May 192012
 
when your Husband Dies

After your husband dies, you have to put the pieces of your life back together. (drawing by Lucia Whittaker, via flickr)

These tips for starting over when you’re over 60 won’t solve all the problems that arise when your husband dies, but they’ll help you see you’re not alone.

You were part of a couple for so long, and now he’s gone. How do you start over when you’re 60 years old and have depended on him for so much?

By taking it one moment at a time. And, by holding on to the hope that it’s never to late to start over. Here’s a quip from Jane Fonda:

“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”

If you’re struggling to cope with life after your husband’s death, read Widow To Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas For Rebuilding Your Life.

Here’s what one reader said about that book: “I lost my husband of four years to cancer recently…this was the second time widowed for me. My first husband died ten years ago, and I wish this book had been available to me then! Although I was familiar with all the feelings, thoughts and social anomalies that occur during widowhood, seeing them put on paper and knowing I was not losing my mind is slowly helping me put my life back in order.”

Reading books can help you cope after your husband dies, but support groups are better! I’ve been facilitating support groups through my practicum, and am awed by the power of support groups to help people cope and heal.

Here are a few tips for starting over and rebuilding your life after the death of your husband.

Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

Remember that everyone processes grief differently. Some people retreat, others reach out. Some people change everything about their lives – they move, go back to school, travel, or quit their jobs. Others want everything to stay exactly the same.

If you’re starting over in your 60s, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to spend the next half of your life.

Make a list of things that make life worthwhile

After your husband dies, you may feel that nothing matters and nothing makes life worthwhile. Death has a funny way of making life inconsequential.

But, if you want to start over and be a happy, fulfilled woman in your 60s, you need to figure what will make the rest of your life the best of your life.

“I had to ask myself what makes life meaningful after the death of my little boy and the impending demise of my daughter,” says writer and editor Lori Chidori Philips. “Learning, exploring my inner and outer world has been very helpful. Life is a grand and glorious experience, and I liken my life to strolling through a sunny meadow, gathering wildflowers of experiences to take back with me. Knowing that the good, the bad and the ugly all serve a purpose in expanding my awareness makes life meaningful to me, no matter what happens.”

It all serves a purpose – even the death of your husband, after years of marriage. If you’re struggling to start over, read 5 Things That Make Life Meaningful – Beyond Having Children.

Connect with other women in their 60s who are starting over again

I wrote this article because a reader left this comment on Help for Widows and Widowers – A Story of Loss, Survival, and Peace:

“Since my husband died, I feel very incomplete. I was with him for 30 years and we did everything together. I feel like I lost my identity. It’s not like I haven’t tried to feel good, but it just doesn’t feel right. starting over again in my 60s. I never thought this would happen to me. I feel so alone. My husband did everything for me and now I have the responsibility of running it all. It seems impossible. I miss him a lot.”

If you see yourself in those comments, remember that you don’t have to start over alone! Most things are worse when you’re alone, especially if you’re in your 60s and have lost a husband you loved and lived with for decades.

One of the best ways to start over when your husband dies – whether you’re 68 or 28 – is to connect with women who are going through the same thing. Don’t tackle life alone. Get support from widows who understand what you’re going through, who are starting their lives over too.

Be aware of your loved ones’ grief

After your husband dies, you may forget that you’re not the only one grieving. Sometimes it’s healthier to focus on your own mourning and healing, and other times it’s better to reach out and help others with their grief. What’s best for you? It depends on your personality, lifestyle, and loved ones.

If your loved ones have retreated into their grief, read When Your Spouse Withdraws Because of Grief – 5 Ways to Stay Close. It’s not just about connecting with spouses – it’s for all loved ones.

One of my most popular articles is How to Let Go of Someone You Love. Read it, and you’ll see you’re not alone.

One of my favorite books on starting over and This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down. Four women wrote this book – they’ve dealt with starting over, husbands dying, businesses failing, children leaving, and illness threatening. They figured out how to start over and create new lives when their old ones died.

And one of my favorite quotations about life:

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin-real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ~ Alfred D’Souza.

Your obstacles are your life.

For additional support in coping with your husband’s death and starting over, visit Dr Therese Rando’s Coping With Sudden Death article. Here’s a tip that I found very helpful:

“You may feel a profound loss of security and confidence in the world [after your husband dies]. After all, you have been taught a dramatic lesson: Loved ones can be snatched away without warning. You may always await another loss to befall. Research has shown that widows whose husbands died suddenly are slower to move toward remarriage, since they are unwilling to risk future unanticipated loss again for themselves and their children. Avoidance and anxiety eventually can lead to states of anxious withdrawal since the world has become such a frightening, unpredictable place.”

