Coping with the loss of a spouse

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Losing a husband or wife is devastating. A whirlwind of intense emotions—overwhelming sadness as well as shock, fear, guilt, anger, and numbness—make the days and weeks after a spouse’s death agonizing and confusing.


It may be small comfort to know that these feelings are normal and will be temporary.


“Sadness may never go away entirely,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Hayley Hirschmann of Morris Psychological Group, “but the pain of acute grief becomes less intense over time as the good days start to outnumber the bad.”


Dr. Hirschmann offers this advice:

•  Accentuate the positive: Studies have shown that those who are able to draw on humor and pleasurable memories are happier and healthier than those whose thoughts of the deceased are mostly sad and focused on their loss.

•  Let others help: Don’t shy away from expressing your feelings to those close to you; you will feel less alone if you can share your grief with a sympathetic listener. Accept help with chores and legal and financial responsibilities. Consider joining a bereavement support group.

•  Take care of yourself: Eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep. Be alert to falling into bad habits.

•  Don’t make big changes right away: Wait a while before moving or changing jobs.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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