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How To Move Forward After Becoming a Widow or Widower

Posted by Daystar Retirement Village on Apr 29, 2021 12:57:26 PM

A spouse is one of the hardest people to lose. You shared a life, leaned on one another and made decisions together. Some couples have been together for decades and are no longer used to a life without their other half or to living alone.

How do you move forward after the death of a spouse? It is not easy, but it’s definitely possible to still find meaning, purpose and happiness in your life. Some actions can help with the transition and Daystar is here to help you find a new place in this difficult transition.


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What Are the Stages of Widowhood?

A study of the experiences of widows and widowers found it common for bereavement to last an extended amount of time and to change shape over that period. The researchers noted that the range of feelings and behaviors that come from grief are normal. And though there is no specific timeframe for the stages of grief or for the bereavement period it’s important to remember these stages are a natural progression of loss. Each person’s experience is unique but it is good to remember that you don’t have to live isolated and alone but you can seek help when needed.

Overall, the study found that grief experiences tended to be similar. Some people have observed stages of widowhood or grief, which may be helpful for you to know about.

The Four Phases of Grief from losing a loved one, which come from psychiatrists John Bowlby and Colin Murray Parkes, include:

  • Feeling shock and a sense of numbness. This happens right after losing a loved one. And don’t be surprised if you are unable to feel or even shed tears in the wake of your spouse’s death.
  • A continued experiencing of longing and yearning for the person. You want your loved one to return, and you can go through a range of emotions related to longing and searching for them.
  • The next phase is a feeling acceptance, leading to related feelings and behaviors. You start to accept the loss, and this can result in withdrawing from social and other activities. It can also lead to feelings like apathy and despair.
  • And over time you finally reach a state of stabilization and recovery. In this stage, intense emotions have calmed down, you experience positive memories and you move forward with life, even though life looks very different than it did before.

There are also practical implications of losing a spouse. Here are three stages of widowhood that have to do with managing your finances after losing your spouse. This refers to:

  • Grief: During the immediate stage, you focus on things that need to be taken care of, like applying for death benefits and understanding the assets. During this stage, it’s recommended that you avoid making big decisions or changes right away.
  • Growth: After the immediate grief period, you can do general financial planning and decide whether to make changes to your life, such as moving to another home or perhaps into a retirement community like Daystar.
  • Grace (Transformation): You engage in financial planning based on how you decide to live your life going forward. This stage can also include financial planning involving families and charitable contributions.

How Do You Adjust to Being a Widow or Widower?

How can I be happy after being widowed? If this is something you're asking yourself, certain steps can ease the transition of becoming a widow or widower. Moving forward after loss is definitely possible. It’s good to let yourself experience your grief and bereavement period in your own time and way. Nonetheless, when you’re ready for them, here are some ideas on how to move on and be happy.

  • Find Distractions: You may need to balance times of grief and times of protecting yourself from pain. When you need help coping, look for a healthy distraction. This can mean something as simple as turning on the television, which brings life and sound into your home. It may mean working, volunteering, socializing, taking a group exercise class or engaging in other activities that take up your mind and give you purpose.
  • Avoid Triggers: Sometimes you may need to create distance from people or things that trigger your pain.  Have grace for yourself, it may seem strange to separate yourself from the past so quickly but this intentional avoidance can be helpful for a time period as you navigate this incredible loss and create a new normal for yourself. The memories will still be waiting when you are ready.
  • Find a Supportive Community: Many people will not understand your grief if they have not gone through it themselves. It can be immeasurably helpful to seek out others who have also lost their spouses and are going through similar feelings and experiences. It may also be helpful to get professional mental health support, perhaps in the form of bereavement counseling or support groups. Or even just being around others who understand what you’re experiencing and can help you take care of yourself like in a retirement community setting can be incredibly valuable.
  • Shift Perspective: Try thinking about the life ahead of you in terms of what is positive about it and what possibilities are open to you. For example, using a gratitude jar to be thankful for small things each day can having a surprisingly big impact on your everyday mood and the way you begin to view life.
  • Seek Out New Adventures: Explore your interests and try new or previously enjoyed activities. Some ideas include getting a dog or other pet, traveling or going on local day trips, joining a club, taking a class or starting a hobby.

Consider Changing Your Home

This may be a good time to consider changing your environment and moving to a retirement community. While this type of transition may be hard, it's often necessary and can be incredibly helpful to mark the transition into the new. Retirement communities come with many benefits for people learning how to move forward after becoming a widow or widower. Not only can your move indicate moving into a new season of life and help you move on, but you will also be surrounded by peers and staff who understand the difficulties of widowhood. Daystar provides all the above services from exercise groups, a supportive community to new adventures for its residents. At Daystar, what you need to move forward is already organized and at your fingertips. And if you’re still not quite ready to try moving on, the staff can help you find ways to live a life that honors and memorializes your spouse while still living in the present. 

If you’re wondering what are the practical things I need to consider as I think about my future on my own, we can help at Daystar.

  • This is the right time to think about moving into a stable environment where you can be supported by a community instead of isolated. We offer this at Daystar through our large communities, experienced staff, residents and various amenities and activities.
  • In light of current times, think about staying safe. We provide a safe environment due to vaccinations as well as screenings for all of our visitors.
  • It’s important to plan for future transitions as you may need more care as you age. We provide different types of housing, including 55+, independent living and assisted living, so we can meet you where you are now and provide options down the road if you need them.

At Daystar, we can become a new home to help you with your process of moving on after death. We seek to remove barriers to entry so you’re better able to focus on the transition. We know this is an overwhelming time, and Daystar is here to support you throughout the entire process. Start with a virtual tour of our community, and contact us to see whether turning over this new leaf could be part of moving forward for you.

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Tags: Senior Living 101, Senior Health

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