Hope for the Years Ahead

Saturday, February, 05, 2011

The passing of a loved one is always a significant event, but the loss of a spouse or partner is especially life-changing.

After spending years or even decades with the same person, the prospect of facing the years that lie ahead without them can feel daunting. It is very possible to work though feelings of grief to find peace and return to a joyful, active life.

It is very possible to work though feelings of grief to find peace and return to a joyful, active life.

While it might not seem true in the immediate wake of your loss, it is very possible to work though feelings of grief to find peace and return to a joyful, active life. 

Here are some effective coping strategies that will help you address and overcome feelings of loneliness as you move step-by-step through the bereavement process.

Be prepared for delayed grief.

Your most intense feelings of grief and loneliness may not occur in the first days or weeks following your loss. During these times, you’ll likely be surrounded by family and friends, and your mind will be occupied with the logistical details of making final arrangements.

However, once normal routines begin to return and the house goes quiet, you may be surprised to find that your sense of loss grows deeper. Recognize that this is normal and that there are many things you can do to help yourself during this difficult time. 

Give yourself time.

It’s okay if you experience a roller coaster of emotions following the passing of a spouse or partner. Grief is an inevitable and natural part of loss – and one which no two people experience in exactly the same way.

In order to return to an emotional state of peace and happiness, you must first work through the pain. Such a deep loss takes time to heal, so be patient with yourself throughout this process and don’t try to conform to any predetermined timetable for recovery. Trying to deny or hide from your natural feelings can cause more significant problems down the road. 

Join a support group.

Expressing your feelings is an important part of the healing process, but you may not always feel comfortable sharing the true depths of your emotions with close friends and family, especially since they are likely going through their own grieving process.

A bereavement support group can be a great source of strength and encouragement.

A local bereavement support group – especially one tailored to the needs of people like you who have recently lost a spouse or partner – can be a great source of strength and encouragement. In this setting, you may find that you feel more at liberty to discuss your thoughts and emotions openly and honestly, without fear of being judged or offered unsolicited advice.

Additionally, being in the company of those who have faced many of the same challenges can actually make you feel less lonely and inspire feelings of hopefulness and optimism.

Take care of yourself.

The depth of emotions associated with grief and loss can also take a serious toll on your physical health. To combat this, it’s important to ensure that you don’t neglect your most basic needs. 

Eating well and getting some physical activity on a regular basis will help you fight off depression. Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep so that you don’t succumb to physical exhaustion. Activities such as prayer, meditation, massage and even yoga can also offer restorative benefits for mind, body and spirit.

Allow others to help.

Never feel ashamed if you need to ask for assistance. Whether it’s performing daily tasks like grocery shopping or housekeeping or providing emotional support by lending a listening ear, allowing family and friends to help you through the grieving process is a gift that will help both you and them to feel better.

Resist the urge to withdraw.

Create new routines that will give you something to look forward to.

While social activities might be the last thing on your mind, it’s important to make the effort to seek out the company of others. Isolation can give way to more serious emotional problems such as hopelessness and depression.

Making a regular coffee date with a friend or a starting a weekly dinner tradition with family can create comforting new routines that will give you something to look forward to.

Consider a furry companion.

Pets can be a great source of joy and companionship, and taking care of a pet can give you something to occupy your mind without overburdening yourself with responsibility. In particular, adopting a dog can provide good motivation to get out of the house for a walk or an outing to the park. 

Go new places.

When you limit your routines to only the same familiar places, it’s hard not to be constantly reminded of your loved one, which can make it even harder to leave the house. 

Breaking out of your usual rhythm – whether it’s trying a new restaurant, visiting a different bookstore or even taking a different route to the bank – can open your eyes to new experiences and help you make new memories.

Try new things.

Taking up a new hobby – or rediscovering an old one – is a great way to refocus your mind and find new sources of joy. A creative outlet such as music, painting or journaling can be especially therapeutic as a constructive way to express your emotions.

Be careful not to take this too far by making drastic life changes such as moving to a new town or finding a new job. While you may instinctively desire a fresh start, if you abandon your existing support networks, you’ll likely feel more – rather than less – lonely. It’s important to take the healing process one step and one day at a time.


Volunteering for a charitable organization offers two exceptional benefits to counter feelings of loneliness. First, volunteering is a great way to meet new people. Secondly, helping others who are in need can promote feelings of personal fulfillment and gratitude.

Commemorate special days.

Celebrate the times you had together while remaining focused on living in the present.

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can bring up a wellspring of emotions, including intensified feelings of loneliness. Spending those days with loved ones sharing stories and fond memories can be a comforting way to celebrate the times you had together while remaining focused on living in the present.

Be aware of signs of trouble.

While everyone heals on their own timetable, intense and lasting loneliness and sadness can be a sign of a deeper problem. Prolonged or complicated grief can lead to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress, so it’s important to seek professional help if your feelings of loneliness or depression become overwhelming or do not lessen over time.

We’re here to help.

The chaplains, counselors, social workers and volunteers of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County are here to provide support, compassion and reassurance to those who have experienced the loss of a spouse or partner. 

Our ongoing grief and loss support groups are open to all in our community at no cost. We also offer specialized one-on-one counseling, support groups and other activities to help children and adolescents understand and cope with feelings of grief. For more information or to register for any of these groups, please contact Randy Berryhill at 704-873-4719, ext. 4353.


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