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Mistakes People Often Make After Losing a Spouse

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If you’ve experienced losing a spouse, you not only know how emotionally devastating it is, but how disorienting it can be. Losing a spouse typically means losing decades of familiarity and habit. Many surviving spouses in the midst of grief say they feel lost, adrift, and aimless.

Each person experiences grief differently, and if you or someone you love is going through that journey of grief after losing a spouse, we hope you’ll find the support you need from family, friends, clergy or counselors. But apart from the emotion of loss, there are practical things you have to consider.

We recently came across this article from MSN addressing that point. The article, which should be a must-read for those experiencing grief at the death of a spouse, spells out a long list – 19 items in all – of mistakes people too often make even in the midst of the emotional upheaval this loss can trigger. (Due to space limitations, we’ve pared down the list a bit.) We share this article in hopes that you’ll read it and pass it along.

Losing a Spouse Means Enduring a “Devastating” Loss

“Losing a spouse is one of life’s most devastating blows,” the article begins. “The world you knew is irrevocably changed, leaving you adrift in a sea of grief. While the pain feels unbearable and the future uncertain, there are ways to navigate this difficult journey.”

At the same time, there are pitfalls to avoid as you journey through grief. The article goes on to explore the following common mistakes that people often make after losing a spouse, along with practical advice and helpful tips – a guide through the healing process, as it were.

In the following advice, we are reminded that “grief is a marathon, not a sprint. Be kind to yourself, seek support, and allow yourself to heal at your own pace.”

After Losing a Spouse, Avoid Rash Decisions

We all know that being in pain of any kind is not an ideal condition for making the best decisions. Pain causes us to think rashly, without considering all the options. We just want to make the pain stop. Grief is a type of pain, and a season of grief after losing a spouse is not a good time to make big, life-changing decisions, like selling your shared house, quitting your job, or moving cross-country.

“These options may seem appealing in the moment, but they’re often driven by strong emotions rather than sound logic,” the article states. “Take a step back and give yourself time to process your grief before making any life-altering choices.”

After Losing a Spouse, Don’t Put Off Legal, Financial Tasks

It’s understandable that the last thing you’ll want to deal with in the wake of your grief is paperwork and legal tasks. But the article warns us that as overwhelming as those chores can feel now, that sense will only increase the longer you wait to deal with them. What’s more, delays can also cause administrative problems and financial headaches.

“Gather important documents like wills, life insurance policies, and property deeds,” the article advises. “Contact the Social Security Administration to notify them of your spouse’s passing and inquire about any survivor benefits you may be entitled to.”

After Losing a Spouse, Remember the Power of Budgeting

Losing a spouse has many ramifications in all areas of life, and your financial situation is one place where your day-to-day might have changed drastically, especially if you and your spouse both contributed to the household finances. Your spouse’s passing may now leave you with only one income, along with additional expenses related to their final arrangements.

The article says, “Creating a new budget is essential for taking control of your finances. Carefully track your income and expenses to understand your new financial reality. Identify areas where you can cut back and adjust your spending accordingly. This will give you peace of mind, knowing you’re managing your finances responsibly.”

After Losing a Spouse, Don’t Isolate Yourself

It can be tempting, when experiencing grief, to withdraw from your social connections. But loneliness and isolation can actually make your grief harder to heal from. It’s vital to gather a loving support system around yourself, whether that’s made up of family, friends, or even a grief support group full of people who understand intimately what you’re going through. 

“Lean on your support system during this difficult time,” the article urges. “Reach out to friends and family members who care about you and can offer emotional support.”

After Losing a Spouse, Be Careful How You Cope

As a type of pain, grief can feel unsurmountable, and it can be tempting to reach for distractions and coping mechanisms to feel some relief. Alcohol, drugs, and overeating are all examples that the article gives us, stating, “These substances and behaviors may offer a temporary escape from the pain, but they ultimately create more problems.”

As we know, alcohol and drugs can “cloud your judgment, hinder your ability to cope with daily tasks, and lead to addiction,” and overeating will only lead to weight gain and health problems. None of these consequences will help you to heal from your grief.  Professional counseling can help with these destructive behaviors.

After Losing a Spouse, Take Care of the Household

As noted above, one of the prevailing feelings that grief can give you is a sense of being overwhelmed. After your spouse passes, certain everyday chores that once felt easy or manageable may suddenly completely overwhelm you. Laundry, dishes, and general clutter can add to your stress level in a time when you’re already over your limit.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” the article urges. “Delegate tasks to adult children or other family members. Consider hiring cleaning services or grocery delivery to take some of the burden off your shoulders. Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your well-being over a perfectly clean house.”

After Losing a Spouse, You Don’t Have to be Strong All the Time

Our perception of strength has a certain misconception attached to it, especially that being strong requires what the article calls “stoicism” or “bottling up your emotions”. But in truth, giving your grief expression and letting your emotions be felt is what true strength looks like.

