Coping With Life After the Death of a Spouse


A life change from married to widow is not an easy transition. Whether you’re ready or not, a new life takes shape and somehow we must learn to adapt. Some days even the smallest change in our life can sometimes seem like too much to handle.

Once a widow or widower, your life has turned around drastically. Some of the obvious changes:

1.Size of Income

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Income is sometimes halved or can even become nonexistent with the death of a spouse.

2. Tax filing status, and the tax implications

It may be appropriate to use an accountant for income tax preparation, especially in the first two years of loss.

3. Socially

When you are no longer part of a couple, friends and acquaintances may not be sure where you fit into the social circle. At times, you’re not sure where you fit in anymore. Don’t be surprised by adjustments, which may mean letting go of old friends. Allow yourself the opportunity to meet new people, when you are ready.

4. Economically

Bills don’t wait for recovery from the death of a loved one. Your children may need daycare and college age children still need books and tuition. There remains the immediate need to buy food, clothing, and everyday essentials.

Children up to eighteen years of age are eligible for social security benefits. As a surviving spouse you may also receive benefits until the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen.

Getting help from a financial planner can be of great benefit in the financial aspects of becoming a widow or widower. Debt can quickly become overwhelming.

5. Family

As the surviving spouse, we do the best in the solo role of mother and father. It helps, especially for young children, to keep life as normal as possible. You’ll find some days are easier than others.

6. Physically

Economic and lifestyle changes can be the most taxing challenges. Stress will rear its head in the oddest of places and circumstances. Take care of yourself in the kindest way possible or you may find it difficult taking care of anything else. Don’t berate yourself for the dirty laundry or the unmowed lawn.

7. Emotionally

The death of a spouse can throw you into an emotional tailspin. Processing grief is individual and it takes time. There is no right or wrong way to approach it. Don’t rush into any major decisions, especially in the first 12 months of loss.

8. Support

It can be helpful to accept help from outside sources; family, friends, grief support groups, therapists. Keeping fears and emotions suppressed can serve to make you ill and perhaps delay the entire grief process. And it is a process.

Try to move slowly through each day, each week. Don’t rush through the terrible feelings, but try to face them head-on, when you can, and release the tears. Yes, some days will be excruciating, but you’ll discover there is still joy to be found.

One day you may awake to find you’re feeling a little better, and perhaps you’ve evolved into a new person; one who is no longer afraid of new challenges as they arise. You may be surprised to discover that remaining open to life gives each of us the opportunity to reach a new normal.  

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