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Will I Be Happy Again After the Loss of My Spouse? 6 Tips to Help You Embrace the New You

By Teresa Beshwate November 13, 2022 Family

Just after the loss of a spouse, we are often absolutely certain that we will never be happy again. Even if it felt remotely possible, being happy again would feel like an insult to our beloved. Fully immersed in the darkness of grief, it is hard to think about the future or what it might bring.

For a younger widow, comments like, “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” are paralyzing and frightening. The possibility of happiness is nowhere on the radar. But even if you’re in your 60s, 70s, or beyond, the loss of a spouse can put a stop to daily activities and bring depression.

Different You, Different Happy

Will you be happy again? Yes, but it will be a different version of you who will be differently happy. The you that was happily part of a couple, the you who knew happiness as a spouse, does not exist now.

That former version of happy you once enjoyed has unfortunately reached its expiration date. Which, in a way, honors your spouse, the time you spent together, and who you were as a couple.

The two of you – unique individuals who came together to form a unique couple – can never be reproduced. You can choose to see this as a good thing, as it sets that relationship in a place of honor – precious and irreplaceable.

That version of you is a thing of the past for another reason. That version of you didn’t yet know the death of your spouse.

That version had never been plunged into complete darkness, never experienced soul-shattering sadness, never felt the incredible weight of grief perched on the chest, making it impossible to draw a deep breath.

That version of you perhaps didn’t know the value of every precious moment, and how quickly everything can change. That version of you may have been so busy pleasing others that she didn’t make time for what mattered most.

Perhaps she let life’s little annoyances get in the way. Maybe work took precedence over relationships. Perhaps she wasn’t fully present in her own life.

Maybe now you wouldn’t even recognize that former version of you. And for good reason, because she is no more. She stopped existing the day her world stopped turning. And in the very next moment, a new version began forming.

Transforming in the Darkness

The formation of the new you is a messy, unpredictable, and painful process. The age-old advice, “don’t make any major decisions while grieving,” comes at a time when you are required to make constant decisions.

You struggle with identity, guilt, self-doubt, self-judgement, and insecurity while the people around you offer well-intended yet unhelpful things.

You can’t read even a short paragraph and understand it, yet you must get back to work. In your free time, you must figure out how to survive on one income and identify what foods you can actually digest, all while willing your heart to beat.

The microscopic bit of energy you might feel in the morning is long gone by noon, and the grief train seems to come out of nowhere and mow you down at unpredictable and inconvenient times.

You navigate your year of firsts with equal amounts of dread and sadness, and you realize that every single holiday comes with an extra dose of sorrow because of your associated memories and traditions.

All the while, the only certainty (aside from knowing you’ll never feel happiness again) is that you’re screwing everything up, including – and especially – your kids.

Then one day you realize that the current version of you is who she is because of that messy, painful, uncertain time. In sheer darkness, she was shaped into a new being. Not in spite of grief, but because of it.

You, the Dragonfly

Did you know that dragonflies spend the early part of their lives crawling around in the darkness of ponds? Only once they’ve grown enough do they transform, spread their wings, and fly.

The dragonfly version of you is also transformed in darkness. This version knows the power of being present in each moment. She is a careful editor of what she allows in her life, of what consumes her energy.

She prioritizes herself and her family, because she left the people-pleasing habit behind in her old life. She doesn’t allow herself to be affected by life’s little annoyances, because by comparison to the day her world stopped turning, there aren’t many bad days.

When sadness comes, she’s brave enough to feel that feeling rather than run from it. She knows that she can do anything because she’s been through the unimaginable. She survived, and now she is ready to thrive.

6 Tips for the Journey

  • Recognize your former self for having done her best and forgive her for her shortcomings.
  • Know that how messy the journey looks and feels is not a predictor of how well it will all turn out.
  • Don’t spend your energy arguing with reality, instead play the hand you were dealt with gusto.
  • Get your perspective in view – if you can survive the darkest of days, you can navigate today’s tough times as well.
  • Journal your thoughts and decide which are serving you (would you speak to your best friend in the same way?) and delete the rest.
  • Hold your beliefs into the light and decide if they are your own and if they are true today. Determine whether they serve you today and the person you are becoming.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Which event in your life marked the end of the old you? Do you agree that loss creates a divide between your former self and current self? What does your dragonfly transformation look like? Is happiness possible again after the loss of a spouse? Please share with our community!

