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By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC
Losing a loved one to a terminal illness is one of the most painful experiences you can go through. The loss of a spouse or partner is traumatic for many people, and the grief journey can feel overwhelming, confusing, and painful. However, each person grieves and works through the grieving process at their own pace and in their own way. If you are grieving the loss of a partner or spouse, you are not alone. The month of April is Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month, observed since 2008. Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month provides support and resources for bereaved spouses.
The difficulty of losing a spouse is followed by a grieving process that can be challenging for many people. Grief is a process and includes many different types of symptoms, some more severe than others. Feelings such as shock, sadness, numbness, and even guilt can occur after losing a spouse. Your experiences of grief may be different than others, and it is dependent upon factors specific to you. Grief can present as intense emotions and can also present in behaviors.
For example, bereaved spouses may experience:
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and support and help are available to you. An available resource along your journey of bereavement is hospice care. Hospice can help spouses prepare for the impending loss of a loved one. The hospice’s bereavement team can also help spouses after a patient passes. The mission of hospice care is to deliver compassionate, quality care to individuals with terminal illnesses and support the families through the caregiving phase and bereavement process.
Many spouses spend a significant amount of time and energy caring for and tending to their ill partners. But unfortunately, they may overlook their own needs and feelings during this time. Utilizing the hospice team as a source of support can help spouses tend to their emotions and needs when it is difficult.
If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, it is vital to get the help and support you need. First, talk to a trusted family member or friend about what you’re going through. Loved ones can be strong sources of validation, support, and compassion. You can also talk to your doctor if you notice a change in behavior and mood or if you are having difficulty performing the normal activities of daily living, such as showering regularly and eating. Your doctor may be able to provide you with medication and can also provide you with referrals to a grief counselor or support group near you.
The holiday season is here, and what is a time of joy and togetherness for most can be a time full of sadness and grief for others. The holidays are meant to be spent with those we love, so how can you be expected to feel like celebrating when someone you love is no longer there to celebrate with you?
If you are missing a loved one this holiday season, here are some tips to help you take a step back from the grief and survive the holidays.
Let’s be honest, they are everywhere during the holidays. Preparing for these triggers and having a plan for coping with them can sometimes make the triggers more manageable as you encounter them.
Plan to get some space from the holiday chaos if you need it. Being surrounded by family and friends is great, but all at once can be emotionally overwhelming and hard to overcome. Don’t feel guilty about your grief. It is important to be conscious of your limits and take some time to recollect yourself.
The holidays are a time to gather together, eat good food, and share what we’re thankful for. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, it can be hard to feel thankful when you are grieving. Although you may be focusing on the loss, try to remember the good things that relationship brought into your life. Search for that gratitude.
Acknowledge that things will be different this year. Some holiday traditions will remind you of your lost loved one, but it is okay to limit which of these you allow yourself to remember or not. Take time to prepare for which traditions will make you happy and which will overwhelm you.
Although you may normally be the one to host during the holidays, this year may be too much to take on alone after losing your loved one. Accept help when it’s offered. Remember that there is no shame in saying yes. Those who love you want to help.
The holidays can be hard for those who have recently lost a loved one. Grief can be especially unavoidable during these times, but it is important to remember that you can still feel joy through the grief. Taking these tips into account can help you prepare for that grief and make your holidays more enjoyable.