Navigating The Loss of Your Life Partner

Losing the person you share your life with is a life-changing event. Your most intimate relationship is more intertwined with your life than any other, so losing them can feel like losing a part of yourself.

This loss touches every part of your life. It’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed and like this is impossible to get through. But there is hope and a path through your pain and toward healing.

You find that path by identifying and understanding how your life has just changed; you follow that path by learning to cope with, honor, and embrace these changes.

Conversations With Friends and Family

After your loss, you may find that your conversations have suddenly and dramatically changed. You will face some well-meaning friends and family who can’t seem to help but say the wrong things.

Some will make your loss about them, some will joke to ease their discomfort, try to fix your situation, “look on the bright side,” or even assure you that you’ll get over it.

It’s important to remember that this is your grief, not theirs and that you get to deal with it in your own way and in your own time, no matter how much someone might push their feelings and their timeline on you.

Set that boundary with yourself and discuss with your loved one what is helpful and what is hurtful about your interactions.

Your Social Life

Losing your automatic “plus one” can cause significant changes in your social circle. Your comfort level at large gatherings might change. You may suddenly find yourself uncomfortable around couples or old friends.

Confronting this discomfort is the first step in rebuilding a social life and a support network after your loss. It may help to take a literal inventory of the people in your life, how you feel around them, and what roles they fill.

Depending on what you come up with, you may decide that you need to jump back into your group for comfort, or you may feel you need to start over fresh with a new group where you don’t have such a heavy history.

Whatever you decide, it doesn’t need to happen quickly. Like so much else in life, getting back into socializing takes time.

Your Confidant

When someone so close to you dies, you are put in an incredibly difficult situation; you’re going through one of the most painful things you could go through without the person you most want to talk to about it.

You’ve lost the person you share your deepest, most personal feelings with, which can leave you feeling alone, misunderstood, and unsure of what to do with all of your big feelings.

The same feeling applies whenever you experience a new triumph; your first instinct will be to tell them about it. As you adjust and eventually find a new confidant, don’t forget you can write them a letter or send a text. 

Your Physical Well-Being 

Losing the person who joins you in all of your adventures and in the mundane daily life can impact your physical well-being.

Maybe it’s because you ate all of your meals together and now you can’t bring yourself to cook, maybe you had a Saturday morning bike ride routine, or you used to go to the gym together or go for jogs.

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep up those healthy habits, though this is also the most difficult time to do so.

The stress of the loss will have its effect, but you may also suddenly find it much harder to take care of yourself physically. Without your partner, you might not care about your well-being as much as you usually do.

Push yourself a little on this one— join a class at the gym or ask a good friend to go jogging with you if you need someone on your side, encouraging good habits and good health.

Keep Moving Forward

Of course, many other aspects of your life will change because of this profound loss, but that change is not a loss of its own; it’s how we navigate life in all circumstances and how we keep moving forward.

Have patience and compassion for yourself as you move through this – and you will move through this.

Remember That “Grieving” Is A Verb

As you explore the recent changes in your life, it may be helpful to remind yourself that grieving is not just an emotion but a thing we must do to heal from life’s losses.

You have to set aside time and space for doing that work, make room for it in your life, and give yourself permission to do what you need to, not what you —and others— think you should do.

There is a commonality to the internal process of grieving, but the ways we mourn and outwardly grieve during that process are as varied as we are as individuals.

If you’re not quite sure what that outward process looks like for you yet, that’s okay. There are some examples that you can look to; some are traditional, some a little different, but all are valid expressions of grief.

Traditional Ways To Express Grief

  • Holding a funeral or memorial service for them
  • Participating in a funeral procession
  • Lighting a candle in their honor
  • Writing an obituary
  • Dressing in black for a period of time
  • Placing flowers at their resting place
  • Scattering ashes in a special place
  • Observing their religious or spiritual rituals (saying a prayer, meditating, sitting shiva, etc.)

Modern Ways To Express Grief

  • Planting a tree in honor of them
  • Wailing, singing, making noise
  • Making art about or for them
  • Participating in their hobbies or habits
  • Texting, emailing, or writing updates to them
  • Finding whatever private ritual feels good and observing that regularly

If none of these expressions feel right for you, that’s also okay. There is no right or wrong way for you to mourn—as long as you are healthy and safe—do what feels right to you.

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska, via Pexels