Losing your life partner is heartbreaking. All those memories you made together—the sparks flying on your first date, wedding bells chiming as you both said “I do,” your children laughing as you chase them around the house…they aren’t as vibrant without your spouse there to share them with. As an older adult, coping with the grief of the death of a spouse can be even more difficult due to the decades you may have spent together. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can start to sink in—especially if you live alone—making it harder to find purpose and joy in the day to day.
The road to healing after the loss of a spouse is different for everyone, but nearly all are paved with the power of genuine human connections. Whether it’s attending a grief support group, leaning on family and friends or simply reaching out to your neighbor for help, a community of support is crucial to making it through the hard days, and celebrating the good ones. Engaging in activities where you can pursue your passions and find companionship can also bring newfound comfort, meaning and vibrancy to your life.
Grief never really goes away, but it doesn’t have to define your later years after the loss of a spouse. Here are three powerful ways to cope with the pain of losing a loved one and find healing so you can create new, joyful memories and live life to your fullest.
1. After the death of a spouse, take it one day at a time
Herculean task. Overwhelming feelings of sadness, shock and even guilt make it hard to get out of bed, let alone go about your “normal” day. The reality is life goes on even in our grief. Giving yourself time and space to mourn the loss of your spouse is crucial to the healing process. Still, there comes a time when each day—and your overall wellbeing—becomes what you make it.
Eating nutritious food, staying active and keeping busy with work or hobbies are some of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy routine. A routine can provide that reason to get out of bed each day, take care of yourself and move forward amidst your grief. Some days will feel like breakthroughs. Some will feel like steps back. Each is a part of the journey of healing and should be celebrated.
2. Find activities that provide meaning and purpose
Many of us find meaning and purpose in the life we share with a partner. Perhaps it’s in helping raise grandchildren, supporting charities you both cared about or catching the sunset every evening from your favorite park bench. After the loss of your spouse, though, these activities can feel empty and you may even feel guilty for continuing them without your loved one by your side. That’s why finding a healthy outlet for meaning and purpose is so important to the healing process. It could be reconnecting with one of your passions or discovering new ones that allow you to explore what brings you joy even without your partner there to share it with.
A great way to find activities that can provide that sense of purpose is by considering the Five Dimensions of Wellness that make up a healthy, fulfilling life. Here are a few ideas of activities for each dimension of wellness that can help you find an outlet for healing and meaning.
|Five Dimensions of Wellness Activities|
|Physical||Tai chi, walking club, pickleball|
|Intellectual||Book clubs, trivia nights, lifelong learning programs|
|Social||Volunteering, poker club, concert outings|
|Emotional||Gardening, painting, creative writing|
|Spiritual||Church services, journaling, meditation|
3. Build a support system
Coping with the loss of a spouse can feel like something you should go through alone and not burden others with. It takes courage and vulnerability to ask for help when the grief and loneliness becomes overwhelming. Finding and building a support system of people—whether it be family, friends, or a grief support group—allows for a setting where you can feel more comfortable expressing your grief, lightening its heavy load.
It’s important when building a support system to find people you trust that can also speak to your experience, particularly for older adults. Tom, 90, found that support and companionship when he met Mary Lee after he moved into Calusa Harbour, a senior living community in Fort Myers, FL. Both had lost spouses and Tom was still in mourning. Mary Lee and others offered support and helped Tom find renewed purpose, joy and love—culminating in marrying Mary Lee and starting a whole new chapter of life. “Life isn’t over after you lose someone,” says Mary Lee. “You can live and love.”
Finding healing, purpose and support after the loss of a spouse at Five Star
At Five Star, a community of care and support is always there for life’s hardest moments. In our communities, neighbors become more than friends; they become family who know your pain on a deep level and can provide a shoulder to lean on when the burden of grief gets too heavy. Our innovative LifeStyle360 wellness program that incorporates the Five Dimensions of Wellness also offers a wide range of engaging activities to help you explore what gives you meaning and purpose. To learn more about how life at Five Star can help you through the healing process and provide a new home full of hope, joy and belonging, find a Five Star community near you.