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This site is run by widowed people, for widowed people

Widowed Village connects peers with each other for friendship and sharing. The moderators, administrators, and others involved in running this site are not professionals.

Please don't interpret anything you read here as medical, legal, or otherwise expert advice. Don't disregard any expert's advice or take any action as a result of what you read here.

We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

Rethinking Grief. Then Rethinking Grief.

Are you ready to stop thinking about your late husband or wife on a regular basis? Will you ever get enough of those old memories? Will next year's anniversary of the death pass by without psychological mayhem? Will you ever stop wanting to say his or her name aloud around those who knew your wife or husband best?

Probably not.

Even though my husband died 6 years ago, and even though I have a really loving, handsome, good man in my life, and even though I now feel pretty happy and well-adjusted to life after a major loss, I still think a lot about my husband who died.  I think about how radically different my life feels without him and the life I had envisioned for us, and I still think it's really lousy that he kicked it at age 52 when our kids were young. I really like being with people who knew Ken; it's comforting when they are willing to talk about him or share memories.

I think about him, and about losing him, quite often.

Turns out, thoughts and feelings about losing a spouse can last a lot longer than you might imagine. For those of us who have had a wife or husband die, the idea that grief reactions endure will come as no big surprise.

An interesting study on this topic, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology a few years ago, confirms what many of us know through experience. You can find happiness again after being widowed, but the thoughts of your spouse and what you lost can last and last. The study is called: "The Time Course of Grief Reactions to Spousal Loss: Evidence from a National Probability Sample." Its major finding? "The widowed continued to talk, think, and feel emotions about their lost spouse decades later."

This isn't bad news. It's just the way it is. It's normal. If you lose your spouse here on earth, you can pretty much guarantee that he or she is going to stick around in your thoughts. Some of them will be sad. Some will be happy. Some might even promote some personal growth.

Here are just a few of the findings from this national study which included interviews with 768 widowed men and women whose spouse had died anywhere from less than one year to 64 years previously:

 *  Even 20 years after the loss, it was common for a typical survey respondent to think about his or her spouse at least every week or two, and to talk about him or her every month.

*  The frequency of upsetting thoughts about one's loved one decreases over time, but happy thoughts don't decrease, and they may help to maintain connection with the spouse who died

* Intense anniversary reactions can occur for years after the loss; they are common, even decades after the death.

* Over time, personal growth often arises from surviving the loss of a spouse. Growth can come from positive memories or finding other positives stemming from the loss, from spirituality, and from taking on new tasks that one's spouse used to handle.

For those of you who have been widowed, whether you've remarried or not, whether it's been one year or 20 since your spouse died, know that the thoughts you have about your loved one are normal, and they aren't likely to go away completely during your lifetime. In fact, your memories are a very real bond that connects you to your love.

If you're a friend or family member of someone who has lost a wife or husband, know that the one who died is rarely far from the thoughts of those left behind. It's how we love them after they go.

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Comment by Jill on February 10, 2012 at 9:20am

Wow Abby. Can't believe it's been a year for you. A year is a long time, but still quite short in terms of grieving after losing your husband. Thinking about your questions here about being with somebody else, being ready, etc...I think the most important thing you've said is that you really do want to be happy again. If you really want happiness, I'm sure that you will find your way there. Although the type of happiness you find may be completely different than what you might imagine. For me, dating was one of the ways I healed myself. I couldn't imagine not having my old life, so I tried to replicate it. It took me a couple of years to realize that replicating my old life (with my husband and my children's father) was a complete fantasy! I had many missteps in my dating life, very similar to the dating I did before I met my late husband.  While I am very happy with my boyfriend, it's not like my marriage. It's different. My whole life is different now. This is probably not answering your question, but it's not really an easy answer. Anyway, happy to chat about it anytime!

Comment by Abby on February 9, 2012 at 10:28am

Thanks for this post. Very interesting and reaffirms my belief that I will never stop thinking and loving my husband. I have passed the one year mark last month and have the 'revelation' that the love of my life is never coming back.  I do have a male friend (we have been friends for 7 years) who is trying to take our friendship to another level and while I enjoy his company, something is holding me back.  I had a mild flirtation with another man a few months ago ( I realize now that I was in such pain that I was holding onto him to dull my pain).  I am not sure what is stopping me now and/or if I will ever be ready to fully give myself over to another man?  When you met the fellow that you are with now, were you ready for to let love into your life or was it him who helped you let him in?

I am struggling very much with this issue and I truly do want to be happy again.....how do you know when the time is right? Perhaps I have answered my own question.  Would love to hear your thoughts on this Jill.

Abby

Comment by jean on February 9, 2012 at 7:19am

It's how we love then after they go.

Thanks you!

Comment by Sheryl-momof4 on February 9, 2012 at 5:12am

Simply put, thank you!

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