Chapter 2: What may be different about your grief

Shifting from “us” to “me”

I've been there
Alvin talks about the shift from being a couple. (3:22)Video transcript

My wife took care of everything around the house, and she had very definite tastes. I find I’m having trouble making decisions about even the simplest things. I don’t even know what colours I like.

Just like being part of a couple changed you, so will losing your spouse. Although it can be a very scary time when you feel vulnerable, it can also be a time to get in touch with your own sense of self and who you are – and that is important.

Below are three different aspects you may want to consider. Click on each one to read more about it.

You may find that you want to give up certain activities or interests because they are of little or no interest to you now. Perhaps they never were, but you participated to please or support your spouse. At some point, you may want to pursue new activities or interests that were of no interest to your partner or for which you previously had no time.

You might be avoiding activities that you enjoyed with your spouse, or you may want to continue doing them because it helps you to feel connected.

Now may be a time to reflect on personal qualities or abilities that your spouse or others noticed or appreciated in you. For example, you may be admired for your practical skills, such as carpentry or cooking, or for your patience and endurance when confronted by difficult situations.

There may be times when you ask yourself how your partner would have responded to a difficult situation. Because you knew them so well, you may even be able to imagine what they might  have said or done.

What may help

  • Remind yourself that it took time for you to form or deepen the connection you had with your spouse. Shifting your identity from “we” to “I” won’t happen overnight.
  • In deciding what you do and don’t want to do, remember that there is no right or wrong. Give yourself time to find what works best for you.
  • You might find it helpful to reflect on your qualities and abilities, which are important parts of who you are and may offer clues about the future direction of your life.

The new “I” that you will create may include a sense of being part of a couple. Although your partner is no longer physically with you, they can continue to be a part of your life. There may be times when you have an uncanny sense of them giving you advice or encouragement, and for a moment you have that familiar “we” feeling.

Helpful resources
Chapter 4: Your changing relationship with your spouse or partner