Grief Topic

Grief Reactions Associated with the Death of a Husband, Wife or Partner

One of the basic assumptions in our lives is that we will have a partner with whom we will share our life, who will help us to grow as a human being, and to face the world. At whatever stage of our life's journey we lose that partner through death, we lose a significant part of ourselves.

After the death of a husband, wife or partner, the feelings a person has and the issues they face will depend on such factors as how close their relationship was, the person's age and overall state of health, the amount of social support they have around them, whether there are dependent children in the home, how their loved one died and whether there are any additional stressors in their life. Some common experiences include:

  • A person can feel very tired physically and emotionally from nursing their loved one and watching their decline. They may feel sad and empty, relief that their suffering is over, or even anger.
  • They may feel as if part of them is missing or as though they have lost a limb. They may long for their loved one to be there. They may crave for their partner to put their arms around them and comfort them.
  • When becoming a single person again it can be difficult to adapt to the loneliness of the evenings or going out alone. More decisions will be made alone. They may find they no longer belong to their previous social group of couples and feel out of place in social gatherings without a partner. They may also be faced with explaining why they are alone when meeting new people.
  • Widowers can be particularly prone to loneliness as it is often the wife or female partner who makes the social contacts in couple relationships.
  • A person’s sexuality can be denied. They may feel a need for closeness and intimacy, or sexual activity, which cannot be met as when their partner was with them.
  • Some of the practical support which a partner gave to the relationship is now lost and they may have to take on and learn to do a lot of new things. These may include such things as the banking and financial management, cutting the grass, and car maintenance, or the cooking, cleaning, and child care. These added burdens may cause them to feel resentful and angry.
  • They may feel the home is now too big and be tempted to move to smaller accommodation or near to a son or daughter. It is best to wait about a year before this decision is finally made, as many people who have done this before have found they have become quite lonely after moving away from their good friends, and they miss too many of the family memories attached to their old home.
  • Even if a person was separated from their partner before their death, they may still experience considerable grief which may relate to unresolved issues, such as guilt and blame about the end of the relationship. They may even find some people expect their grief will be less or non-existent because of the separation.
  • Page last updated 25th August, 2016