Grief and Loss: How to Deal with the Death of a Partner

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We as human beings live as a part of a closely interactive society where we are programmed from birth to rely on each other. This support can be physical and emotional.

To strengthen our need for company, we choose life partners who we consider walking by our side till our last breath. But sometimes destiny conceals ugly surprises for us. Most of us have experienced the death of a loved one in our lives. But when this person is your spouse, life just takes a different meaning to it. It is only natural to grieve the loss of a loved one. There are no right or wrong rules concerning grieving.
Dealing with the loss of a spouse can be the most traumatic event in one’s life. Not only does this upheaval challenge your psychological boundaries but your social and physical confines are also interrupted. A relationship strives on the division of roles and you might find drastic changes engulfing your lifestyle while you are in mourning.

What is grief?

Grief is defined as the internal feeling that one feels in reaction to a loss while bereavement is the state of having experienced that loss. Grief is a fairly normal and common phenomenon proven by the fact that every three out of four women will naturally outlive their spouses. However, it extends beyond the confines of normal if the grief is prolonged to over 1 year. This is an intensified condition that can affect your personal relations, beliefs and decision-making skills.

How does loss affect the living spouse?

The feelings of grief and loss don’t have a concrete finish date. It’s common to still feel grief and loss for your loved one many years after their death, though the depth and intensity of your loss will decrease. However, for some the grief takes a toll on them to the extent that the find daily handling of their affairs a tedious task. Stress and anxiety are two causes of worry for these individuals.

It has been proven by research that 40% of the surviving partners will undergo an anxiety disorder. For some it can be so severe that the bereavement makes the living spouse lose touch with the realities of life. For some the perpetual separation pushes them on the edge psychologically to an extent that a 70% increase in the deaths of spouses only six months after losing their partners has been reported.

What are grief triggers?

Factors that stimulate this anxiety pattern are factors called grief triggers. While heading on the path to healing, factors that can contribute to a sudden upsurge in grief feelings can be accountable to reminders like events or anniversaries. This can occur in the form of a shared song or a television show, which puts the individual on a spell of nostalgia with memories flooding back.
What determines the extent of grief one experiences after losing a partner is based on the survivor’s emotional health before the incident, the quality of relationship with the deceased and the nature of death.

How does grief feel?

While trying to fight the turmoil of bereavement and making attempts to adjust your life back to normality, the following conditions can be experienced:

  • A feeling of numbness in terms of emotions
  • Fearfulness about the unacceptable
  • Problems concentrating, eating or sleeping
  • A feeling of guilt over being the one left alive
  • Overwhelming desire to cry all the time
  •  Irritability and a hesitation to meet new people

These problems are a common accompaniment of an individual battling with loss and some of them are even a healthy outlet of frustration and sorrow. However, when there are signs of depression, intense stress or serious anxiety, it may be time to consult a professional who will help you cope and move through the loss.

How to cope with the grief

During the period of coping with the loss, you are not only required to deal with the outburst of feelings inside you but also to move on with your life. Shouldering responsibilities and resuming daily chores can just add pain to the process of healing. Initially keeping yourself busy might seem like an effective escape from your nagging thoughts but eventually you will have to settle down and face them.

Here are a few suggestions of how to deal with the tragedy:

  • Let family and friends help you. What leaves the greatest consequences on your soul is the emotional upheaval your life would have ended up in. In such circumstances, care and love from near and dear ones will help you nurture feelings of security and enable you to place trust in relationships.
  • Talk your feelings out: During your period of mourning you will find loved ones eager to lend a listening ear to your miseries. Sharing always allows you to lessen the burden from your chest. If you are uncomfortable at pouring your heart out to them, there are many grief support groups that will help you recover. If nothing else writing a journal will help you recognise your internal feelings to help in the battling process
  • Don’t make drastic changes immediately: Remember mourning is a time consuming process. Any attempts at reconstructing your life should be slowed down to incorporate healing and recovery before you plan to change your job or house. If possible, call a relative or friend over to help out with your spouse’s tasks till you feel okay getting on top of them again.
Are you struggling with the death of a partner and can’t seem to move on from your feelings of grief and loss? Contact the counsellors at the Centre for Relationship Development in Sydney CBD, Newtown, Northern Beaches and the South Coast of NSW to get the support you need.
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