Finding purpose after the death of your spouse may seem like a lifetime away. You may still be in the process of grieving and healing from this immense loss and trying to figure out where to go from here. It’s not uncommon to need or want help and direction in what to do next in your quest for meaning.
Losing a spouse can feel like you’re living in an alternate universe after getting through the initial shock of your loss. It’s normal to feel anxious and panicked about what comes next. It’s also not unusual to suffer from insomnia, worrying about what the future holds. These feelings are expected after your spouse dies, especially if they suffered a sudden and unanticipated death or died at a very young age.
1. Identify What’s Meaningful to You
Finding purpose and meaning in your life after your spouse’s death begins with identifying what’s meaningful to you. Before you can make your spouse’s life meaningful after they’ve died, you first have to find meaning in your own life.
Having your spouse die may have left you feeling as if you’ve lost your reason for living. Most widowed spouses feel like this from time to time as they grapple with their grief and loss. Understand that your spouse, even after death, can still be your reason for deciding to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.
2. Get Up and Get Dressed
Be careful not to fall into the trap of figuring out how long does grief last and if you’re grieving the right way. Make it a point each day to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house. Try turning this small goal into a personal daily mantra to help you accomplish this, even if you have to drag yourself out of bed and out the door.
When figuring out what to do each day, look for interesting and engaging activities that involve conversation or interaction with others. Embrace those opportunities to be in the company of other people on at least a weekly or monthly basis. No one has to know what you’re going through if you’re not yet ready to share this intimate part of yourself.
3. Take a Road Trip
Searching for meaning and finding a new quest for life can feel like an ocean away when you’re grieving the loss of your spouse. The stages of grief for a surviving spouse can last anywhere from six to twelve months, and sometimes longer.
Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. Your grief may be short-lived, or it may extend for years after the death of your spouse. Neither way is the wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way when working through your grief and bereavement.
Planning and taking a road trip can be a life-changing experience when dealing with such a significant loss. The time away from your everyday life can help ease the pain of your despair by allowing you to see and experience things outside of your usual surroundings.
4. Exercise Every Day
Grief brings with it a dreadful physical and mental fatigue that leaves you drained of energy and in a constant mental fog. You may start feeling like your brain is mush because you forget things from morning to night. You may not remember what you did that day and what, if anything, you had to eat.
Daily exercise is more than just physical exertion. It also engages your mind and forces you to act on things that you can control. Time alone does not heal you from your grief. You must take the necessary steps to improve how you feel to help you deal with your grief and anxiety. A short daily walk helps clear your mind and create more mood-elevating chemicals in your brain.
5. Practice Spiritual Self-Renewal
Sometimes when you’re in the throes of deep despair, it can leave you feeling like you’re trapped in your grief. You may find yourself waking up every day feeling panicked and dreading the day ahead of you. Many widowed spouses think of the depths of their loss as a weight that never lifts for the weeks and months following their spouse’s death.
Connecting or reconnecting to your spiritual or religious beliefs can help you overcome your grief the more you practice constant self-renewal. Don’t be afraid to rely on your faith to get you through some of the more challenging days of your grief journey.
6. Meditate on Your Mortality
Meditation is the practice of training awareness, attention, and compassion. In this sense, it helps you deal with the death of your spouse and the ensuing grief. When you think you may be ready to begin working on healing from your grief, this is where the hard work begins.
Meditating on your old life when your spouse was alive, your current life, and your mortality will help put things into a different perspective over time. You can find books for surviving spouses to read that will help you learn meditation skills for those who are grieving.
7. Affirm Even the Smallest Accomplishments
Feeling satisfaction and happiness over even taking the smallest of movements forward will reward you in ways that help keep you on the path toward healing. There’ll be days when all you can accomplish is getting out of bed long enough to use the bathroom. And some days where you can’t even seem to muster the energy even to do that.
To help you make it through each day, write down a list of affirmations for the things you accomplished the day before and the goals you’ve set for yourself for that particular day. Ask yourself, “what’s going to get me out of bed today?” Then look forward to doing that, whatever it may be.
8. Do the Things You Never Had Time for Before
Nothing can assuage the pain of losing a companion, soul mate, and best friend. Harboring regrets over the things you should’ve done but put aside for other things that took priority can deepen your pain and suffering.
As you work past the painfully vulnerable first stages of grief, start incorporating little things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t. Keep things simple and in manageable doses to give you something to look forward to each day and week.
9. Rediscover Your Calling
Re-engaging with life doesn’t have to take you entirely out of your comfort zone as you learn to cope with your grief. It might be as simple as deciding that from this moment forward you’ll become more compassionate toward yourself as you search for meaning.
Through your loss, you’ve gained an opportunity to reinvent yourself and reshape your life into something different. Grasp the chance to do the things that bring you true happiness and joy. Watch how your efforts make a positive impact on your life as well as others.
10. Rediscover Who You Are
Moving forward may feel like you’re betraying your spouse, leaving them behind, or dishonoring their memory somehow. Although it may feel disloyal, it’s a way of taking a break from your grief to do a little soul-searching. When you decide that you’re ready for a new purpose, look ahead to living your life on your terms and rediscovering your true self. It can be one of the more challenging and exhilarating things you can ever do for yourself.
Learning your true self can feel like starting from square one. You’ll need to know to act and be someone who is now without their spouse, partner, and companion. Ways in which you can embark on a journey of self-discovery are learning to live within each moment, figuring out your wants and needs, and exploring support groups for people who lost a spouse. Consider extending your friendships beyond the support group to meet monthly for lunch, dinner, or drinks.
11. Outline a Personal Mission Statement
Creating a personal mission statement as you learn to live on your own terms and in a way that brings you personal fulfillment will help you in finding a new purpose as your life and interests evolve.
Your mission statement can include your values and what you stand for now after your spouse’s death has restructured your life. This is an excellent time to seek grief counseling or therapy to expand your thoughts and ideas for your new life.
12. Give of Yourself
When you give of yourself in helping others who may be similarly situated or who can benefit from your expertise or experiences, you open the door to finding deeper meaning in life. Sources of meaning can come from work, in love, and courage in the face of adversity.
Your calling may take a while to reveal itself, but over time, you’ll discover what brings you joy and fulfillment. Some ways in which you can help others are by:
- Donating your time supporting other grieving spouses
- Sharing your experiences through your network and connections
- Reaching out to those who may be isolated in their grief
Living a Purposeful Life After Your Spouse’s Death
When you’re ready to move forward with your life, your healing continues as you have new experiences and find renewed purpose. Eventually, you’ll transition into a new normal. You won’t stop missing your spouse, but in helping others, you’re helping yourself heal.
Everyone needs someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to when finding their purpose. Your healing will come by reaching outward and helping others instead of always looking inward to your pain and suffering.