Dr Rando offers a great deal of support, and has even written a book about coping with death and starting over.

I welcome your thoughts on  being 60 and starting over after your husband dies. Please comment below. Sharing your story can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, which will help you heal.

About Me

quips tips love relationshipsI'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.

  12 Responses to “Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies”

  1. Dear Donna,

    Thank you for being here – I am sorry for your loss.

    Making friends after your husband dies is difficult. It seems like adults don’t make friends as easily as kids do — it’s a skill that adults have to learn, especially when they don’t have natural connections. My husband and I don’t have kids, and I know that parents make friends because of their kids’ activities and friends. Most people have children, and they talk about their children. This sort of leaves me and Bruce with less to talk about with them.

    I really struggled with making friends, and it wasn’t until I got my cell phone last month that I really started connecting with people! Isn’t that odd? But something about having my own phone has opened me up to friendships in a way that a landline doesn’t, because I text, probably.

    Anyway, I wrote this article for you:

    http://hopingfor.com/help-for-widows-meeting-new-friends

    I hope it helps you start over in this stage of life. I think the most important thing to remember is that making friends takes time and effort. And, we don’t connect with everyone we meet. I talk about that in the article, that I have to meet about 10 people before I find one I’d like to go for coffee or walk with.

    Come back anytime – I’ll be your friend! :-) I’m here to listen.

    Blessings and sympathies,
    Laurie

  2. My husband died 6 months ago and I have never been single. I am 62 and I have no friends and my kids have their own lives and this is completely new to me. My husband was my life. I know one day I will have friends but I don’t know where to start. I tried a support group but I don’t like the group. I want to meet new people and get to know new people and make friends, but I don’t know how.

  3. Thanks for saying the things you did. The local hospital has a group, I am thinking about checking it out. Not quite there yet though. I have heard and read a lot about grief, it just seems so weird not wanting to be around anyone. I found myself hoping no one comes to visit on Sunday. A support group would probably help me deal with that. Thanks a lot.

  4. Dear Judy,

    I’m sorry for your loss. You’re grieving not only the death of your husband, but the end of a very important and meaningful chapter of your life. You’re also grieving the transition of your own identity as wife — you’re moving from wife to widow.

    Grieving is a process that takes a long time, and is full of weird, painful, sad, heartbreaking, and scary moments. What you’re going through is normal and even healthy – your mind, soul, and body is responding to this huge loss in your life.

    Have you considered joining a grief support group? I co-facilitate support groups through the Alzheimer’s Society for caregivers, and have found the amount of support women give each other amazing. When you’re ready, I encourage you to look into a grief support group. You may find it helpful to connect with widows and widowers who are going through what you are, and who can relate to your experience.

    Many of my support group members also meet outside of the group, to connect for coffee, bridge, hikes, etc.

    I also encourage you to give yourself time to grief. Losing your husband is a huge transition in life – even if you did take care of all the bills and household responsibilities! Your feelings of numbness and shock will eventually fade, and you’ll begin to feel like yourself again.

    Please feel free to come back anytime and let me know how you are!

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  5. My husband died three months ago. I am trying to get out and be with people but find doing things with them to be too much. One on one conversation is ok, but joining with a group is really stressful right now. I worry about becoming a hermit. I force myself to go to church and accept invitations, but I don’t enjoy myself while I’m there and can’t wait to get back to the quiet of my own home. When I am home I worry about spending too much time alone. I muddle through the days and think about my life passing by. I don’t have the problems a lot of women have with taking care of things because I always did that. My husband’s only responsibility was to work at his job. I did everything else. I kind of checked out of life during that time though, meaning, his and the childrens’ needs were more important, and lately, he was enough company for me. Now I find myself by myself and feel weird because I really don’t care to be around others that much. Don’t care how I end up either, and that is scary too. Wish my daughter would come home to live with me, but she is talking about getting married in September. So that is out. My son is moving out soon, he’s not here much anyway. I have to get involved in something but don’t have the desire. Hope this passes and I do become more social.

  6. Dear Ellen,

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this. What a terrible experience, to see someone you love go through such pain and trauma. And it’s traumatic and heartbreaking for you, to lose your husband.

    My heart goes out to you, and I hope and pray you are surrounded by people who care and understand what you’re going through. May you find comfort and solace in your loved ones…and if not, may you have the courage and strength to find people who understand what it’s like to lose a husband and have to start over again.

