Six tips for coping with the loss of a spouse

Nov 1, 2021 | Blog

Dealing with the death of a spouse

Safe to say, there are few things more difficult in life than losing your husband or wife – especially as a senior. It can feel as if the life you’ve always known has been completely turned upside down. For example, you and your spouse might have been able to maintain your independence together. However, now, you’re finding it difficult to manage on your own. Even for seniors in relatively good health, there are several tough adjustments to make, new tasks to learn and responsibilities that come with the death of a spouse.

 What to do if your spouse dies without a will?

It’s far more common than you’d think. Some of the latest polling shows that about 51 per cent of Canadians don’t have a will in place. Dying without a will is known in legal circles as “dying intestate” – but the news isn’t all bad. If there is a surviving spouse but no children, the surviving spouse typically inherits the entire estate.

Even if there are children, the spouse may inherit everything or the first $200,000 of assets with the remainder split equally among the family.

As far as your will is concerned, if you don’t have one, it’s important that you get one created. If you already have a will between you and your deceased spouse, your lawyer will need to create new, revised documents.

Coming up with a healthy recovery strategy after a loss – six tips

One of the biggest questions is how long does grief last after the death of a spouse?

Unfortunately, there’s no set timetable to feeling like yourself again. Everyone grieves in a different way and at his or her own pace. While grief and mourning can feel overwhelming for long while, know that it’s not going to be your permanent state.

But your ability to cope with grief depends on your own resolve and the support you receive from friends and family. They’re going to be an essential part of your healthy recovery strategy after a major loss.

What does that long-term strategy look like? Here are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Make your personal health a priority. As difficult as what you’re going through may seem, it’s even harder on your health. Numerous studies have found that grief can be a major source of stress that weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to serious illness. “Dying from a broken heart” is a very real possibility if you’re not careful. Also be sure to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat heart-healthy food.
  • Check in with your doctor. If it’s been a while, schedule a physical and make sure your doctor’s up-to-date with any new or chronic health conditions you may have. Again, make your personal health a priority now more than ever.
  • Reach out and maintain connections with family and friends. There are people in your life that care deeply about you. Despite that fact that you may be hurting emotionally, resist the urge to isolate yourself. Instead, be open, communicate and accept offers of help, cooking, .

When you get a chance, watch this short TED Talk video about how keeping close personal connections can help you live a happier, longer life.

You may eventually get to a point where you pursue new relationships after the death your spouse. Remember that only you can decide when you’re ready – and that could be months, if not years, after a major loss. However, it is completely normal to seek out deeper relationships or companionship after the death of a life-partner. Some people consider it a compliment to a departed spouse since it means that your relationship was so positive with him or her that you’re willing to try again.

  • Hold off on making any major changes for at least six months. Losing your spouse can feel like a total loss of control. Major changes, like selling your home or making other financial arrangements, can be a massive undertaking and additional stressor on top of the grief you’re already facing.
  • Plan (as needed) for your long-term care. Going from living with your spouse to living alone can be a shock to the system and your daily routines. Ensure you’re well taken care of and that help is within easy reach through technologies like medical alert bracelets and mobile monitoring for when you’re out and about.

 Lastly, be kind to yourself. Grief is hard work, so it’s important that you are kind and compassionate with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over minor mistakes and treat yourself to little indulgences or activities that will improve your mood.

Remember – it’s only after you take care of yourself that you’ll be able to look after others.

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