance, or being a partner at family events. All of these roles are gone in the same instant.
We can also feel adrift having lost our long-time identity as half of a couple or as a wife or husband. We can wonder how others, including in-laws will view us. We can wonder how to view ourselves.
If there are children in the home, the surviving parent can be dealing with being a single parent and supporting grieving children at the same time they are grieving. This is especially hard to do when you are exhausted from grieving, parenting and taking care of all that needs to be done following a death.
If the relationship wasn’t good or had difficult parts, you could be mourning the loss of your dreams for the relationship. Time may have run out before the relationship was all that you hoped. Whatever the relationship was like, it is likely that you had hopes and dreams for the future you are mourning and things you never got to do.
Many people are shocked to find themselves dealing with paperwork and financial stresses when they wish they could just focus on their grief. There is a lot to do when you are the one responsible for another person’s estate. There is even more do to if you were relying on the income of your partner for living expenses. This can force you into making many practical decisions at a time when your brain is not working at its best. The oft repeated advice to wait a year before making any major decisions makes some sense but isn’t always possible if there are financial or other pressures.
Maybe the hardest part of the death of a spouse or partner is that all of the grieving is done without the very person who you may have most wanted there for support.
There is a tremendous amount of adjusting to be done after the death of a partner. This happens naturally if you allow it and help it along by feeling, thinking, resting, and connecting with others. While there is no magic time frame, it may be helpful to think in terms of years (the first year, second year and third year after the death) rather than months. They each have their unique characteristics and you should see your periods of grief get smaller and the periods when you are looking forward to your future grow over that time. The long arc of grief should slowly move from thinking about the death and your loss to thinking about your partner’s life and what you had and loved. Someday you should be able to think of them with warmth, taking the precious gifts they gave you into your future.
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