Loss of a Spouse: 5 Things Only a Widow/er Understands

Everything changes after the loss of a spouse or partner. For many, this was the person we spent most of our time with. This is who we made our plans with…the one who shared our worries. Every part of our past, present, and future revolved around this person, and to be without them is  harder, sadder, and lonelier than we ever could have guessed.

Loss of a Spouse

And here’s the thing…not only is it harder than we could have thought; the people we spend time don’t always seem to recognize the depth and duration of this loss.  This can be felt any time someone tries to cheer us up, smooth it over, or make it better. Our loved ones are well intentioned, there’s no doubt, but here is what most grievers who have lost a spouse would want those around them to understand:

  1. It’s a couples world and socializing after the loss of a spouse is never the same. This comes up just about every time I facilitate a group for widow and widowers. We don’t even notice how much of a couples world it is until we’re no longer part of it. Going out to dinner, going to the movies, taking a vacation. Sure, some people will do these things on their own, but for most these activities were reserved for their spouse or partner. And unfortunately being part of a bigger group or going to a party isn’t necessarily any easier. The problem isn’t just the griever who may feel awkward in a setting that is mostly couples. The friends themselves may hesitate (or all out avoid) inviting the griever along for fear that this newly single person will feel out of place. And for most widows and widowers I speak to, nothing feels worse than that.
  2. Even a very caring network of support can’t replace this one thing we had: a shared and equally vested interest in the outcome of each other’s lives. A widow pointed this out to me, and boy was she right. “My friends are great,” she said, “when I share a worry about my daughter or grandson, they’ll nod and show compassion and concern. But here’s the thing…in the end, whatever happens just won’t affect them the same way it would affect me. The only person who could share the weight of these concerns was my husband”. Since then, I’ve used this example. Imagine a restaurant opens. It’s a wonderful restaurant, with a lot of loyal and happy customers. But then there’s a fire, and suddenly the restaurant is no longer there. The  patrons of that restaurant will miss eating there, and will feel saddened at its loss. But eventually, they will find another place to eat. The owner, however, will never be the same. Because every part of the owner’s life and livelihood, and every part of their security and dreams and hopes went into that restaurant. And in the case of the loss of a spouse, the fact is that only our spouse or partner will feel the same investment and care in our life that we do.
  3. Following the loss of a spouse or partner, I feel like only half of a whole. A lot of couples will refer to their spouse or significant other as their “better half”. While it’s usually meant to be a sweet compliment, the truth is that most marriages (even the imperfect ones!) operate and function as two people joining their lives together as one. After the loss of a spouse most widows and widowers will report feeling that not only is their other half missing, but that they themselves feel incomplete. This union can become such a part of our identity that without it, we don’t feel like a complete or whole person anymore. So we’re not only missing our spouse…we’re missing ourselves too.
  4. Every part of my day and routine is now changed and altered, especially when it’s time to go to sleep. There’s no doubt that a parent who has lost a child, or a daughter who was the full time caregiver for a parent will feel this same void and change in routine. But there are some differences with the loss of a spouse (and it’s important to note that none of them are being highlighted to say that one type of loss is harder than another- they’re just different). Household chores, sharing finances, making plans…all of these things can make it hard to get through the day after the loss of a spouse. But the promise of escape from these stresses that sleep may otherwise provide is something else a widow or widower may lose. Because unless a couple had already become accustomed to sleeping in separate beds (because of long term illness or nursing home placement, for example) a person who is dealing with the loss of a spouse or partner is going to be feeling this very significant change at the end of each day too. “Do I leave the light on the way he used to? I never liked it, but now it feels weird if I don’t.” “Do I stay on my side of the bed, or do I move to the middle?” “Even with the lights out and my eyes closed I can still feel the emptiness of the bed…” “How strange it feels to go to bed without having someone to say goodnight to- ending the day without a goodnight feels like leaving a period off a sentence”
  5. My spouse/partner filled more than just one role in my life. Losing even “just” one person in our life is hard enough. But following the loss of a spouse or partner, a griever will feel like they’ve lost many important people: their friend, their lover, their peer, their co-parent, their confidant, their business partner, their travel companion, their date…meaning that this loss doesn’t mean the loss of “just” one person. This loss will create a vacancy in many roles that one very important person had previously filled. And no one person is going to be able to take the place of all the roles a spouse or partner filled.

