Your partner’s death can be one of the most devastating times in your life. Not only will you deal with grief, but you’ll also experience a lot of firsts by yourself and learn how to navigate the world solo.
It’ll take time to adjust — remember, your partner would encourage you to keep moving forward. Even though your loved one is no longer with you in physical form, he or she is always with you in your heart. Here are some suggestions for how to embrace life after the loss of your partner or spouse.
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In times of grief, you may feel the desire to “speed up” grief. That's a normal response, but unfortunately, that’s not really possible. Be patient with yourself and your grief. Set aside dedicated time to be with your grief and try not to rush healing. There are five stages of grief for a reason: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Keep in mind that you may not experience these stages in a linear order or all at once. You might also experience anger one day and acceptance the next.
When you give yourself time to heal, you will find that peace might be waiting on the other side of your grief.
Let Things Be Different
After the loss of your partner, you may notice that things feel very different. It's okay to feel sad about this and to miss them in your life.
The reality is that everything will feel different. Allow yourself the time and space to embrace each new experience that comes your way. For example, holidays may feel very unknown or different than how you have celebrated them in the past. Things may not be the same, but remember that it’s possible to be happy again. The first step in this process is to allow things to be different.
If you are in a deep fog of grief, practicing gratitude can help shift your perspective. Try making a list of things that your partner said or did for you that made you feel loved and supported. What things did you appreciate the most about your partner’s presence in your life? What about your partner made you smile?
By cultivating a space of gratitude, you may begin to see that life can be sweet again. It's okay to feel sad, but try to name something you are grateful for each time an unpleasant feeling arises. Gratitude is empowering and it has the power to shift you out of your dark spaces so that you can lean into the light.
Talk About Your Partner
Talk about your partner as often as you need. Talking about your partner and keeping memories alive can help bring a sense of peace in your life. Speak your partner’s name out loud and express how much your partner meant to you. Your loved one was a significant part of your life and will always hold a place in your heart.
When you give voice to memories, you shape the legacy that your loved one left behind. Tell your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews about them. Let their presence and love carry on through your words and stories. Each time you talk about your loved one, you release grief and expand your heart for new things to come.
Write Your Story
Take time to document the story of your life with your partner — it’s a healthy and productive way to process your grief. You may decide to write this in a journal or type it up so that you have a digital copy.
Tell the story of what it was like to be with your partner and the memories that stand out. You can choose to keep the story private or you might consider posting it on a blog or in book format. Writing down your loved one’s story means you carry on his or her legacy and you tell your love story.
Do the Work
Facing your grief is not an easy thing to do. If the process feels too hard, you may want to seek individual therapy or the support of a local grief group. When you take the time to turn toward your grief and work through it, you grow and learn a lot about yourself. You have survived the loss of a partner and you deserve to be happy again.
It takes a lot of courage to spend intimate time with your grief. Trust that you are capable of being present during this time. You don't have to do the work alone — you can reach out to friends or family to help support you. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Feel Your Feelings
You may find yourself in a raw and delicate emotional space. Embrace your feelings. Cry, yell, dance, laugh, or whatever feels supportive to your body and heart. Let it become an expression of your soul.
Lean into your emotions and let them out, but try not to get overwhelmed by them. Feelings are not facts and they are not absolute. Things you are feeling today may look very different than how they will present tomorrow. Honor your feelings.
The loss of your partner can bring about a lot of change. You are learning how to live in the world again without your partner. Instead of fighting the change, try embracing it. It's not easy when grief is present, but it is possible.
If feelings of uncertainty or anxiety arise, take a deep break and pause for a moment. Let yourself know that you are safe to embrace change. It's best to ease into new things. Be patient with yourself during this time and take each new experience as they come. Things may change, but your partner will always be in your heart.
Reading self-help books on coping with loss can be very helpful in the healing process. There are a variety of different styles of books, from fiction to nonfiction, that you can choose from.
Books about death or books about grief can bring you a sense of peace as you struggle in your grief. It can be comforting to read stories by others who have walked a similar path. Read at your own pace and take time to reflect or journal on what you are reading. This is your healing journey and it's okay to take your time to process.
Be of Service
Choose a cause that is meaningful to you and volunteer for a one-time event or on an ongoing basis. You can also volunteer for a cause related to your partner's death if it isn't too triggering.
Doing service work is an excellent way to get out of your own head. Serve your community to help shift your perspective and help lift your spirits. You can volunteer for one or more organizations, depending on your capacity. When you serve, it's hard to stay sad.
Go on Adventures
Going on adventures after the loss of a partner can feel nerve-wracking but it is also freeing. Let yourself travel to a new place or go to a play or event you have always wanted to attend.
Life is short and your partner would want you to be happy and enjoy life again. Buy the shoes, eat the cake, take the trip, and carry your partner in your heart when you do. You can read our travel bucket list guide for more ideas.
Finding a group or community of people who have lost partners can bring a lot of relief. You are not alone in what you have experienced and it's often easier to talk to people who understand. Grief groups and online grief support sites are helpful for connecting with others. If you are looking for a local group, you can reach out to a hospice or funeral home for resources.
The loss of a partner is devastating but it does make a difference to have support. Consider checking out a support group. You can also find a supportive community through a religious or nonreligious group or recreation class.
Learn to Trust the Process
It's not easy to move forward without your partner, but it is possible. Over time, you will begin to see that life can be meaningful again. The healing doesn't happen overnight and you will never get over the loss, but you will learn to live with it.
Loving someone until their last breath is an honor and it takes tremendous courage. Treat this experience as a gift and use it as motivation to be happy again.