When your husband dies unexpectedly, your whole world is instantly and forever changed. Nothing is the same, yet everything continues the way it was before. It’s bewildering and shocking, isn’t it? Here, you’ll find comfort and hope from women who know what it’s like to unexpectedly lose their husbands. First, though, I want to share this comment from one of my readers:
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“My husband died 5 months ago and I know he would want me to be happy,” says Ann on Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies. “While he was in the hospital he asked me to promise that after he was gone I would learn to be happy without him. It’s hard but I made a promise that I would…and I will. Grief is the initial feeling of loss – the more difficult part is ‘taking your life back’ and we all need to do this to honor our husbands. I hate the word ‘widow’ – it’s a spider – not a woman who has lost her soul mate and best friend.”
Ann’s husband didn’t die unexpectedly, but he didn’t want her to suffer without him. He wanted her to be happy, to find comfort and hope, and to experience joy in life even after his death…and I believe your husband wants the same for you.
Your husband didn’t know he was going to die. He may have left all sorts of loose ends and unfinished business behind him; and his biggest regret may be that he didn’t prepare you. If he knew he was going to die, he would’ve tried to find ways to offer you comfort and hope. He couldn’t do that, but here you may find companionship for the journey when your husband dies unexpectedly.
When Your Husband Dies Unexpectedly – Comfort and Hope
Ann adds that there are so many websites and blogs that try to pair widows and widowers with the opposite genders – and that’s the last thing she wants.
“I will never settle for second best,” she says. “Why hasn’t anyone started a website such as ‘Women United’ – to organize events and dining out with each other? Sharing our stories, offering comfort and hope, and making each other happy. I am on my own, I am alone but not lonely. Come on, girls…no matter how old you are or how long ago your husband unexpectedly died…it’s time to smell the roses again and smile at the memory of your beautiful man. This is what he would want! I hope whoever reads this feels a little window of hope…Here’s to a new life and the happiness your husband would have wanted you to have.”
Test everything – hold on to the good
Ann’s advice is to find other women who know what it’s like to lose your husband unexpectedly. Offer and receive comfort, give and take hope from them. They understand what it’s like when your whole world changes because of your husband’s death. Their circumstances may not be exactly the same as yours, but they understand the depth and width of losing someone that you loved and shared your life with. They understand grief, loss, and pain.
What if you find a circle of widows who lost their husbands unexpectedly, such as a grief support group through a church, and you find it more depressing than being alone? Then you let it go. Some women find it comforting and encouraging to be with other widows. Other women, the last thing they want to do is to talk with other women who lost their husbands. Before you decide if you might find comfort and hope in a grief support group, just give it a try. Go to at least three meetings before you decide whether or not it’s helpful for you.
If you’re an introvert, you may find it more healing to be alone. These Words of Comfort When Your Heart is Broken may be all the company you need right now.
Learn what women know about grieving a husband’s unexpected death
In Things I Realized About Grief — While Grieving Laurie Burrows Grad says, “Grief is filled with expectations of what you should feel, what you shouldn’t feel, what is okay to discuss, and what is taboo to mention. I am sick of all the ‘shoulds’ in life. When Peter, my husband of 47 years, died suddenly 18 months ago, I was hit with a bunch of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ that clouded my brain and made grief even more difficult to traverse.”
It’s important to connect with other women not just for comfort and hope, but also to learn how to navigate grief after your husband dies unexpectedly. What weren’t you prepared for, that you know now? Share that with younger widows. What are you struggling with? Learn from more experienced widows. Find women who are honest and real, who aren’t afraid to go into their grief and share what they saw, felt, heard, and experienced after their husband unexpectedly died. Be an honest, authentic woman who is walking through the valley of the shadow of grief…and who refuses to remain there.
Say hello to grief – and expect it to stay awhile
In her article, Laurie introduced me to a different side of grief. Her husband’s unexpected death changed how she lives in this world, and what she knows to be true, and even who she is.