A list like this can be hard to create, but for the griever it can be even harder to read. So what is the point, really, in illustrating or highlighting all that a widow or widower has lost?

I’ll go back to the widow from the #2 point on our list, the woman who described the feeling of shared investment that she had lost when her husband died. She told me that the slow recognition of this fact was actually a huge turning point for her. Because when she started to take a look at all the reasons that she was struggling and all the reasons she missed her husband it revealed something even more important: all the things they had shared together. And lying underneath the sadness and yearning for what she had, was a realization of the blessings that their union and time together had created.

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If you’re struggling with the loss of a spouse, talking to others who are also going through it can help. While our experiences of grief are unique, there is still so much of this journey that grievers will find they have in common. You’ll find them here at: www.griefincommon.com. 

 

38 thoughts on “Loss of a Spouse: 5 Things Only a Widow/er Understands”

  1. So sorry that you have to still exist without Randy. He loved you a lot. God made him especially for you. My heart grieves for you and having to continue on. What can I do for you. I can pray for comfort and peace but that won’t bring him back. You are still a shining example to many people. May God grant you what you need st this very moment. Love you, Becky

  2. We just had a huge fire here. I had to evacuate. I was angry with Steve all over again. He died 9 months ago and I was angry, lonely, and scared!

  3. One of my realizations was that I missed being touched. A hug or a grandchild’s touch isn’t quite the same as being touched by a partner in life.

  4. I lost my hudband in june 2015…..
    This article is so correct and still people dont
    Get it…..loss of a spouse changes you.
    I have God an a handful of awesome people and did hospice support group then greif share
    I did not start to come out of the hard struggle till 2 yyr mark

  5. I experienced loss of friends ,not invited anymore I ‘m now single not by choice and it sucks .People can suck sometimes . I see car’s full of people going out in my neighborhood ride by they dont even say hello anymore .Or why dont you come and meet us weare such and such a place tonight .

  6. My Beloved died in 2011. I still miss his touch. And as much as I am grateful for others touch, it is not the same. This is a wonderful article. I wish I had read it earlier.

  7. I’m sure glad I came across this. It is so helpful. Loss my husband 1 yr and 4 mos. ago. Lately it seems like just yedterday. It keeps hitting in waves. It’s not something you get a dress rehearsal for.

    1. I understand weeping every day, I still do it, my wife died on Nov. 08, 1917.

      In my agony I wrote this for my dear wife and best friend, Georgette.

      I Weep When…
      Looking at your photos, notes and cards.
      Going to bed with only your pillow beside me for company.
      I no longer hear your gentle voice in the dark, telling me,
      “You are my best friend, and I love you honey.”
      Seeing the full moon, you loved looking at
      through the bedroom window while in bed.
      Waking up without you by my side.
      The morning sun shines, you loved the morning sun.
      When I am out walking, and don’t see you there beside me.
      Waiting for the bus without you by my side.
      Riding the bus as I glance over at your empty seat.
      I don’t see you across the table from me at the coffee shop.
      Sitting on the couch with your empty space beside me.
      Looking in the closet at your things , you will never wear again.
      I see your watch still keeping time, while you are in eternity.
      Seeing your shoes by the bed where you always kept them.
      Seeing your toothbrush and hand lotion still in the bathroom.
      Watching your favorite TV programs without you by my side.
      I can no longer make you an egg sandwich before bed.
      I don’t hear your voice calling , asking me to come on up to bed.
      Your absence keeps me a prisoner of God.
      I no longer hear you saying, ” honey don’t worry,
      every thing will be fine, God will help us.”

