Healing After the Loss of a Spouse

By Gloria Lintermans and Dr. Marilyn Stolzman

Loss is a fact of life. Yet, following loss, their needs to be a healthy healing, a healing that allows life not only to simply continue, but with joy and determination. What are the elements that make up healing? Whether suffering from a divorce, loss of a child, loss of a parent or loss of a spouse, we go through certain stages and reactions. Not only is it different for each person, it is different with each loss. Based on the nature of the relationship, we must take into consideration the history we had with that person, the strengths, the troubled aspects, our ego strengths, the intensity of the love and the unfinished fragments of the relationship.

There are many feelings in common that people go through in the stages of grief as well as an often overlap of these stages. The stages include shock, denial, anger, depression, and transition, integration and adjustment. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is credited with naming the stages that she created for the dying. I reframed the last stage of “acceptance” to call it, integration, adjustment and transition as it better describes what people actually move through. There is a great deal of emotion a, during loss, we move from one stage to another and then back again. A few steps forward and a few steps back – similar to the game of Monopoly – 3 squares forward, one square back and then land of “chance”. Be reassured that this back-and-forth movement is perfectly normal.

While moving through the stages of grief, know that:

• Healing takes TIME.

• Healing requires PATIENCE.

• Healing is SLOW.

• Healing means MOVING BACK AND FORTH IN PROGRESS.

• Healing means BEING EMOTIONALLY AVAILABLE TO YOURSELF.

• Healing means BEING KIND AND LESS JUDGMENTAL TO YOURSELF.

• Healing means allowing whatever FEELINGS TO SURFACE, knowing that they are subject to change.

• Healing means that SOME DAYS ARE EASIER THAN OTHERS.

• Healing means ALLOWING feelings to be present.

• Healing means its OK to CRY and express doubt.

• Healing means the ability to take in the POSITIVE while acknowledging the negative.

• Healing means allowing OTHERS to come in and offer support.

• Healing employs SELF-ACCEPTANCE and allowing yourself to be “in the moment”.

• Healing is about creating BALANCE in your life.

• Healing is about enjoying NATURE and spending enough time to slow down, breathe the air and see the trees.

• Healing is about EXERCISE and adequate NUTRITION.

• Healing is about using POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS about yourself and your world.

• Healing is about feeling SAFE within yourself.

• Healing is about LISTENING TO YOUR INNER VOICE.

Lastly, when we can share our bereavement experiences with others who are going through the same thing, we are participating in our own as well as each others healing. It is important to recognize that the wounded healer, in healing the wounds of others, is healing his or her own wound. This back and forth process of listening and being emotionally available to yourself and others is useful in moving forward. The humanness of a shared experience is healing when we recognize that we are not alone and isolated, we feel a sense of security knowing what the larger community can offer.

Gloria Lintermans and Dr. Marilyn Stolzman are co-authors of THE HEALING POWER OF GRIEF: The Journey Through Loss to Life and Laughter ( ISBN 1-932783-48-2). Gloria Lintermans, a North Hollywood, Ca.-based freelance writer, author, and widow is also the author of THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS: Revolutionary Tools to Create a Blended Family of Support and Respect. www.GloriaLintermans.com

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