The article says, “Give yourself permission to cry, scream into a pillow, or express your sadness in whatever way feels right for you. Don’t feel pressured to maintain a facade of strength for others. Let them see your vulnerability – it’s a sign that you’re human and need support.”

After Losing a Spouse, Your Physical Health is Critical

Self-care can be difficult to remember even when times are good. But when you’re in a state of grief, taking care of your physical wellbeing can be even more challenging, and that can only deepen how terrible you feel.

As you may have guessed, maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity is the way to keep your body well so that your mind can heal. “Maintain a healthy diet that nourishes your body and mind. Engage in regular exercise, even if it’s just a short walk each day,” the article states.

One of the major benefits of physical activity is that it releases endorphins, “which can improve your mood and energy levels.” Also, the article encourages getting enough sleep, as a priority, “so you can wake up feeling rested and able to cope with the challenges of grief.”

After Losing a Spouse, Go Slow with New Relationships

When it comes to finding love again after suffering a loss, the article maintains that there’s a balance to be struck. On the one hand, you don’t want to “close the door” on love forever. But jumping into a relationship too soon can be a “recipe for disaster”. Your grief needs time, your emotions need to be processed, and you need to make sure you’ve done sufficient healing before you invite someone new into your heart.  

“A rebound relationship is unlikely to fill the void left by your spouse and might even complicate your healing journey,” the article warns. “Focus on yourself and your well-being for a while. When you’re ready to date again, you’ll approach it from a place of strength and self-awareness, allowing you to build a healthy and fulfilling relationship.”

After Losing a Spouse, Don’t Feel Guilty About Moving On

Grief has many emotional layers. It’s not just sorrow, but a complex range of feelings. One of those feelings is often guilt, usually feeling guilty about wanting to rebuild your life. Worrying that you’re somehow betraying your spouse.

But the article says, “Remember, your spouse wouldn’t want you to be miserable forever. They would want you to find happiness again. Moving on doesn’t erase your love for them; it simply means learning to live with the loss while embracing new possibilities.”

After Losing a Spouse, Remember: Everyone’s Grief is Unique

The article reminds us that grief is deeply personal and unique to each individual. The way you grieve might appear different from the way a friend or family member grieves their spouse, and this isn’t wrong or negative.

Comparison never tells us the whole story, so try to avoid comparing your timeline of grieving or the intensity of your emotions to those of someone else. The article reminds us, “Someone who seems to be ‘moving on’ faster than you might be putting on a brave face, while someone who seems stuck in their grief might just need more time. Focus on your own healing process, respecting your own pace and needs.”

After Losing a Spouse, Be Patient With Yourself

Grief is not a linear experience. It’s a journey with highs and lows, and it takes time. The article tells us that there will be good days and bad days, “moments of laughter mixed with waves of sadness.” If you feel like you’re taking two steps back for every step forward, that is completely normal.

“Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grieve at your own pace. There’s no set timetable for when the pain should lessen,” the article states.

After Losing a Spouse, Don’t Stuff Your Emotions

As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing strong about forbidding your emotions an outlet, and stuffing everything can only make the grief last longer. “Find healthy ways to express your grief, allowing yourself to feel and acknowledge your pain,” the article says. “Journaling can be a helpful outlet for processing your thoughts and feelings. Creative activities like painting, writing, or playing music can also be a way to express your grief in a non-verbal way.”

And remember: there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help, if you’re struggling to cope. That is what the professionals are there for.  

After Losing a Spouse, Start Looking Toward the Future

Sharing a life with someone can make even an uncertain future feel hopeful and open, but when you lose a spouse, that same future can just feel uncertain and overwhelming. “The life you envisioned together might feel shattered, leaving you hesitant to make any plans,” the article says. “However, completely avoiding planning for the future can create additional stress and instability. Consider long-term goals like retirement planning or future living arrangements.”

The choice to take on these plans can give you a sense of control, even in small ways, which is an empowering way to face the future despite your grief.  

After Losing a Spouse, Treasure Your Memories

While some people may experience grief as a desire to look backward into the memories, for many, the ache can leave you wanting to avoid anything that reminds you of your spouse. The article cites the examples of wanting to put away photos or objects that remind you of them, avoiding places you visited often together, or even refusing to speak about them.

“While it’s okay to take breaks from the pain of your memories, completely avoiding them can hinder the healing process,” the article warns.

Instead, it continues, “Memories, even the painful ones, are a testament to the love you shared. Allow yourself to look at photos, listen to their favorite music, or share stories about them with friends and family. Embracing these memories, even through tears, can be a way to keep their spirit alive and honor the bond you shared.”

After Losing a Spouse, be Patient with Others

Remember that no one is in your mind but you, and your grief is a deeply personal experience. The way you process the sorrow is unique to you.

“It’s important to remember that not everyone will understand the depth of your pain or the timeline of your healing,” the article says. “Some friends or family members might offer unsolicited advice or try to rush you through the grieving process. Others might withdraw from you altogether, unsure of how to handle your emotions. Don’t let their limitations or misunderstandings discourage you.”

(originally reported at

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