One of the hardest challenges life can present is the loss of a life partner. Grief is a small word, but it carries a lot of weight, and can completely change your world. There’s no one clear path back to wholeness: the road is different for everyone, and it is never an easy one. That said, there are definitive stages to the process, and there are some insights that can help you find your way through the darkness of loss. This two-part series focuses on helping yourself get through this difficult time.

Accept Reality

Don’t beat yourself up asking why this happened. If you can find comfort in religion, by all means do so, but it’s also important to face your pain from a grounded point of view. We are all human, we are all mortal, and we are fragile. Death is an inevitable truth for all of us. You cannot change those facts: all you can control is how you move on.

Let Yourself Feel

Grieving is a natural process, and it’s important to let yourself go through it. Don’t be afraid to cry, to look at old pictures, to listen to songs that remind you of your partner. Music can actually be a very powerful tool. Find some songs that fit the moment and the place you are in, and listen to them as many times as you need. Some may want to be alone for a while, while others want to be in the company of friends and loved ones. If you want to eat a pint of ice cream, do it: self-care is important, but in those early days, let comfort take precedence.

Give Yourself Time

Though you’ll never stop missing a lost partner, time will make the loss easier. You’ll stop expecting to hear your partner’s voice, and get used to their absence. When it seems too much to bear, keep in mind that time will heal you. You’ll have a scar, but you can still be happy, healthy, and whole.

Allow Yourself To Move On

It’s not uncommon for people to feel guilty about moving on. This isn’t a betrayal of your partner, and it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten them. There’s no set time for grieving. Six months used to be the benchmark for widows and widowers to come out of mourning officially. This may be longer or shorter for you. But at some point, you’ll find yourself ready to step forward. After all, you have a life to live!

Redefine Your Living Space

It’s one thing to keep out some photos and reminders, but don’t go overboard. Being surrounded by constant reminders will just keep you in your place of grief. If you and your partner lived together for many years, you may want to consider redecorating or even moving. Sometimes a fresh start is really a balm for the soul. If your home seems too empty and quiet, consider adopting a pet. A memorial plant may also be a nice way to honor your partner.

Letting Go

One of the biggest steps to moving on is to stop looking backwards, and turn to the future instead. Think of your life as a road trip: you won’t drive very well if you’re only looking behind you. Staying in the past is almost like doing 80 down a freeway backwards. It’s terrifying! Leave the past in the past, look ahead, and live your life. Your partner would want that for you.

Closure

There’s an old saying that funerals are not for the deceased: they are for survivors. Say goodbye, however you need to. Whether you talk to your partner, host a memorial service for friends, visit their grave, or bring their ashes to a favorite place, it’s important to find closure, and say goodbye.

Be Good To Yourself

Understand that it will take time to get back to yourself. Just let yourself go through it and do whatever makes you feel better. Exercise, cry, sing, write … these are all ways of basically purging sorrow. Although grief is an emotion, our emotions have a way of settling into our bodies. Sometimes getting it out in a physical way helps release pain. Volunteering can also be great for the soul. Don’t let your grief become an excuse for destructive behaviors: that’s moving in the exact opposite direction from where you want to go.

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