Grieving the Loss of Your Husband
If you are trying to cope with the death of your husband, you may be experiencing a variety of feelings and wondering what is "normal." Grief is unique to each individual, but there are signs that can tell you when your grief has slipped into a depression. If your husband died recently, you are probably in the throes of grief. For some, this intense period can last quite a while.
Grief is a natural response to losing someone you love. You may experience a number of difficult emotionsfrom feeling numb, shocked and sorrowful, to feeling lonely, fearful and guilty that you are still here. You may even be angry at your husband for leaving you.
You might be in pain, both physically and emotionally. Maybe you have trouble sleeping or aren't interested in eating. Maybe you just can't concentrate, or the simplest decisions seem monumental. Though some of your feelings might surprise you, there is no right or wrong way to go through the grieving process.
Psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross named five stages of grief most people experience:
Rather than using the model as a script for how people will experience grief, experts today often use it to discuss experiences that people may go through. Some may experience all of these stages, others only some. Some people may experience each of these in order set out by Kubler-Ross, others out of that order. Even time spent in each may differ from person to person.
It may be helpful, then, to think of these not as stages with set identities, but possibilities of how grief can manifest itself. No two people experience grief the same way.
The grief that comes with the loss of a partner can seem overwhelming. You may also feel overwhelmed by the thought of other changes the death has brought or will soon bring to your life, from adjustments in family dynamics, changes to your financial outlook and more.
Grief Versus Depression
Grief and depression share many symptoms, and it isn't always easy to tell them apart. However, one clear distinction is that grief is more like a rollercoaster ride involving a variety of feelings and both good and bad days. The symptoms of grief can be mild and temporary, but with depression they are chronic and severe.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a diagnosis of major depression requires that the individual must have at least five of the following symptoms during the same two-week period and they must represent a departure from the way the person behaved previously:
- Depressed mood, nearly every day for most of the day
- Diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
- Change in appetite or significant weight loss or gain
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Unintentional and purposeless motions, such as foot tapping, wringing hands, or constantly walking around a room
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
Antidepressants can help depression, but as a general rule, they are not helpful in dealing with normal grief. By numbing the pain that must eventually be resolved, antidepressants can actually delay the mourning process. With grief, the best way to heal and to get back on an even keel is to fully feel and experience the feelings rather than trying to suppress or turn away from them.
Coping with Loss
The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of others. It is important to express your feelings to those close to you who care. Sharing your burdens makes them easier to bear, so you won't feel so alone in your time of greatest need. Let others help you by listening to your sorrows, assisting with aspects of your daily routine, and even by advising you on some of the tasks your husband usually carried out.
Support groups can help counter some of the loneliness that accompanies grief. Sharing your feelings, worries and concerns with others going through similar experiences can help all parties to feel less alone. Everybody needs a support system when they grieve, and while family and friends are essential, if they haven't experienced close personal loss like yours, they may not fully understand. This is why a support group is such a valuable resource.
Your local hospital, church or counseling center are good places to find details about bereavement support groups in your area. If your grief still feels too heavy, contact a mental health counselor with experience in grief counseling who can help you work through your emotions. Grief can sometimes trigger other psychological issues that can be dealt with through psychotherapy.
Many people find that it is helpful to stay busy. Sometimes helping others can keep your mind off your own sorrow. Do things with friends, volunteer at a local school or hospital, take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Take care of yourself by getting adequate rest and eating well.
By: Betty Holt
National Institute on Aging. Mourning the Death of a Spouse. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/healthinformation/publications/spouse.htm Accessed:May 23, 2011.