How to Manage after the Loss of a Spouse
How to Deal with Depression and Anxiety Resulting from the Loss of a Spouse
By Jennifer Woodson
At some point in our lives we all will lose someone who is important in our lives – someone we love dearly. For senior married couples, under normal circumstances, one will pass before the other. This may create a world of newfound loneliness and sadness.
Though we know death is a natural part of life, it can still be incredibly hard to accept and move past. Grieving is completely normal, and we all will do it in different ways. Sometimes situations like the death of a lifelong spouse can cause a more prolonged depression and anxiety.
Losing a Loved One Hurts
Feelings after the loss of a spouse can be intense and overwhelming. It is completely normal and expected to run through a range of emotions daily. Sometimes you might think you are fine only to have a sight or sound trigger a flood of feelings that you are unable to stop. It could be something as simple as seeing a crossword puzzle and remembering that the two of you started each morning with a puzzle and a cup of coffee. Rather than focusing on the sadness, use these memories to reflect back on all the happiness the two of you experienced together.
There is usually a light at the end of the tunnel. Time and understanding will eventually help you move on. However, grief can sometimes catapult you deeper into depression and anxiety symptoms that you find hard to navigate. Without proper care, these symptoms can progress and have a major impact on your life.
Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic incidents we may endure in our lifetime. It is important to deal with loss and grief head on instead of avoiding it. Otherwise, it will only manifest itself in other areas of your life.
Focus, for example, on maintaining a healthy lifestyle that can put an end to your sense of helplessness. You will feel better and more in control when working out and also getting better sleep. This will boost your confidence and help you socialize more easily. Incorporate low-impact exercises that are safer for your joints such as walking, swimming or chair aerobics, and strength training exercises that can easily be modified such as push-ups (learn how to modify them here), planks, or wall sits. Age may make movement a little more difficult, but exercise is a necessity for everyone.
Consider too some simple changes to your house that will result in a happier, calmer, and stress-free environment. For example, adding plants or using aromatherapy can induce a sense of calm and contentment, and eliminating clutter can help reduce stress.
Although it will be difficult, sort through your spouse’s belongings. It’s unrealistic to keep everything but perhaps there is a particular item of clothing that you’d like to keep to turn into a pillow or blanket. Make sure to keep all personal documents you come across in a file as well, and lock it away in a safe place should you ever need them.
Steer clear of drugs and alcohol. These are not the tools you want to turn to in order to get through hard times. They will keep you isolated and feeling low. Seek support and companionship from close friends and family members to see you through your loss, or join a senior grief support group to connect with others facing the same challenges as you.
In addition, breathing techniques can help when you start to feel anxious or depressed. They can be used alone or coupled with yoga or another calming exercise. You can gain significant benefit from calming your mind and focusing on something other than your worries and fears.
When an important date approaches that reminds you of the one you lost, acknowledge and even celebrate it. This will help you acknowledge that person’s life in a positive and healthy manner. It will also help you realize you don’t have to fear a future without him or her.
Finally, seek professional help if you start having a hard time with daily tasks, blaming yourself for the death of your loved one, or harboring suicidal thoughts. The loss of your spouse does not have to mean that your life will remain difficult or that you will not be able to move on. It takes time and emotional support, as well as the willingness to love yourself and the family and friends you still have left.
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