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Arlene Gardner

I lost my husband after 60 years, I now am alone, trying to find new friends.Trying to find myself! I worked hard for 40 years. My Job took me out, to 5 states. My friends are in those states. I need to find new friends, but where. I’m going to look for the right church, so far I haven’t been lucky there. Still searching. I’m a people person, so my loneliness is very hard on me. I thought of volunteering, but where? There is just so much cleaning, my house that one can do. I am a good decorator. My 2 girls, one lives far, the other one takes care of her grandkids. So it’s up to me to make myself happy. Any suggestions. I pray alot. God is my salvation! If I could tell one of you that are reading this; it would be, tell your spouse everyday, how much you 💕 them. So important for the now, but for later, there are no regrets! Any suggestions would be helpful! God Bless!

Still Learning

This is so hard. Amazing how sitting in cancer center watching hubby get infusion is normal now. Hard days ahead.

Yvonne Debellotte

There are days I still feel broken. It will be six years in January and people still back away from me because they do not know what to say. We were glued at the hip for over 20 years and sometimes people catch themselves in mid-sentence as they ask where he is. I am not broken everyday though. As more time has passed I have moved on to do things I like in moderation and step out on faith and do things we used to do. Traveling is the hardest because he arranged everything and all I had to do was be present and enjoy the ride. Honestly, it can be hard but only if you let it. I try to do something new every week, a new recipe, make a new acquaintance at the supermarket, especially when I want to get an opinion other than my own, just have a new experience. It gets better in time.

Linda

I just lost my husband of 34 years from cancer. The last few months he just got worse and worse, but he was at home at the end and I am so glad he was. I stepped out of the room for two minutes and he was gone peacefully ..I would give anything to have him back for those two minutes. I can’t imagine going on without him, but I know I have to. We don’t have children and my family are overseas, so I must keep the bonds with his family. He was a wonderful husband, son, brother and colleague at work ..I never appreciated him fully and I feel so guilty about that. I am heartbroken.

KARI

Linda, I lost my husband August 18th of this year.
I am still in shock and completely lost without him.
We were married for 46 years. He was the most healthy 67 year old until he got pancreatic cancer. He was my best friend, and we did almost everything together. I didn’t
appreciate everything he did to take care of me. I feel guilty too.
Kari

Susan J Weber

I came across these posts by just reading about life after 60. I am so very sorry to learn of both of you losing your husbands to cancer. I know it will be a very hard road back to happiness and I wish you strength and peace. The one thing I did want to comment about is cancer. Cancer is such an unnecessary death that is caused in 98% of cases by our diets. I only learned about this 10 years ago and have become so passionate about sharing the information I wish I had known all my life. Please read the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell to see how absolutely preventative it can be with the right diet. It can even be reversed in many cases. Unfortunately the majority of doctors in this country get no nutritional training which is very sad indeed. I only felt the need to respond to maybe help you go forward in the future with knowledge about healthy diets to prevent such tragedies.

Arlene Gardner

We all feel the same Loneliness and guilt. I was married for 60 years. Have said, the same thing. I tell others now, tell your partner, how much you love them each and every day. Now, we much find ourselves. This is not an easy thing. I am still looking, it’s been 2 years this DEC. MY loneliness is the hardest thing to over come. Everyone has their own pain. Yours has just started my friend. Know that their are others, feeling just what you are feeling. Keep in touch, if you need to talk!

Arlene Gardner

I certainly understand, only those of us that are feeling this grief understand. I don’t think any of us fully appreciate each other. This is a normal feeling, because of the loneliness. If we could only have one more day, to say the things we didn’t. When we lose a partner, part of us is gone. I have said, if only I could tell him how much I Loved him. But, I know we must start thinking of the days ahead. This is my biggest problem. Where???? It will happen when we’re not looking. God, is my salvation! I’m looking for the right church. Haven’t found it yet. Continue to look. Hopefully you can connect with his family. If they were part of him, that’s where I would start. Call, one of them, that you are closest too, tell them you need their friendship! It’s a start! Happy Trails to you!

Britton Gildersleeve

How timely for me! I lost my beloved of 52 years (met him on a blind date, when I was 18…) a scant 6 months ago. Life is very different, and so am I. But I’m trying to be kind to myself, taking it one day at a time.

The Author

Teresa Amaral Beshwate, MPH, is an author and life coach who exclusively helps widows to move forward and learn to live and love their life again after the loss of their spouse. Her latest book, Life Reconstructed: A Widow’s Guide to Coping with Grief, is now available.

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