      I still weep many times a day. We were married for 52 years…..I just turned 72.

      1. John again…..my dear wife of 52 years passed on Nov, 08, 2017, not 1917…….sorry for the mix up in the date,
        I was weeping as I typed the message and tears were in my eyes. thank you for understanding the mix up.

  8. He pasted 1991 I had the children, house cat and dog to care for I worked and was busy. Now with pension and it is hard all over. All the above said is true I feel like the sore thumb sticking out and must find things to do for single people as I do not fit in with couples.

  9. I lost my husband on August 14, 2017……he and I were both disabled, so we have spent the last 9 years being together 24/7……. and to go from together every minute of every day to zero is hard to get used to. Everything that is mentioned in this is 100% how I have been and continue to feel. I cry every day …… he was my soulmate for sure….thankfully we did a lot of different things during our time together (only 15 years) and I have a lot of awesome memories to help……spend your time collecting moments not things!

  10. You lose your husband, but worst of all the people you thought were your bestfriends leave you also! I am grateful for what I had and I know we will be together again one day!!

  11. It will be 5 years in Feb that my husband is gone -feels like yesterday – he’s constantly in my thoughts and my heart still breaks a little more each day as I miss him more

  12. this is such a hellacious and lonely path we are now forced to navigate. i have often wished it had been me who died instead of him. i am grateful for having my fantastic guy by my side for 30 years but still reeling from his sudden loss in august 2016. i would love to win the lottery and build a sanctuary/retreat for us = widows & widowers to be together to talk and help each other transition into this new single life.

  13. My late wife was a housewife and me a sole breadwinner.It’s so funny that I feelI was still wanting To do more for her and My child.I miss her a lot.I don’t See any purpose of working any longer.I want to accomplish things for someone,not myself.

  14. This article is so true. You feel completely alone. Everyone looks at you different. When I do go out it is like I am on auto pilot. I feel blessed for the time I had with Tim but now I am floundering. He told me if I was always there for his children and grandchildren, they will be there for me. Recently, I realized they are there for Christmas and birthdays only. It hurts when reality sets in. So where do I go from here.

  15. Lost my husband 12/21/17 after 50 yrs together. Now I’m about to lose our 46 yr old daughter who has been ill for years so not a total surprise – just not what I need — another loss– so soon. She moved to hospice (just like her dad) yesterday so now the final waiting is taking place again.

    1. So sorry for the loss of your husband, my wife for 52 years passed away on Nov. 08, 2017, and now our 55 year old daughter has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, and though her symptoms are not severe at the moment, her near future is very uncertain, and she has two son’s in their early twenties, and now they are wondering about their own fate, as the disease is in the DNA.
      My wife Georgette was a woman of faith, who trusted in God, and that is what I am clinging to at the moment……faith in God, whatever and whoever that entity may be….that the universe is unfolding as it should. Naive thinking perhaps….but that is all I have to cling to.

      Sincerely….John

  16. On November 22nd of this year, Jimmy, my husband and best friend, went home to Jesus. While I celebrate in knowing where he is, I feel like a half shell of a person. The woman I was is no longer. This article describes so much of what I’ve experienced; but with much anguish. I’m just lost……

  17. My husband died on Jan 20. We were married 48 years. I am so lost. I don’t belong to anybody. We always knew within five minutes where the other was. I was in the shopping mall one day recently, and I realized nobody knew where I was. My next thought was ‘and nobody cares.’ I have wonderful children and grandchildren, but half of me is gone.

    1. I feel the same way everyday I lost mine one year and a half and I am so lost inside I have nobody now just my little dogs if it wasn’t for them keeping me busy I couldn’t stand it we shop together we done everything together now it’s just me play in the park I know how you feel God bless

    2. That completely describes how I feel. It’s only been a month and we never had children. I’ve never felt such agony. No one can fill that horrible void. Together 45 years also. All I had. How do you do it??

