There’s no way around it. At some point, one person in a marriage is going to outlive the other. Sometimes, death is sudden. At other times, spouses watch their significant others decline physically, mentally and spiritually for extended periods. Regardless of the circumstances, these are difficult times, but for those who have advance knowledge of a pending death, there can be very loving times where couples can share memories, express their love for one another, provide comfort and say their good-byes.

However when death comes, many people initially react with unemotional detachment and only later allow themselves to experience and express grief.

In her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross proposed five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While most people go through these phases, they don’t do it in the same way, at the same time. Talk to anyone who has lost a spouse. They often express there are days that they think they’re finished with the tears, the depression and the loneliness, and then all of a sudden those emotions come back again. In other words, healing from the loss of a spouse is not a linear process. Others can help but they can’t go through the process for you. In fact, coping with loss is highly personal.

The aloneness is something most people will continue to feel for a long timebut there are steps you can take to comfort and heal the soul.

  1. Stay busy with activities that are meaningful to you. Whether it’s participating in special interest or religious groups, seeing friends, spending more time with family, traveling, etc., activity has a healing property to it.
  2. Be affectionate with others. Getting and giving hugs are important.
  3. Engage in new routines around the house. If you’re a night person, try going to sleep earlier and waking earlier. If you’re accustomed to spending time in one room, explore the other rooms. Make changes that will make your home comfortable to you.

In the end, remember it’s your life. You can choose to be happy or sad. You can choose to engage or isolate yourself. Think about what your spouse would want for you and remember each day, you can make a different decision about overcoming the loneliness of losing a spouse.

With time, you will learn to be open again, to engage and find a new partner with whom to share your life. Believe in yourself and know that you can create a life filled with joy, meaning and connection!