If your wife died recently, you are probably experiencing a roller-coaster ride of grief and related emotions. You may be feeling shock and disbelief and having a difficult time accepting what has happened. You may be intensely sad or angry. On a physical level you may feel exhausted; have difficulty sleeping; experience aches and pains; or be losing or gaining weight.
Sometimes the grieving process is more difficult for men than it is for women. Society gives men the consistent message that they need to be emotionally strong: To express hurt, sorrow and other painful feelings is considered a sign of weakness. Consequently, many men suppress the hurt they feel or express it as anger. Grief can resolve faster when you allow yourself to face the intense feelings it brings up; grief often subsides in 6 months to two years, with a gradual return of positive emotions. Realize that it is normal and healthy to feel and express your grief. Doing so will help you move through the grief process.
There is actually a wide range of feelings and approaches to grieving. You might cry, although not everyone grieves in that way. You may prefer to express his emotions in private—and that is also normal. How a person grieves depends in part on his personality.
Even if you take pride in being self-sufficient, now is the time to lean on those close to you. People want to help and they often don't know how best they can do that. Be honest and tell them what you need. You may want to talk it out; or have someone help you arrange the funeral or memorial; or you may simply want companionship so you’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to loved ones, and tap these other resources:
Join a support group. Sharing your sorrow with those who have experienced similar losses can help you feel grounded and normal, and less alone. Hospitals, hospices, counseling centers and churches are some of the places to look for information about support groups near you.
Talk to a therapist or grief counselor. If you feel overwhelmed by your grief, make an appointment with a mental health professional or an experienced grief counselor. The counselor can help you work through your feelings, one-on-one, to foster healing.
Take care of your physical health. You will feel better and heal faster if you get enough sleep, eat right and exercise. Avoid the temporary numbing effects of alcohol and drugs. They will just prolong your recovery.
Plan ahead for grief "triggers.” Just know that significant anniversaries, holidays and birthdays can wallop you emotionally and this is normal and okay. The first year after your wife’s passing is usually the hardest. Plan ways to honor the memory of your wife on birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.
Get mentally engaged in something. Someday you will feel like opening yourself up to new possibilities in life again. As you begin to feel better you may want to take up a new sport or hobby or learn to play a musical instrument. Some men find pleasure in working in the yard or doing something outdoors in nature.
Draw strength and comfort from your faith. If you follow a religious tradition, allow its rituals of mourning to help you heal. Engage in spiritual activities that are meaningful to you, such as prayer or meditation or attending church services. Sometimes people question their faith when they are going through grief. If you are having these problems, share them with your minister.
Sharing your feelings about your loss makes it easier to bear. It is important to accept the support and not to turn inward and grieve alone. The connection you have with close friends and family will help you heal.
By: Betty Holt
Helpguide.org. Coping With Grief and Loss. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm Accessed on June 3, 2011.
National Cancer Institute. Types of Grief Reactions. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/bereavement/HealthProfessional/page3 Accessed on July 26, 2011.
National Institute of Aging. Mourning the Death of a Spouse. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/spouse.htm Accessed on July 26, 2011.