• The loss of a partner is devastating, and each person's grieving process will be unique to them

  • Grief specialist Corinne Laan offers her five tips for those who have been widowed

  • We have bereavement counsellors available on the directory – find them here

When you lose your life partner, the pain you feel is immense. The life you once shared is forever changed and the void is indescribable. Even though you may have friends and family around you, you can still face an uncertain future feeling all alone. 

One way of understanding the grief you are feeling is that it is actually the love you still have for your partner. Love does not stop because your partner is not physically here with you. This love needs to be channelled and expressed in ways which not only hold meaning for you but bring you inner peace and comfort as well. Weaving this love into your present and future helps you to find the strength to move forward and build a future filled with joy.

5 tips to cope with grief after the loss of a partner

Although life after loss looks very different, it does not mean you will only know sadness from now on. How you embrace your grief while still being open to joy and love is a deciding moment in shaping the next chapter in your life.

1. Keeping the memory of your loved one alive

This is a beautiful way to honour and remember the love and life you shared. Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays are times when the absence of your loved one is felt the most. Creating new traditions with a touch of remembrance can help you get through those times and at the same time help heal your broken heart. 

Allow yourself to be creative and design something which holds meaning for you. You can start the celebrations with saying a few words in honour of your loved one, play their favourite music, cook their favourite dinner or simply light a candle in remembrance. The possibilities are endless. Follow your intuition and listen to your heart.

2. Grief and joy can co-exist

We often think that the two cannot exist at the same time because we are used to thinking in duality. We learn from a young age the concept of right and wrong and therefore the idea that we can be happy and still grieve feels alien. But this is far from the truth. You can grieve and still have moments of joy and laughter. Moments where your mood is uplifted, and your heart feels pure joy. 

When this happens, you may feel guilty or even ashamed wondering what others may think. Let go of the guilt or shame and allow yourself to experience these moments of joy.

3. Loneliness is very common after losing your partner

This is a perfect time to take up a new hobby especially something you have always wanted to do. Learning something new and meeting new people with a common interest can stimulate the mind, uplift your mood, and bring a welcome spark of joy to your day. 

If you already have a hobby, it is important to maintain it as keeping your routine will help you during the grieving and healing process. It takes courage to get out there for the first time after loss and meet people. Treat yourself with compassion and self-love and go with the flow.

4. Saying no is completely fine

If you do not feel like doing something or engaging in socialising, it is OK to decline the invitation. When you are feeling vulnerable, taking care of your needs, and putting yourself first is very important. Let those around you know how you are feeling and communicate your needs truthfully and respectfully. Setting healthy boundaries is key in your grieving process.

5. Give yourself all the time and space you need to heal your grieving heart

Others may have an opinion of how quick you should bounce back and put pressure on you to move on. Their opinion may influence your choices and subsequently affect your grieving process in a negative way. You may also be tempted to give yourself a timeline for your grief. It is crucial to acknowledge that this is a major life event and rushing your grieving process is detrimental to your healing and well-being in the long-term.

Grieving the loss of your partner never stops, however over time, the sorrow you feel eventually transforms into a grief your heart can carry. You are capable of still cherishing the love you once shared and be open to the new adventure’s life has to offer.

Corinne Laan is the author of The Art of Grieving: Gentle Self-Care Practices to Heal a Broken Heart

Further reading

Dear therapist: "The grief of losing my husband has only just hit me"

4 ways to support someone who is grieving

What I learned being with my sister when she died

Overcoming grief through meditation and self-compassion

Bereavement counselling helped my whole family