There is an old German proverb that says, “The death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb.” If that’s true, how much more so is the pain after you lose a spouse or partner? The pain is so intense, there is a confirmed phenomenon called the “widowhood effect,” although it applies to both genders. Research done by the Harvard School of Public Health shows there is an increased chance of dying after a spouse dies. The risk is highest within the first three months after their passing – at 66%. Through our work at Allen Memorial Home with our neighbors in Endicott, we know that those who have lost a wife or husband certainly do not need to see any research to understand the kind of pain they have experienced.
This time of year can be especially hard on those who have lost a love. Restaurants crowded with romantic couples and pink boxes of chocolate lining store shelves can serve as a painful reminder of their death, and feelings of intense loneliness can ensue.
Loneliness can often lead to asking whether you can, or should, move on with life and find another mate. This decision is as highly personal and individual as the grief process itself. Men tend to remarry more often and earlier than their female counterparts. Some grief experts recommend that you wait one year before making any big, life-changing decisions, whether it’s getting married again, selling a home, etc.
The most important thing is that you feel ready and that your heart is healed. While you will most likely always miss your spouse, and perhaps love them, it’s important to ask yourself if your heart has room for a new love. If your heart hasn’t healed from your loss, overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness can stand in the way of happiness with your new mate. On the other hand, pursuing a new relationship could be used as a distraction from your pain, but that is never a good foundation for a solid future and will stunt your healing.
While this is a decision that you must make yourself, you could perhaps decide to seek the counsel of family, friends, or a trusted counselor or advisor. Many times, those who are closest to you will have unique insights into where you might be on your grief journey. On the other hand, you do need to tread carefully. Some people, especially children, if you and your spouse had any, can have very strong feelings on the topic. They may feel protective of their parent’s memory, and not want you to fully “move on.”
At the end of the day, you will be the one who needs to decide whether you want to start a new relationship with someone else after the death of a spouse or partner. If you decide you don’t want to begin another relationship, that’s okay! Often, well-meaning friends and family will be concerned that you’re lonely, or not healing, because you choose to remain single. This could not be further from the truth. Many people decide to go solo for their remaining years and are still able to find meaning and purpose through friendships, relationships with family and grandchildren, and civic or religious activities.
At Allen Memorial Home we want you to know that our caring team is always here for you throughout your grief process – whether it’s two weeks after your loved one’s funeral service, or two years. We can help connect you with local support groups and community programs that can help you process your feelings and perhaps even help you determine if it’s time to move on. We also offer our online, interactive grief support, Guiding Grief. Reach out to us, or access our online grief resource to get started.