Dealing with the loss of a spouse or partner can be one of the most challenging grief journeys. A person’s life can be dramatically altered when they lose someone who has been “their other half” in so many ways.
Grief expert Kelly Baltzell, M.A., CEO of Beyond Indigo, shares the following reflections on this important area of grief:
No matter how long you have been married or living with your mate, their death comes as a shock. Your partner was your mate in life to help enjoy the good times, to endure the bad and make each day a little brighter. When you lose your mate you experience grief in different ways than if you had lost a parent, a sibling, a friend or a child. Many times you have to restructure your life to reflect that there is just one person instead of two. Depending on whether you are male or female will also determine how you respond to the loss of your mate.
What makes losing your mate so different then other types of grief?
If you are man, society may have a different assumption on how you should grieve and be less accepting of your grief. You might hear, “be strong,” “don’t cry,” “move on why are you still sad?”
You may actually have to tell people it is okay for you to grieve and you will cry if you want to. Remember people are uncomfortable around grieving people if they themselves have never grieved.
If you have been a caregiver you might be eating worse then when you were married or had a mate. Perhaps you have tended to have a less balanced diet and have been eating many of the fried foods. Perhaps you aren’t eating many meals, or are skipping eating significant meals.
More Health Risks
People who have lost a mate seem to be more likely to get sick physically and mentally. This is not overly surprising because of the intensity of grief you are facing but it is worth noting.
- You have a greater chance of being depressed, even up to a couple of years after the loss of your partner.
- Elderly individuals may suffer low-level depression that could go unnoticed and be related to grief.
- There is a greater chance for suicide later in life…especially for men without partners.
- Your immune system is weaker.
- There is a higher chance of turning to addictive substances such as tobacco, drugs and alcohol, which make you a risk for other health concerns.
- If you had a great marriage or partnership, it is more likely your health will suffer after the loss.
Take Care of Yourself
Now it is important not to allow yourself to become depressed just by reading what can happen to your health. You don’t have to be sick if you are aware of your health and keep an eye on it. Make sure that you eat well, or at the very least are mindful to eat something, sleep and drink plenty of water. It is the simple things that work, but they are also so easy to forget. If you start not feeling well don’t shove the thoughts aside thinking things will get better. Go to the doctor and be proactive instead of trying to get well later.
Adjusting is individual. People grieve on their own timetable. People also adjust differently.
The younger you are when you have lost your mate the harder it is for you to adjust. The theory is that not only have you lost your “present” but you have also lost your “future” -- depending on where you are in the life cycle. People who have been married for 30 to 40 years have already lived a larger part of their life. Younger people have lost the future in children, grandchildren and other family events.
Remember each loss is not just a single loss.
You have multiple losses. You have lost the person to have a conversation with over dinner, the person to help you get dressed for fancy occasions or help with the maintenance of your house, doing groceries, laundry and bills. Be prepared for the pain from these losses to show up when you least expect it.
Going on in life without your mate will probably feel like you are starting over in some ways. It is a hard journey to walk but it can be done. Remember to watch your health, have a good support system, and take care of you first. Grief is not a destination but a journey.
© Kelasan Inc. Reprinted with Permission.
To learn more about Kelly’s work, go to www.grieving.com
Always remember, you are not alone. There are others who understand and are ready to help. The grief resources available to you will vary by community. Your NFDA funeral director is a great place to start to learn about support available in your area.