The information offered is in no way to be used as a substitute for seeking help from your healthcare provider. If you are having feelings of depression, anxiety or desperation please seek help from a health care provider immediately.
Taking steps to reduce stress and promote healthy grieving are important in coming to a place of contentment as widows widowers. What are some steps we can take to begin establishing healthy ways of grieving?
- Find a place where you feel safe, and are afforded privacy to sit quietly and think, relax and sleep. Friends and family often attempt to make decisions for new widows-widowers. Their life experiences lead them to believe that they understand where the widow-widower needs to be, and what they need to be doing. Make sure that you have time alone to think through what is best for you and your children.
Begin working immediately on personal and family priorities to help you and your children preserve or regain a sense of hope and purpose. I like to refer to this as ‘survival mode’! That means removing all the unnecessary things from your life, and focusing on what you need to survive. Getting back to the basic needs in your life will give you the opportunity to spend more time evaluating where you are, and where you need to be. Accepting help may offer you more time to do this. If friends offer to bring food, help with housework, or yard work, take advantage of their offers so you can concentrate on regaining hope and purpose in your life.
Connect with those who are willing to establish communication with you in order to talk about your experiences. Much healing takes place in repeatedly ‘telling your story’ to others who will listen. On the other hand, listening to other widow’s-widower’s stories when you are able to, will help release stress a little bit at a time. Listening to others will help reassure you that what you are feeling is normal.
Reestablish connections with those relationships that may have been pushed aside due to the death of your spouse. Often widows-widowers are unable to attend church for a time due to events surrounding the death of their spouse. The sooner they can reestablish relationships within groups of friends, the easier it will be. Letting relationships slide or not going to church for a long period of time, will make it more difficult to return to groups of friends.
Invest a percentage of your time in activities that will help walk you through your grieving experience. Do not avoid places or activities because you are afraid you will break down and cry. Avoidance will only make it more difficult later. If the worship music at church makes you teary, don’t begin coming to church late to avoid it. Let the music and tears take you where you need to go. Don’t focus on what others will think -- this is your time to grieve and begin the healing process.
Establish new paths of support. If your church no longer meets your needs and you decide to find another church, do so quickly. For those who experience the loss of close friends, make the effort to replace those friends with new ones. This is a difficult task, but a much needed one. It seems unfair that new widows-widowers would have to be the ones to reach out to others for new friendships. Remember that being a widow-widower is not about fairness, it’s about doing what you need to do to get where you need to be.
Remember that your support system may be weakened if others around you were affected by your loss. When tragedy strikes an entire family, church, or community, others around you may be coping with an inability to handle their own grief.
Take one day at a time. Do not attempt to look at where you need to be a year from now. There will be time to reestablish goals later. Immediately after your loss you need to look no further than the ‘survival mode’. Give yourself time to heal. Anticipate that this will be a difficult time in your life. Allow yourself to mourn the loss you have experienced. Try to be patient with changes in your emotional state. Recognize the feelings you are having and label them for yourself. If you find yourself having a flashback, stop and evaluate what is happening. Reassure yourself that this is a normal part of healing, and you are not losing your mind. Do not become so upset about what you are feeling that you add momentum to what you are experiencing.
Stay active. If possible go for walks, or work in the garden. Curling up in an overstuffed chair in the corner is great for short times of relaxing and quiet times to think, but do not be tempted to pull the curtains in your bedroom and stay there alone for long periods of time.
Don’t let your fears paralyze you. If your spouse was killed in an automobile accident, do not allow that tragedy to hold you hostage in your home. Meet your fear head on. The Lord will stand firmly beside you as you step out in faith into the scary areas of your life. Use distractions to your advantage. If too much quiet in your car or home causes you to flashback frequently, distract yourself with music tapes or making mental lists. The process of making a mental list is an excellent discipline in organizing your thought process.
Engage in healthy behaviors. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. Try to establish routine meal times. Resist the temptation to overeat, or not eat. Avoid alcohol or other means of covering up your grief. Get up each morning and attend to personal hygiene. Spending the day unshaven or unshowered will contribute to your feelings of hopelessness.
Do not allow your grief, sorrow or loneliness to be an excuse for disobeying Biblical commands. The Lord speaks to those who grieve and offers hope. He does not grant those who grieve excuses to dishonor Him or their spouse who has died. Flee from those who would try to entice you into ungodly means of dealing with your loneliness.
Become knowledgeable about what to expect as a result of trauma. Call your local hospice and ask for written materials. Spend some time at the library reading materials on the grieving experience. Remember, however, that grief is individual. Do not let what you read or hear make you feel like you need to fit into a mold.
Avoid making major decisions, which will affect the rest of your life. Many widows-widowers pay consequences for poor decisions they make during the grieving process, when they have not let enough time pass to see things more clearly. Do not let your loneliness lead you places that you will later regret. You must come to a place of contentment in Christ, where you are, before making changes that you believe will ease your loneliness.
Begin disciplining your mind by refocusing on productive things. For those whose trust is in Christ, we have a vast array of things we can focus on. When your mind begins to view the same old film over and over again, begin reading scripture and asking the Lord to overcome the replays. If you have difficulty concentrating on the scripture begin to sing hymns to yourself. Even children have found that singing the same comforting song to themselves over and over again helps break the pattern of unwanted thoughts.
If there is a friend or family member with a listening ear, stop for a moment and talk about what is happening. Sometimes chatting with someone will help break the cycle, and help you work through your grief.
When you find yourself alone without someone to talk to, take a few minutes to begin writing in a journal. Sometimes investing just a short time in writing down thoughts and perhaps the words to a hymn, or a verse of scripture, will help your troubled mind.