Chapter 2: What may be different about your grief

How your spouse or partner died

He had been fighting the cancer for eight years. We used to talk about our life as BC and AC (before cancer and after cancer). It’s funny because now almost all my memories are BC.

My wife died in her sleep. I used to think that was the best way to go, but I never had a chance to say goodbye and our last conversation was so banal. I am glad she didn’t suffer, but I deeply wish I could have said a final goodbye.

The circumstances of your partner’s death can deeply affect your grief. Click on the following boxes to see two examples:

…you might feel some relief for them or for yourself that their suffering or your caregiving has ended. You may also feel guilty for having this feeling, or you might feel angry that they had to suffer so much. You may feel physically and emotionally exhausted, and you may need to take time to adjust to a life without your partner.

you might have been in shock or in a daze in the days, weeks, or months immediately afterwards. Feelings of “This can’t be real” may shift to anger or frustration. You might think, “How could this have happened?” or “Why didn’t someone prevent this?”

Even an expected death can feel sudden and shocking. You may have been anticipating it for days or weeks, but when it comes, it is too quick. You may be in a daze or feel numb. You may experience vivid recollections of the last days and weeks before your spouse’s death, especially if you were involved in providing care for them.

Your feelings after a sudden, unexpected death may last longer because it often takes time to believe the person has died. If you are feeling regret about something, it can be helpful to remind yourself you didn’t have a crystal ball and didn’t know when they would die.

Over time, thoughts and feelings about your partner’s death will become less prominent, and your memories of them before their death are likely to come to the forefront.