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Grief following the death of a husband, wife or partner

When we have found a partner with whom we plan to share our life and who we feel will help us to grow as a human being, their death is a devastating loss. 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:

  • the closeness of their relationship
  • the person’s age
  • whether there are dependent children in the home
  • their overall state of health
  • the amount of social support they have around them
  • how their loved one has died
  • any additional stressors in their life

Some common experiences include:

  • 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
  • if a long illness has been involved, a person can feel very tired physically and emotionally from nursing their loved one and watching them decline. They may feel sad and empty, relief that their suffering is over, or even anger at being left behind
  • if the death has been sudden and unexpected, or the result of an accident or suicide, there can be an added element of shock to their grief

Being Single Again

Becoming a single person brings with it many challenges:

  • it can be difficult to adapt to the loneliness of the evenings or going out alone. More decisions will be made alone. A person 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
  • 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
  • some may feel the home is now too big and be tempted to move to smaller accommodation or near to a son or daughter. Bereaved people tell us it is best to wait about a year before making this decision is finally made. Many people found they became 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.

Grief affects us all differently, be gentle with yourself and others.

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