Sudden death of a spouse is sometimes listed as the number one most stressful event in someone’s life. My husband died of a sudden heart attack when I was forty-four and it changed my life in every way. Grief is a difficult emotion to tolerate, it comes in waves and you must swim through it to get to shore, but I assure you, you will eventually land on your feet on steadier ground.
(1) Take no one’s advice including mine. Resist the urge to throttle people who make insensitive remarks because they don’t know what to say and fight the urge to do something drastic or very expensive. I had an urge to fly to Paris to sit in cafes and drink wine soon after his death, but realized I would be just as unhappy there as I was at home. However I had healed enough eighteen months later to enjoy a trip to Italy immensely. You will be exhausted and overwhelmed, almost every decision can be postponed except those connected with the funeral and burial.
(2) Stay put, especially if you own your home, have a job you like, and have a support network. If you feel you must get away, take a trip or go visit someone. Trying to find a geographic cure won’t necessarily make you feel better, so take the time you need to figure out if a move makes sense. I did move six weeks after Lou’s death, but to a town nearer to family and friends and closer to my job. We did not own our home, and I had no friends where we had been living so this worked out well for me.
(3) Friends and family will disappoint you, especially couple friends. I was surprised how becoming widowed changed all my relationships. Seventeen years after Lou’s death I am in contact with no one who was primarily Lou’s friends or family. People who call you with specific invitations, can tolerate being with you when you are depressed or in tears, keep asking if there is anything they can do for you, or just show up are your real friends, or will become them.
(4) The first year without your spouse will be filled with memories and reminders on a daily basis of how different your life is. I did not enjoy sleeping alone, doing all the errands and coming home to an empty house. It took me over a year before I could sit at my dining room table and eat by myself. I found my wedding anniversary to be especially lonely. This would be a good time to take the kids to the Bahamas at Christmas, or not even pretend to celebrate Thanksgiving.
(5) Do not let anyone tell you the right or wrong ways to grieve, the process is different for everyone. Some people are helped by support groups, or need to stay at home for a morning and cry. Some people in my life suggested I take antidepressants or just move on, when I expressed grief neither of which I did. Time heals everything is something I don’t believe, but I do believe that we are all by nature survivors, and it is very likely that your interest in, and zest for life will return, and the good memories of your beloved will sustain you.