Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
6 minute read
28 Apr 2022
4:52 pm

Grief: How to deal with the death of a spouse

Renate Engelbrecht

It’s a heavy topic. One we often try to avoid. There’s never a perfect time to talk about death - especially about dealing with the death of a spouse.

Dealing with the death of a spouse. Image: iStock

Following the untimely and very unexpected death of former Springbok, Pedrie Wannenburg, one can’t help but feel for his family.

While one can never even begin to understand the grief his widowed wife (and children) must be going through, it might serve as a reminder of the helpful guidelines on how to deal with the death of a spouse.

READ: Watch as police explain what happened in Pedrie Wannenburg crash

While losing any loved one is a very hard pill to swallow and something that can take a long time to heal, losing your other half can be devastating, to say the least.

The one day you are married, the next day you’re all alone, filled with grief.

Not to mention the admin that comes in addition to the immense sadness and heartache you might be feeling.

Recognise your loss

According to an article published on oprah.com, recognising your loss is one of the first steps in dealing with the death of a spouse.

Loneliness is often one of the biggest challenges you face when you lose your life partner and refusing to admit that they are gone will make things even harder.

Your partner was part of your day-to-day life and to have them taken from your world so suddenly, is very traumatic.

Still, it is important to let it sink in, no matter how hard it is to admit that they will no longer be around.

Mourn among those who love you

Although it might be tempting to take a step back from life as you know it and isolate yourself from the outside world, reaching out to others for support is critical during this time of grief.

It is okay to mourn. You’ve lost your life companion and without him or her at your side, you might even feel confused and lost, as if a part of you is missing.

Mourn among those who love you. Mourning is a natural way to express your thoughts and feelings about losing your partner and it is an essential, healthy way of healing.

Remember that amidst the healing process, you might feel alone but you’re not.

The Lluminari Experts on oprah.com says: “The most compassionate self-action you can take is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need.”

Isolation
Don’t isolate yourself. Image: iStock

Admin

Dealing with the admin, like your spouse’s personal (and funeral and family) finances, unfortunately follows immediately after you’ve lost the love of your life, which means you need to deal with it while feeling heartbroken.

It is important to enlist a trusted individual – a family member or financial advisor – to assist you in making sound decisions during this time. This will help you and your family going forward.

It’s yours

The love you shared, the times you’ve had together, the life you built as a couple – it’s all yours. It’s moments and memories unique to your relationship.

That is exactly why your way of grieving cannot (and should not) be compared to someone else’s way of grieving when dealing with a spouse’s death.

Grieve how and how long you need to. It’s your spouse. It’s your grief. Take it a day at a time.

Talk

While you might not want to, talking about it is a very important part of the grieving process.

Don’t be afraid to talk about how it happened and how you are feeling.

Putting it into words is how healing occurs.

Talk about what you miss about your spouse, special memories you cherish, character traits you’ll always remember. Some of these might drive you to tears. Others might let you burst out in laughter.

Have a support system
Have a support system to talk to. Image: iStock

Let emotions run freely

The death of a spouse could come with all kinds of emotions. Let them run freely and feel them intensely.

Grief is something you need to work through in your head, in your heart and even in spirit. Work through the questions of why and what if.

Be mad at God if you need to and talk to someone about how you’re feeling that you can work through the anger. Let any guilt about your person’s death wash through you and then, let it go. Feel scared.

Feel sad. Feel disorientated. Let yourself learn from these emotions and allow yourself to let the surges of emotions catch you by surprise. These are all steppingstones toward healing, whether we like them or not.

Be patient with yourself

Don’t push yourself to let go when you’re not ready to let go.

Take your time to decide on what needs to happen with your spouse’s clothes and personal belongings and don’t let others make decisions for you.

When you’ve lost that special someone who was part of your daily life, part of your being, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and to not be able to think straight. You might even feel terribly fatigued. Listen to your body.

Rest when you need rest. Don’t take on too many responsibilities. Be gentle with yourself.

Don’t neglect your health

You might be feeling tired and emotionally drained, but keeping your diet balanced and going for a daily walk in nature might just help clear your mind and heal your heart. Eat balanced meals every day and don’t let unhealthy snacks and fast-food stand in your way of healing the healthy way.

Take special care on special days

Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, certain holidays or holiday spots can bring back all kinds of memories and make you miss your spouse even more than usual. Remind your support group or people close to you about special days coming up, that they can contact you on the day and be there for you.

According to healgrief.org it is important not to allow the word ‘widow’ or ‘widower’ define you. “As time passes, you will regain your energy and your hope for the future, as distant or unreachable as that may feel.”