Here’s a summary of what she learned about the grieving process:
Grief takes much longer and requires more energy than you expect. “Each journey of grief is totally different,” she says. “Set your own timetable for your journey, on your own terms, and with lots of flexibility…Grief will take more energy than you can conceivably comprehend. After Peter died I would have slept all the time from the exhaustion of tears and pain. The problem was that in grief, sleep becomes totally elusive.”
Grief makes you feel like an outsider. “You will feel that you are on the outside looking in, as the world continues to move forward while you slowly grieve at a standstill,” she writes. “Grief will impact your life psychologically, socially, and physically. Your world will rotate 180 degrees, and you will be stunned and shocked at the sudden change in your status.”
Grief – especially when your husband dies unexpectedly – involves forming a new self-identity. “You will feel identity confusion as you are no longer a couple,” Laurie says. “Your self-esteem will surely plummet. Know that you will find a new definition of self in the process of grief. You will have to find your way as a third, or fifth wheel which will take much courage and fortitude. Teach your friends that you need them even more now that you are a widow. You will grieve for the couple you were and the loss of that union. You will mourn the future you had together, and the unfulfilled dreams that would have been.”
Grief is unpredictable, not linear or straightforward. “Your grief process will not be a steady step-by-step course,” says Laurie. “It will be more of a bad roller coaster ride with ups, downs, and in-betweens. It comes in waves of intense pain without warning signs. You will surely have grief bursts. These surges of grief come without warning, especially in the car. My steering wheel has been doused on numerous occasions. I often have grief bursts in the shower, in the morning, in the middle of the night, in a concert, in a movie, watching television, or just hearing a melancholy song. I have put a ban on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah!’”
Grief spurs you to search for meaning in life. “In grief, you will search for meaning in your sadness,” she says. “Many find religion a comfort. I devoured books on grief looking for answers, which never came, but bizarrely helped me through the tough times.”
Know that you will always miss your husband. But, promise that his unexpected death won’t prevent you from moving forward into a new life with meaning, fulfillment, and love.
Grieving your husband’s unexpected death will dredge up past sorrows
Every loss in our lives forces us to re-experience past grief. We carry grief with us; it never completely goes away. If we haven’t worked through our past losses – even as “little” as the death of a beloved family dog or cat – we set ourselves up for deeper pain, suffering, and heartache. Unresolved pain is cumulative, which means that if you haven’t dealt with or processed your previous experiences and feelings of grief, they have grown into a greater wound. Suppressed grief suffocates your heart and soul…which is why it’s so important to learn how to recover from loss and process grief after your husband unexpectedly dies.
“Grief will bring up old feelings of abandonment and loss and unresolved conflicts, which may make you depressed,” says Laurie. “Know that this is a temporary depression and you will work through it. Your loneliness will seem unsurmountable and yet you will need solitude to power through your passage through grief.
Grief is not your enemy
“Rather than resist the powerful, transformative forces activated in grief, we can learn strategies for moving through it,” writes Alexandra Kennedy in Honoring Grief – Creating a Space to Let Yourself Heal.
“Or, more accurately, allowing it to move through us, stage by stage, day by day – without feeling overwhelmed. When we allow grief to move through us, it shows us what we need to heal. We need to avoid blocking the flow of grief, for we will pay a deep price for unresolved grief.”
The grieving process can actually help you find the meaning of life. If your husband died unexpectedly, you know firsthand how precious and fragile every moment is. If you let it, his death can become a catalyst for healthy and positive change in your life. If you resolve or process your grief, you have the power to enrich your life and deepen your faith. Grieving takes time and energy – but it’s important to actively work to integrate and heal your grief, rather than just passively experience your reactions to your husband’s death.
Grief is best met in a sanctuary
“A sanctuary for grieving enables us to honor our grief for a limited time each day in the midst of our busy lives,” writes Kennedy in Honoring Grief – Creating a Space to Let Yourself Heal.
