Finding ways to manage the death of a spouse

The death of a spouse for many people can be an absolutely devastating time, and you may feel uncertain how you will survive such an overwhelming event. This can be irrespective of whether it is following a long illness or is relatively sudden and for how long you were together.

Many may feel that their whole world has fallen apart and can lead to grief, sadness, and confusion and even feelings of anger and guilt. There may also be a sense of relief that the person you love is no longer in pain or suffering. In addition to the emotional impact of grief, there may be practical considerations including funeral arrangements and financial issues which can further lead to stress and anxiety. You may also have to explain your spouse’s death to your children providing comfort and arranging care. How you grieve will be unique to you and there is no right or wrong way to feel after the death of your spouse.

We understand how hard it can be. This guide gives tips to help you find ways to manage the death of a spouse.

Discuss The Funeral

Many people are reluctant to discuss death and dying and yet talking about it can provide tremendous support. When making funeral arrangements it is important to choose a funeral director who you feel comfortable with about discussing your spouse’s funeral wishes. The funeral director can be invaluable at this time and a great comfort to you.

Talk About Death

Staying in contact and communicating with friends and relatives becomes so important at this time. Talking can enable you to begin to acknowledge the new reality and to try to help you to begin the long process of healing. It can bring relief leading to a better understanding of your feelings, and friends and family will want to be present for you at this challenging time and well beyond.

Companionship can be found in activities such as watching a movie, taking a walk, sharing a meal, or going to a sporting event. You may also find talking to a therapist or counsellor will help.

Reminisce and Share

As time passes, the pain of your grief may diminish, but it can still be very helpful to continue talking about your loved one to keep their memory alive. Marking anniversaries and other important dates can be difficult but, in general, reminiscing is useful and an enjoyable way to connect with others and can even help protect against depression and loneliness. Looking through photographs, watching family videos and hearing your spouse’s voice, sharing stories and anecdotes can all help you appreciate the time you spent together and keep the person you love in your life forever.

CPJ Field’s Never Alone

CPJ Field has worked with hundreds of families, caring for those who have died and for their family and friends left behind. Our Never Alone programme was developed to help those experiencing loneliness and isolation.

We offer online and in-person help, guidance and support around emotional and practical matters. We also run community events in our local towns for people to interact in social groups at our coffee mornings or ‘knit and natter’ groups. Our Never Alone programme on our website has many resources such as where to find local groups who can help you when you are struggling with loneliness following the death of a spouse or tips on how to create a feeling of greater wellbeing when times are difficult.

Get Support With Children

If you have young children and teenagers, your natural instinct will be to protect them, and you may find it a daunting prospect to be the only parent supporting them. They will certainly need your love and care and you may need to consider getting additional support to look after them. Don’t be afraid to accept offers of help from family and friends who may be able to offer support when you are working.

Get Help With Sorting Out Finances And Legal Matters

You may be completely unprepared for dealing with these matters and may be faced with a mountain of financial paperwork. You can get help from the professionals such as financial advisors, accountants, and solicitors. Or you may have a close, trusted friend or relative who can advise and help you out. There is also good literature available including MoneyHelper, a website provided by HM Government and the Money and Pensions Service, which is also there to help you.

Rearrange Your Social Life

As a newly single person, your social life may become different. If you did a lot of socialising as a couple, you may feel you do not fit in anymore. Planning your new social life may not be straightforward, but there are lots of things you can do to meet people when the time to do so feels right. These include joining a health club, or sporting group such as a tennis or golf club. You could also buy two tickets to an event and invite someone to go as your guest. Volunteering at a hospital, a charity shop or a library is another option.

Our Never Alone programme is available to all and can encourage and support you in taking small steps with attending social events.

Look After Your Physical Health

Grieving can affect your physical well-being. You may have difficulty sleeping, find you have no appetite and generally feel lethargic. These reactions are quite normal after the death of a spouse, but it is important to look after yourself. Try to exercise regularly including walking with others and you may find that this helps to get your sleep back on track. Prepare and eat healthy meals, where possible. Avoid unhealthy habits such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking drugs and smoking as these could increase symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

Celebrate The Memory Of Your Spouse

You will particularly miss your spouse on special days such as birthdays and anniversaries and during holidays such as the festive season. Share your memories with friends and family. You can also create a Memory Book or plant a tree in honour of your spouse.

Moving Your Life Forwards

Once initial reluctance is overcome, talking openly about death can make an enormous difference to how people cope with bereavement and grief. Discussing where to turn to for practical guidance and emotional support brings great comfort and relief. This, in turn, allows you to cherish treasured memories of your spouse as you begin to move forward in your life.

How CPJ Field can help

We know that opening dialogues after a death can be a valuable coping mechanism and this is why we launched Never Alone. The programme started in June 2018 and is a series of community initiatives designed to tackle loneliness and build connections between people and their local communities. It’s also important to plan ahead making practical arrangements for funerals, including life insurance, and taking out prepaid funeral plans. Choose a funeral director who is happy to hear your thoughts, deal with all your concerns and put your spouse’s funeral wishes in place.

Bereavement Resources

There are various organisations which can help following the death of someone close.