How to deal with widowhood psychologically?
Tips and key ideas to know how to manage the emotions produced by widowhood.
The mourning for the death of a husband is something complex, experienced in a unique way by the widowed person. Some get through this stage relatively quickly, within a few months after the death, while others can take up to 5 years to recover.
Each person needs their time, their return to normality. You cannot force things, but it is possible to learn to live this new stage by accepting what has happened and understanding that the person who has left will be part of us as long as we remember them.
Next, we are going to see tips on how to face widowhood and what risks there are at this stage that can cause pathological grief.
How to cope with widowhood: keys to managing emotions and grief
The final loss of a spouse or romantic partner involves a specific and complex type of grief. Facing widowhood is a difficult process since this phenomenon implies a great change in our expectations and lifestyle. Like it or not, when you live as a couple you always think in terms of two. With the death of our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend that suddenly ends. We find ourselves in strange loneliness, a sensation that we have not felt in many years.
In all duels, not only the loss itself counts but also the circumstances in which they occur. It is not the same to face widowhood at the age of 30 because our husband has died in an accident as to do it at 70 after having been by our husband’s side after several years suffering from a harsh and debilitating illness. In the first case, becoming a widower is something totally sudden, not at all expected, while in the other case the widow has had enough time to prepare for the final moment.
The type of relationship that existed between the two also influences. More complicated relationships tend to lead to more complex griefs. The reason for this is that, although they both loved each other, the conflicts, tensions, and arguments as a couple may leave open many wounds and issues to be discussed, and when one of the two dies the widower finds himself in a situation full of unsolved questions.
The best way to cope with widowhood is to try to accept the facts, without getting caught up in going back again and again to the past to change what can no longer be changed. One thing is the nostalgia that we can feel for the good times that we were with that person, and quite another is to take refuge in the past, not being able to live in the present. You have to value the past, but living in the present and understanding that the best thing to do is give it time.
What a widower usually experiences after losing his partner is a deep feeling of bewilderment and uncertainty, accompanied by denial, confusion, and disbelief. When you lose someone you lived with on a daily basis, a colleague who was by your side on a daily basis, you can see that part of us dies with him.
When you have been living with someone for years thinking in terms of two, the moment that person leaves, your efforts are doubled. We have to relearn things, even the smallest ones, such as sleeping without having another person by our side, making family decisions without receiving the support or advice of our better half, or even learning to manage feelings on our own.
It is common for one not to know who he is after having lived through the death of his partner. This is not surprising, since the dynamic of mutual interdependence that has been formed over the years of living as a couple has just suddenly disappeared, regardless of whether it was an expected death or not. Accepting one’s independence is not an easy task. Although she is no longer alive, the presence of the person who has left is everywhere, something that generates nostalgia, uneasiness, and anguish.
Psychological risk factors in widowhood
Each person is different, evident in their behavior, beliefs, and opinions. This also occurs in the way you handle the death of your partner. Each person can experience the grief associated with widowhood in a very different way, with those at greatest risk of falling into pathological grief. There are a few characteristics that lead to people who are especially vulnerable to this situation, factors that intensify feelings of helplessness, despair, and loneliness, making it more difficult to overcome the loss.
1. Little support from family
The family can be considered a protective factor against living pathological grief, and therefore its absence can be considered just the opposite, this is a risk factor. The absence of a family support network increases feelings of isolation and despair.
2. Submission relationship with the spouse
In couples with a relationship of submission of one spouse to the other (usually the woman towards the man), when the one who exercised the dominant power dies, the other person regains independence that they do not know how to manage. Finding yourself in a situation of individuality can generate fears, feelings of incapacity, and a feeling of abandonment.
3. Ambivalent relationship with the spouse
In ambivalent relationships, the departure of one of the spouses means not being able to resolve questions that were left open, pending discussion and reflection. This makes the widower or widower think about everything they would like to have said or done to the person who has left, and that now they do not have the opportunity to solve.
4. Financial problems
If the newly widowed person has financial problems, such as unresolved debt or financial problems, they will tend to feel more strongly about the loss of their partner.
At the end of the day, having a partner is not only emotional support but also material and financial support, since they may be working or receiving a pension. When he dies, this flow of money ceases to be received (except for exceptions) and in the event of financial problems in the family nucleus, its absence is even more noticeable. c
Introverted, shy people who do not have too many friends, manifest more problems expressing their emotions and managing grief by not releasing what they feel with acquaintances and friends.
Naturally, not all introverts will suffer pathological grief, but introversion can be considered a risk factor when going through this period.
- Related article: “Introverts: 4 characteristics that define them”
6. Have young children
If the couple still had children in full raising, facing widowhood is more difficult. It is difficult to explain to a young child why his or her father or mother is not coming back, especially if the widower has not yet managed to properly manage this tragic event.
What to do in widowhood?
As we noted, each person mourns the death of their spouse in their own way. This makes us recognize that there is no perfect and ideal formula to face widowhood, but there are a series of ideal recommendations to facilitate the grieving process, all of them based on the idea that what has happened must be accepted, understanding that the deceased is no longer by our side but that we will take him or her everywhere as long as we remember him or her.
We must remember our loved ones and the experiences we had with that person, but not thinking about what could have been and what was not. Hypotheses about something that could have been and was not do not lead to anything constructive in this case. It will not be a quick process that is overcome from one day to the next: The death of a loved one as important as our husband or wife brought with it spending a long time with feelings of pain, emotions that arise in the face of the emptiness that leaves a person who was every day in our life.
We should not pathologize this, since it is totally normal and adaptive to feel very sad at such a loss. It is essential for our mental health to accept the fact that we are suffering, but also to avoid that pain prevents us from taking care of ourselves. We must eat well, try to play sports, stay active, get enough sleep and, above all, interact with our friends and family. Only by connecting with others and trying to activate ourselves will we be able to overcome the death of our loved ones.
It is also a very good idea to go to help groups for widowers and visit a psychologist to better manage the grief. We should not pathologize grief, thinking that it is something that if living is synonymous with depression but it is advisable to do everything possible to prevent it from becoming a depressive picture. Prevention is better than cure and there is nothing wrong with visiting a psychologist to learn how to cope with widowhood, especially if the death of our spouse occurred suddenly and when he/she was relatively young.
And, very importantly, let the wounds heal over time. It is not good to make important short-term decisions right after the loss of our spouse. We will still be adapting to the new situation and any aspect that requires deep reflection should be discarded for the moment because we really are not in a position or thinking clearly. Grief takes time, and time is what we must give it.
How to cope with widowhood: keys to managing emotions and grief