By Hazel Bridges
Many studies have concluded that spousal bereavement causes the type of stress that can lead to depression, chronic stress, and reduced life expectancy. On a smaller level, common side effects include little or no appetite, trouble sleeping (or sleeping too much), and complications with concentrating and making decisions. There is no set time limit for the grieving process, which is why it’s important to implement strategies to manage your feelings so you can regain control of your life.
1. Staying Active Is Key
It’s been proven that adaptive coping such as seeing friends, going to a movie, revisiting a hobby, or getting back into an exercise routine are not only good for taking your mind off things for a while, but they also motivate you to do more pleasurable activities. Ineffective coping methods include not leaving your home and drinking too much alcohol. This is also a good time to consider trying a new hobby or activity—either solo or as a part of a group—to give you a renewed sense of purpose.
2. Don’t Neglect Physical and Mental Health
Research proves that the death of a spouse can potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke within 30 days. While it can be challenging, it’s crucial that you maintain a proper diet, get enough rest, and perform some form of exercise conducive to your current state of health—even simple walking counts. If eating is challenging at first, keep up your strength with high-protein, high-calorie supplement shakes geared toward seniors to ensure you don’t develop any nutritional deficiencies or lower your immune system. Make time to meditate, and consider taking an online wellness course geared toward spousal loss—it’s like therapy in the privacy of your own home.
3. Know When It’s Time to Seek Professional Help
While some people find it beneficial to see a therapist right after the death of their spouse, others prefer to manage their own feelings. But because there’s no time limit on bereavement, you may come to the realization that you simply can’t cope on your own. If you’re seeing little or no improvement in terms of your mood and motivation to get on with life, consider talking with a qualified mental health professional. Alternatively, group therapy can be helpful because you have the opportunity to share reciprocal thoughts and feelings with other people going through the same situation as you. You may even develop a few new friendships in the process.
4. Prepare for Setbacks
It’s not uncommon to feel like your old self one day and then break down the next, especially if you see, taste, smell, or hear something that reminds you of your spouse. However, setbacks can be even more complicated if your spouse’s death was drug-related. Along with grief, it’s likely that you’re also having feelings of guilt and regret. Support groups may not be helpful because it’s possible that there isn’t a person like you dealing with an addiction-related death. You might find yourself questioning “why?” which is coupled with replaying various scenarios in your head. In this case, it’s not a bad idea to seek the help of a professional. If money is an issue, look for free workshops in your area. Hospitals usually offer this type of support.
No matter how bad you’re feeling and for how long, don’t put on a happy face. Suppressing emotions will only make the grieving process last longer. Develop a strong support system to help you through the tough times and help you remember that you deserve to have many more good moments, too.
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