      1. I lost my husband on April 29, 2018. He said he was going to take a shower to sooth a bulging disk he was being treated for. He died in the shower 45 seconds later. We would have been married 50 years in November, 2018. We had known each other since we were 12! Practically all our lives! How do I go on from here! I see him everywhere and then nowhere! How do I live this life alone!!! It is so hard!! I miss every aspect of our lives together!!! Everyone says time, but time seems a long way off!!!!

    3. My husband of 43 years died in February 2018. Janet.. I said this same thing to so many people. My husband, even though he always knew where I was, if I was gone more than an hour would call and say” where are you”?? It’s hard knowing that nobody knows where you are any more and nobody cares.. my heart is so broken!

  18. Thank you for writing this. My husband passed away suddenly without warning in 2012. Every word you say is true. I live alone with my dogs and cats, and most people around me do not have any understanding of how this loss affected me. It isn’t their fault, I was the same once too. Thank you.

  19. I was driving home today after a a busy day of meeting, movie, then shopping. My 14 yr old son was home but as much as he loves me he didn’t really care when I came home. My husband, who died Dec 2017, would have certainly cared. Before he passed away I always new while I was out and about that he always looked forward to when I came home. Even if we didn’t have anything planned. I think today was the first time I realized why I don’t look fwd to going home sometimes. This realization has me quite emotional tonight.

  20. April 14th/2018 at 7:30pm my husband took his last breath while I was holding his hand. 25years it would of been on my up coming Birthday of us being together. More than half our lives. It feels like forever since I last talked with him, told him I loved him and laughed together. The pain comes in waves once it hits anytime and any place will I cry for him. He was my true love and always will be. Now I know life doesn’t stop after losing your better half. You still have to keep going even though at times it’s such a struggle. With a heartache that you can’t explain.

    1. Angie…..so sorry for your loss…..it is not hurt,
      It is agony!

      I wrote this for my dear wife Georgette after she passed away on Nov. 08 2017.
      I always disliked the expression “passed away’. She died and was taken from me.

      Dear Georgette Honey,

      Thinking of the last time ever, that I saw your face, and kissed your brow. As your heart beat it’s last, I was holding your wrist, my heart was breaking, as held you close, just one more time again, to feel your warmth, your love as I sobbed my goodbye into your ear, “I love you honey, you are my best friend.”

      My world came to an end at that moment,
      I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.The stars will no longer shine as brightly,
      The nights will be longer and darker,
      The sun will no longer be a comfort after a storm.

      I will be loving you forever honey no matter where you are……your broken husband John…

  21. I have tried to do things and see people since my husband died in July of 2017.
    Lately, I realize there is no point in trying.
    I’m so tired and just want it to end.

  22. It has been almost 3 years since Jim died. I’ve had numerous deaths (uncles, grandmother, aunts, friends, my dog and my dad), since Jim died. Each death is now compared to and made more painful due to the death of my husband because he is the one I’d turn to on dark days. Going out with friends is a complete chore and I do so because it “looks like I have it all together,” when in reality, I hate it and can’t wait to get home so I don’t have to fake being happy. I know death is part of life. But it is the crappy part. Dating? Every male my age (54) seems to be looking for a 30 year old. I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m still standing so I’ll hang onto that. Good luck to all…

  23. My husband died April 12, 2018, i am sitting hear reading this and crying, my heart is broken. We were married 45 years. Nights are the hardest. I just want to reach out and touch him and to be held in his arms. I am at such a lost.

    1. I agree with you, Susan. Mornings and nights are the hardest. I feel lost without him and I question my decisions. I hope for less pain with each day because I know that the pain will never go away.

  24. My wife died in Sep 2017. Its about a year now but it seems like only yesterday. The agony is still unbearable. Whatever has been said is absolutely true. Only the person who experienced it understands. May God bless us all and help us to cope with the loss.

  25. My husband passed away on July 22, 2018. He was 53 years old and was my best friend. We loved to take walks together, he made me laugh with his quirky humor, he loved watching movies and playing tennis. I realize God has a plan but I don’t understand it.

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