I recently picked up a book called It’s Ok That You’re Not Okay by a widow who witnessed the accidental drowning of her young, fit husband. “Grief for my husband” may have been the reason Megan Devine wrote her book and started the Refuge in Grief website, but her insights and practical tips for coping with grief will help anyone coping with loss.
This morning I received this email from a reader: “I recently lost my beloved husband of 53 years. Even though we had three years knowing he had stage 4 cancer, it has still been a shock that he is gone. I am beyond sad with grief for my husband. Do you have any articles about loss and grief that I could read? At this point in my life it is hard to think I’ll ever be happy again.”
I’ve written several articles to help women grieve their husband’s death, such as How to Get Through the Day When You’re a Grieving Widow and Help Starting Over in Your 60s After Your Husband Dies.
However, reading a print book that you can write in, dog ear, and flip through is much better. I may be a writer who writes and publishes online every day, but I’m also a reader who can’t read digital books, magazines, or newspapers! So I recommend Megan Devine’s bestselling book like It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand. I’ll also include the link at the end of this article.
Finding Comfort in Grief for Your Husband
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve – and how long it takes before you feel “normal” again after your husband’s death – depends on your personality, coping style, life experience, faith, and the nature of your marriage. The grieving process takes time, and there is no typical timetable for grieving. Healing and adjustment happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried. Some widows start to feel better in weeks or months. For other women, the grieving process lasts until their last breath.
Whatever your experience, be patient with yourself. This season of your life will unfold naturally. You might think of it as one of the chapters in the book of your life. A chapter called “Grief for My Husband.”
Be gentle with yourself
The grieving process is painful, energy-draining, and time-consuming — but only if you do it right. And, by “right”, I mean both constructively and in a manner that is right for you. You may have heard about the seven stages to the grieving process: denial, anger, guilt, depression, forgiveness, acceptance, and recovery. You might experience all or none of these stages. Allow yourself to go through any or all of them at your own pace.
Instead of trying to grieve or heal from your husband’s death — or even wondering when you’ll feel happy again — be gentle with yourself. You’re healing from a major emotional trauma, one of life’s most upsetting and sad losses. Your husband’s death may be the biggest loss of your life. Who or what gives you find comfort in grief for your husband? Cling to those glimpses of hope, warmth, and connection.
Be aware of the common symptoms of grief
Every widow’s grief for her husband is personal and unique, but there are some physical, emotional, spiritual and cognitive signs of grieving the loss of a loved one.
Common symptoms of grief include:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Physical fatigue
- Crying at unexpected times
- Feelings of numbness
- Sadness and depression
- Difficulty eating or sleeping
- Confusion and difficulty thinking
- Physical aches and pains
- Irritability and blaming others
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Guilt and shame
Feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and being out of control are also common for widows. We want to shape and manage our own destiny, and a husband’s death makes us realize how little control we have. If you’re prepared for feelings of sadness, weeping and overwhelming grief at unexpected times, you may find your pain easier to manage.
If your family is causing you additional grief for your husband, read 3 Ways to Deal With Family Problems After Your Husband’s Funeral.
Expect a whirlwind of emotions…and emotional numbness
The emotions you’ll feel as you grieve your husband’s death may — or may not — include denial, anger, guilt, depression, forgiveness, acceptance, and recovery. All at once, one after the other! How you feel at any given moment depends on your personality, lifestyle, marriage with your husband, family situation, job, emotional and physical health, and spirituality. You probably won’t progress through each “stage of grief” one step at a time. All the steps may hit you at once. This is a normal part of coping with grief for your husband.
You may find yourself overwhelmed with unexpected bouts of grief, sadness and weeping at the most inopportune times. You may veer between acceptance and disbelief, anger and relief, forgiveness and blame. This is normal when you’re grieving any type of loss in your life. Tell yourself, “I am experiencing grief for my husband right now, but one day I will feel better. I am healing. He’s here with me in ways I don’t understand, and we will one day be reunited.”
Reach out for a hand to hold on to
Grief can get complicated and confusing, which is why it’s important to stay connected to widows and widowers who understand what you’re going through. Finding the right friend — a kindred spirit — or even grief support group or friend can be the lifeline you need. Then you’ll have someone to turn to when all you can think is, “I don’t think I can cope with grief for my husband.” They’ll understand. And if you say, “Grief for my husband is making me feel like I’m losing my mind,” they’ll know how you feel because they’ve experienced something similar. You’ll find yourself drawing on their strength and resilience, their hope and comfort.
Books like It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine can also be helpful and comforting.
“While most grief support (and well-meaning friends and family) encourages you to move through the pain, that’s simply the wrong approach,” writes Megan in the chapter entitled You Can’t Solve Grief, But You Don’t Have to Suffer. “The way to live inside of grief is not by removing pain, but by doing what we can to reduce the suffering. Knowing the difference between pain and suffering can help you understand what things can be changed, and what things simply need your love and attention.”
What do you think, how do you feel? Your big and little comments are welcome below. Writing about the grief you feel can help you process the pain. Megan actually encourages people who are grieving to write in grief’s voice. “Hello, grief for my husband…who are you and what do you need me to do for you? What do you have to tell or teach me?”
You might also visit Megan’s website — Refuge in Grief — to offer support and comfort to other grieving widows. Your experience can help others heal, and show them they’re not alone.