How to Cope with the Loss of a Spouse


Unfortunately, many people will lose a spouse in their lifetime. Even if your spouse has succumbed to age or illness or was on hospice care, his or her death can still be a shock. Although approximately 64% of hospice patients were over the age of 80 in 2016, the loved ones they left behind still felt grief.


If you lose a spouse, you may feel scared, angry or even guilty. There is no wrong way to feel. During this time, you may have trouble sleeping, have a loss of appetite, cry often, or be unable to focus on things or make decisions.


Many people turn to family, friends or their faith to deal with the loss of a spouse. Taking care of yourself by exercising and eating right can help. Others turn to loss of a spouse support groups.


Loss of a spouse support groups can help by offering you a safe place to talk with other people who are going through the same thing as you are. Oftentimes, members of groups have helpful ideas and know of useful resources.


Hospitals, churches, hospice services or local organizations often have support groups. They are usually free or very affordable and there is very little commitment required. There are even online support groups that you can join. Whichever type of support group you choose, you should feel comfortable and be able to talk openly.


Should you join a grief support group?


Some people don’t even think about joining grief support groups. They aren’t for everyone and types of groups can vary. Attend at your own pace. Some people find that they need time before joining a support group. You may or may not be ready to engage in in-depth discussions about loss immediately after the death of someone you love. That's ok; ask if the group is open (new members can join any time) or closed (all members join at the same time) and attend when you are ready.


Some support groups are led by mental health professionals while others are led by peers. Some groups focus on the loss of a spouse while others focus on loss in general. Structure, attitudes, and cultures can vary greatly. Sometimes, if a support group isn’t a good fit, you may feel discouraged, get bad advice or feel judged. You’re talking with people, after all. It’s important to remember that comparisons and insensitivity can be a result of someone’s grief. A strong group leader can help with this.


Those going to a support group for the first time may be looking for reassurance that things will get easier, and they don’t always find that. That’s because people can still have bad days further down the road, and a group is the place to talk about those bad days and feelings.


Some people may expect support groups to be the same as therapy, but they aren’t. Many times, they aren’t led by a mental health professional. If therapy is what you’re seeking, you may want to focus on receiving one-on-one intervention by someone who is licensed to administer therapy.


The good things about groups


Many people who have lost a spouse feel as though others don’t understand what they’re going through. The people you meet in loss of a spouse support groups can be understanding and nonjudgmental. For first-timers, it may be easier to attend with a friend or relative; you might consider asking someone you trust to come along with you to a group session for emotional support.


Sharing your story in a group setting and hearing the stories of others can help you begin to heal. You can gain valuable coping skills and gain companionship from people who have also lost a spouse. You can learn to better understand what you and others are going through.


In these loss of a spouse support groups, you can begin to feel hope again. You will meet people who are further along in the healing process and show you that it is possible to be happy again.


Dealing with the loss of a spouse can make you feel very alone. Support groups show you that you are not alone. You will meet people with similar thoughts, feelings and experiences. You may even find that you are helping someone else. There is also a feeling of belonging that you gain when you join a support group.

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