A Grief Sanctuary is a “sacred space” that can gently hold you as you grieve the unexpected los of your husband. This space can support you as you move through the grieving process. The idea is to visit your grief sanctuary every day for a short period of time. This sanctuary is a safe, insulated space that generates a sense of peace. This space allows you to go deep enough into your grief so you can begin the healing process.
“Find a contained space in your home or garden where you feel protected and safe,” writes Kennedy. “It is important that you will not be interrupted. Let it be a place that inspires, comforts, and nurtures you in your grief. The sanctuary is a refuge dedicated to your healing.”
Let there be spaces in your grief
Take time every day to honor your grief and work through your feelings – but don’t spend long periods of time in your sanctuary. Shorter, more focused times seem to work better than longer periods, which might overwhelm you emotionally when you’re grieving your husband’s death. The key is to “deepen into” whatever is taking place inside you that day. In the cocoon of your grief sanctuary, you might light a candle, cover up with a fleece blanket, or get out your journal. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and turn your attention within.
Don’t worry about creating a perfect “grief sanctuary.” Rather, allow it to unfold naturally and organically. Your space will change shape as you grow and flourish – yes, even after your husband dies unexpectedly – as you relearn what you need in and out of your life.
When you’re ready, practice little transitions
Your world has been shattered, shaken, shredded. The grief sanctuary is a time to honor how deeply you are wounded by giving you time to absorb the impact of the internal and external changes you’ve been experiencing after your husband dies unexpectedly. Open your heart to discovery, to mystery, to the unknown.
When you leave the Grief Sanctuary, practice inviting your mind and spirit to stop focusing on your pain and sadness. Do not carry it around with you. Make a clear transition from grief to life, and remind yourself not to hold on to your grief. It’s important to grieve fully in the sanctuary, but to let go of it when it is time to engage in your daily life.
To help with the transition from grief to life, do something nurturing for yourself – have a cup of tea, call a friend, take a shower or bubble bath, go for walk. Always remember, however, that there is only one right way to move through the grieving process when your husband dies unexpectedly. And that way is the way that feels most comfortable and most healing to you.
How do you feel after reading these thoughts on grief? Share below – writing can help you work through your feelings and clarify your thoughts. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience.
Comfort and Hope When Your Husband Dies Unexpectedly
In Progressing Through Grief: Guided Exercises to Understand Your Emotions and Recover from Loss, Stephanie Jose offers an interactive resource to gently meet you wherever you are today, as you process the grief of your husband’s unexpected death and move towards healing.
Stephanie has spent countless hours working with grieving clients, and she saw the need for a resource that would address the various feelings of grief that occur at any stage of the process. Progressing Through Grief provides practical methods for coping with immediate feelings of loss, as well as the difficult emotions that can persist over time.
This book is divided into three sections, each focusing on key factors that create a powerful process for healing:
- Understanding why grieving is important, and how grief affects your body
- Identifying complicated feelings and learning skills for coping with them
- Journaling to move through overwhelming feelings and practicing self-care through relaxation techniques, nutrition tips, and meditation practices
Designed to be a companion as you courageously confront and process your feelings, Progressing Through Grief is intended to help you progress through your grief after your husband unexpectedly dies and into healing.
In Heartbroken: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse Gary Roe – a bestselling author, hospice chaplain and grief specialist – shares what he learned from walking with hundreds of spouses through this painful valley. From their stories he has composed this incredibly practical work that will touch your heart and comfort your soul.
In this deeply personal, easy-to-read book, you will learn the following how to better manage the up and down, roller-coaster emotions of grief after your husband’s unexpected death. You’ll gain tips for managing the feeling and reality of being misunderstood, and you’ll navigate all the relationship changes that occur with the loss of your husband.
You’ll learn how to think about and face the future with hope. And as you read Heartbroken: Healing From the Loss of a Spouse you will discover that you are far from alone, you’re not crazy, and that you will make it through this.
May you find comfort and hope, faith and healing. May your journey through grief be filled with surrender and new life. May you say goodbye to your beloved husband with freedom, and hello to a new life with acceptance. May you be surprised by joy, and filled with the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Take good care of yourself.