How Therapy Can Help You Navigate the Loss of Your Spouse
The loss of your spouse can be a difficult time. You may feel angry, sad, guilty, or even afraid about such a loss. Therapy can help you navigate these difficult emotions so that you can learn how to move forward.
Unfortunately, too many people believe that it’s necessary to hold in their emotions and be stoic. This is especially true for men in Western society but can apply to both men and women. They feel the need to do so because they need to be “strong” for other family members or children.
No one wants to be a burden but holding in your emotions only causes more problems in the long run. In fact, research has shown that men who have lost a partner are in danger for increased problems related to alcohol consumption 1-2 years after their partner’s death. Of course, alcoholism and substance abuse only exacerbate the situation and doesn’t address the underlying emotions.
Another problem you may face because of the loss of your spouse is loneliness. Whether you have spent a few years or a whole lifetime together, the death of your loved one means losing your partner and best friend. Being in the same home that you shared or going places that you both enjoyed (shops, movies, restaurants, clubs, houses of worship) can be very difficult. Not having that person in your life creates a gaping void.
That loneliness can lead to depression. Instead of participating in the activities you once enjoyed or spending time with others, you may retreat inward. You feel sad all the time and lack energy. In some cases, these feelings may lead to thoughts of suicide. You don’t believe that there is anything worth living for in this world now that your spouse is gone.
But that’s not true! Although losing your spouse is painful it does not have to mean the rest of your life is gone. Therapy can help you lift this shroud and learn how to continue in life.
Therapy is a place where you can safely express your emotions without being judged. You can express your emotions and not have to hold them back anymore. For instance, you may feel guilty that your spouse had to suffer through a prolonged illness. Or you are angry that there wasn’t anything more you could do to prevent their death from happening. By talking about it, you reduce the chances that you’ll numb your emotions with alcohol or drugs.
It’s also understandable to feel sad after the death of your loved one. By participating in therapy, you can make sure that this sadness doesn’t become depression. Your psychologist can extend to you the compassion necessary for you to heal from this loss.
In addition, talking with a psychologist helps you to better understand how to move forward with your life. Identifying resources in your life and community allows you to feel belonging and acceptance. This helps address the loneliness you feel and better cope with your loss. You can continue with activities that you enjoy and keep you connected to other people, such as clubs, sports, hobbies, and social engagements.
In time, you may find someone else to share your life with and want to marry. This will be a joyous time, but also tinged with the memories of your deceased loved one. Talking about these feelings in therapy allows you to honor the past while moving forward with the future.
The death of a spouse is never easy to experience. It brings up emotions that are either acknowledged or pushed down and far away. Participating in bereavement and grief counseling means you don’t have to go through this alone. You will have someone willing to listen and provide guidance to you during this difficult time.