By: Linda Burhans
Aging is a natural part of life, and death is a natural part of aging. We all know the time will come when we pass away, but what happens to those we leave behind? If you are one of those seniors dealing with the pain and grief of losing a spouse, there are ways to help yourself through the process and over time start to feel better again.
The grieving process
The grieving process is not just random; it is well known to have a series of stages:
These stages do not necessarily occur in this order, and it is quite common to move back and forth between different stages several times as you grieve. Working through your grief and dealing with the strong emotions that result from losing a spouse takes time; the amount of time necessary will be different for each person.
The most important thing to remember about the grieving process is that it is perfectly normal and actually good for you to work through each stage. Even if you find yourself back experiencing a stage you thought was long gone, remember that is perfectly normal as well.
Dealing with your grief and emotions
There is no single right way to deal with your grief and emotions. What works for someone else might not work for you, or just the opposite might be the case, so don’t judge yourself or your own progress against the experiences or progress of someone else. Let’s take a closer look at the most common emotions and strategies for dealing with them:
Pain – The pain you feel after losing a spouse is very real. It is both emotional and physical, so relieving it is not as simple as taking a pill. As unpleasant as it is, pain is a vital part of the grieving and healing process. Let yourself feel and don’t try to block or dull the pain with alcohol, food, cigarettes, or other over indulgences. The more you let it flow, the faster it will be relieved.
Tears – Along with great pain comes tears, sometimes a huge amount of tears. Many people are taught that shedding tears is a sign of weakness and that fighting them back is a sign of strength, so they will put a lot of effort into avoiding or minimizing crying. Shedding tears is actually very healthy because it helps remove toxins from your body and also produces a natural pain reliever for the brain called leucine-enkephalin, so don’t hold back; go ahead and shed plenty of tears!
Other people – As you grieve you’ll have all sorts of experiences with other people; some of them will be helpful and some of them will not be helpful. In most cases, those people with whom you have unhelpful experiences simply do not know how to deal with death or how to best interact with you, so try to be patient with them. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be afraid to lean on those people whose efforts are helpful to you. Ask for support and encouragement when you need it and the grieving process will proceed more smoothly.
Time – It sounds cliché but it really is true; when it comes to dealing with grief and emotions there is absolutely no substitute for time. As time passes and you get farther away from the death of your spouse, you’ll slowly start to feel better. There will be good days and bad days, and there will be extra pangs of emotion on special days like holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. Take care of yourself and be patient with yourself, because time really does heal even the deepest of wounds.
You are in control of your grieving process
Many times, well meaning friends and family will try to be helpful but end up leaving you feeling manipulated or forced into something you don’t really want to do. They are trying to assist you, but the reality is you are the only person who knows what you need and the things you are comfortable doing. In other words, you are in control of your grieving process so listen to your own instincts and do what you need to do to help yourself along.