Being widowed is one of the most difficult life experiences we are ever likely to face - at whatever age it occurs. The shock, grief and feeling of loss can all combine to make the prospect of going on alone often unimaginable.
Widowhood can happen at any age and even when it occurs at a later stage in life, the loss of a long-term partner is no less debilitating - There are an estimated 650,000 deaths in the UK every year and, according to Age UK, the average age of being widowed is 73 for women and 77 for men. While the death of a partner at a younger age can be particularly shocking and traumatic, the loss of a lifetime partner is no less devastating.
Coming to terms with widowhood
As with every other aspect of dealing with bereavement, there are no hard and fast rules in coping with being widowed. There will probably be a great deal of well-intentioned advice offered but in the end it comes down to the individual as we all deal with grief and loss in different ways.
Widowhood is almost certainly going to evoke painful feelings of loneliness, memories of what was and uncertainties about what lies ahead. Family and friends can be instrumental in trying to ease that pain but it is important to give yourself time to deal with the natural grieving process.
Making new friends and possibly getting involved with new groups and pastimes may be beneficial in maintaining contact with people but don’t feel guilty if sometimes you feel the need for quiet contemplation and reflection as you attempt to navigate a path through these most difficult of times.
Help is available
If the close help and support from those nearest to you at this difficult time is not enough and you are in need of professional help, there are a number of specialist organisations which you can contact - the first probably being your GP. Others include:
- Widowed and Young (WAY) offers a peer-to-peer support network for anyone who has lost a partner, married or not, under the age of 51.
- The Good Grief Trust is committed to helping all those affected by grief - bringing bereavement services together in bespoke support for the over 50s.
- Sue Ryder
- Age UK
- Macmillan Cancer Support
For further information and support groups please visit our coping with bereavement page here