    Please feel free to come back anytime, and let me know how you’re doing.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  7. My husband of 27 years died suddenly on New Year’s Day, 2013. He had a genetic heart condition called Hypertropic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy. He was able to work full time but suffered from attacks of dizziness from time to time. He was on medication and was careful with his diet and drank a lot of water. We were away for the New Year’s weekend and starting having one of his dizzy spells and then chest pains which always eased with ice packs. After calling the ambulance and getting treated at the hospital, he was completely fine but they ran many tests and kept him overnight to monitor him. He was fine all through that night and into the next day, which was December 31st. After being seen by at least 3 cardiologists and all agreeing that he was okay to be released and did not meet the criteria for having a defibrillator implanted, he left the hospital with discharge instructions to follow up with a cardiologist when we got home. That same evening, after dinner, the dizziness returned as well as the chest pains. Once again, an ambulance was summoned, but this time they could not get his blood pressure back to a stable level and after many attempts for over 3 hours in the emergency room, things went downhill. His lungs were filling with liquid and his brain was not getting enough oxygen. After many attempts at CPR, he was not able to be brought back, and died of sudden cardiac arrest. He was only 64. This was a second marriage for both of us; I had been widowed at age 36 and he was divorced. I never thought he would die so young and so suddenly. It is the worst experience of my entire life and I just hope and pray that God will be with me to overcome this most painful experience that I never thought I would have to go through again.

  8. I only know a few people in this very rural area and they all work with families that they are raising or help raising. I used to volunter at the animal shelter but kept bringing them home so I stopped that. Most folks seem to stay so busy then don’t have time for anyone else. I am going along making decisions which is really difficult but I hope I am doing things the right way. I will start getting partial disability from his death in October but for now seem to be in a holding pattern of loniliness and tears. You can write me at my email if you would like to.

  9. Dear June,

    Thank you for sharing about your husband – he was so young! So sad, that he had to go this early.

    It sounds like you’re grieving and saying good-bye to your husband in healthy ways. I’m glad you feel good about the gravestone and ceremony – you have taken action in positive ways, and it will help you mourn your husband’s death.

    I’ll look up the chat room you mentioned, and add it to the article to help others who are starting over after their husband died. I’m sure they’ll find it as helpful as you did.

    And, I’m glad you have a dog! My husband travels for 2-3 weeks at a time on business trips, and without our dog I’d be lonely, scared, and very unhappy. Maybe that should be another tip for starting over, especially if you’re in your sixties or older…adopt a furry creature to love.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  10. Dear Linda,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s death. Suicide makes it even more complicated to start over again – especially if you’re in your 60s, and haven’t made many household or family decisions.

    Maybe you need to give yourself more time – it’s only been 3 months since your husband died. I think it’s normal and natural that you can’t make decisions! You’re grieving, and grief takes a huge toll on our emotions and psyche. I don’t think you should push yourself to heal, or to be strong enough to make even the smallest decisions.

    Be kind to yourself – pamper yourself, and let yourself mourn your loss. Give yourself time, and don’t push yourself to take steps you aren’t ready for.

    Have you connected with other widows, in person? That’s one of the best ways to start over when your husband dies – to surround yourself with people who know exactly what you’re going through.

    I invite you to come back, and tell me how you’re coping. What decisions have you made lately, and what ones are you avoiding? Have you joined a widows’ support group? Who are you spending your time with?

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  11. My husband killed himself on April 14, 2012. I don’t know how to move on. I am so lonely. He had been severely impacted by depression and pain. He made every decision in our marriage from my age of 16 to his age of 20, we had 5 great children. I can’t seem to learn how to make decisions. Or how to keep going after his death. I have no friends and my family is not close. I don’t have any money-so many things I can’t even think about changing. How do you heal? we were married 43 years.

  12. thanks for the tips. my husband died at age 59 of prostate cancer, and i have been trying to cope with it. it has been 5 months. i went to grievance, it only made me sader. today i am more sad than usual but happy to be doing this. i am going to his grave and decorating it with plants and a cross and there will be a ceremony that he wanted done. i called his family to come and they are meeting me there. the stone was just put up. i feel good about doing this for him and afterwards the family will have a luncheon. i think that if i just try to keep myself as busy as possible that works so much better. i still cling to the house alot its where i feel better sitting in front of the tv or talking in a chat room and being with my dog. the worst time is early in the morning and right before i go to bed. at night i like to chat and tell people about my lose and the people are so nice about it. the room is called free general chat room. i am still looking for more relief but haven’t truly found it. thanks for listening to me.

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