When researching and drawing from my own experiences for the blog; I’m always coming up with stuff that surprises me. When my ex left our relationship; I had always compared my feelings with a kind of grief. The grief that you may have when a spouse dies. Never did I imagine that the stages are so similar. Here’s the list, you be the judge!
“How can one possibly absorb the shock of the death of a mate? No matter how many years you have shared, memories of courtship, lifelong plans, and your marriage are most difficult to bear. Not to mention what has been left behind: children and grandchildren; dreams yet to be fulfilled. These memories are part of your past and the death of your spouse is something you must deal with today. The thought of which is painful at the very least.”
When your spouse leaves you are left with those same memories; house full of things that you may have purchased together, wedding gifts, pictures, videos, wedding albums, etc. If there are children or grandchildren from the relationship; then you also deal with that aspect. The family times that will be missed or divided between two households; the loss of the simplicity of a single family unit. You grieve for your childrens’ loss as well.
“If your spouse has died, you will probably experience some of the common symptoms of grief. You will very likely go into shock and denial. You may experience feelings similar to what an amputee goes through, where they actually “feel” pain in the missing limb. In the case of a lost loved one, you’ll “see” them sitting in their favorite chair or coming through the front door. This “phantom” pain may manifest itself in hearing their voice calling from another room. Their cologne or perfume lingers in closets and throughout the home you shared, evoking powerful feelings.”
When you have been in a long-term relationship; you develop a comfort-level or even a dependency. You had become accustomed to waiting for the other person to come home from work so you can have dinner together, checking in with each other during the day occasionally, talking about the kids problems at school while you’re having coffee together in the morning….etc. This is especially the case when the spouse leads a totally duplicate life somewhere else with someone else. They are less inclined to bring along pieces of furniture and sentimental items from your life with your recently departed spouse. You are left knocking around in your marital home looking at all the things that you both shared; the memories can eat you up. Personally, because of the long-term relationship, I felt like half of me was missing.
“You may feel “numb,” like a spectator watching events unfold. This is nature’s way of protecting you from what is happening while your life is in transition.”
The same protection kicks in when you suddenly feel yourself moving as if controlled by autopilot…you know you have to keep on keeping on, but it’s a bit like you’ve removed yourself and you’re watching someone else doing the actions.
“You may also find yourself filled with anger. You may feel angry at the doctors or nurses who couldn’t save your spouse, or maybe even with God. You may feel anger toward your spouse for leaving you, and then feel guilty for this anger.”
Anger is a part of the process as anyone going through this or having gone through this can attest. You can be angry at the “unfairness” of it all, at other couples that you used to get together with, at happy families out together at events….really anyone who looks happy at that given time. Family events, birthdays and family reunions become a chore when they really weren’t before.
“In fact, guilt can be one of the toughest feelings to overcome in your grief recovery. It is common, in transition, to feel guilty simply for being alive when someone else has died. You may believe you somehow could have prevented the death, or should have been present to say good-bye.”
Guilt may be for your perceived part in the devastation. Perhaps you feel that if you had been a better spouse, you would still be together. Guilt that can be amplified by difficult situations with your children post-departure and in dealing with their anger and confusion.
“Because relationships are never perfect, you undoubtedly had unresolved issues at the time of death. These can be very difficult to overcome, and many choose to seek counseling to help bring about closure.”
Relationships, even the best of them are not perfect. This is especially true if as a couple you have struggled with issues in the past whether resolved or not, guaranteed you will question yourself. “Did I do all I could do?” “He/she must still love me, how can you just stop loving someone?” These unresolved issues are no doubt a core reason why many ex spouses will rendezvous again and again before calling it quits finally. Again, closure may be difficult without counseling.
“Powerful reactions to grief are most often unexpected by the bereaved. The effects are physical as well as mental. The feeling of being alone causes your mind to race. You cannot sleep. You cannot think clearly. Your muscles are tense and your body aches.It is not unusual to experience nausea, dizziness, rashes, weight loss, in addition to difficulty in sleeping. You may become irritable or listless, feel fatigued, or short of breath. Grief has even been known to cause hair loss.“
Paralyzing and irrational thoughts are not uncommon during the sorting out process. Loneliness, lethargy, extreme fatigue, depression, restlessness and body aches can all be part of a sudden departure of a spouse. The mental anguish can manifest itself in broad spectrum physical pain.It is an all-encompassing painful and stressful time and can lead to long-lasting health issues if stress levels are not addressed.
“The acceptance of your spouse’s death will slowly become a reality. You may think “My life will never be the same again.” “I cannot change what has happened to me.” “Oh God, what am I going to do now?” A course of grief recovery depends partly on your age and mostly on your individual situation.”
As you begin to realize that your spouse is actually gone for good, there will be times when you are certain that you will not be able to pickup the pieces and start over. You feel powerless in the situation. Day-to-day processes are no longer perceived as manageable because you have no one to share the burden with anymore. Having family close by or a good support system in place can go a long way to alleviating the load during this time while you get back on your feet.
“A surviving spouse from a younger, two-income family may end up in a tight financial situation; not to mention any children to consider, as the transition to a single-parent household is made.”
This one is self-explanatory. Even if your spouse pays child-support, chances are that the financial dynamics will have to change.
My situation may or may not be different than yours. Please don’t take issue with my next statement, it’s not meant to upset, merely a way for me to describe where I was at during this time. I often thought that if my spouse had died instead of what had all happened over the course of 10 years, it would have been an easier process. THERE….I said it! When a spouse dies, your grief is eventually replaced with warm, happy memories that come flooding back. Your children are not disillusioned and wondering if they caused everything; they are justly and rightly grieving and missing a parent. This too will be replaced with happier memories as the grieving process progresses. If you have been on a roller coaster of emotions with your ex, you will probably always be waiting for the other shoe to drop……not so with your partner who has been called to meet his/her maker. All I know is what I know personally. When the bomb dropped that one evening, my life with him (from 17 years to 30 years old) was so intertwined that I did NOT know up from down for a good long time. Coupled with the fact that he was for years after that coming through the door with those promises and then leaving again…no wonder I think this way now. True that when a spouse dies; it’s final with no option to re-build any sort of bridges of communication and understanding. BUT….often times both parties are unable to or unwilling to openly discuss matters after a marriage break-down in an honest, non-threatening manner. Perhaps I’m right with my theory, perhaps I’m “dead” wrong….I suppose for each person the process differs. You’ll be your own judge and jury!