Chapter 2: What may be different about your grief

Your age and the length of your relationship

I hate filling in those forms where you have to tick a box for “widow.” That word is so hard on so many levels. Widows are supposed to be old. My husband died when I was 28. What 28-year-old is a widow!?

I realized that I was now the only person in the world who held the memory of those 40 years, who knew the meaning of those years. That was a special kind of loneliness.

If you are a young person, you may or may not have experienced other deaths. Because most of your friends have likely had little or no experience with death, especially that of a spouse, you may feel very alone in your grief. Friends may seem not to understand your feelings. If you weren’t married for very long, some people may minimize your loss.

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If you are an older person who was married for many years, you may be living alone for the first time in decades and deeply feeling “the absence of presence.” You may have already been socially isolated and have now lost your closest companion.

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Your age and the length of time you and your partner were together do not determine the type or strength of feeling you may experience, but the way that other people view these factors will influence how they respond to your grief, and that may also affect your own response.

What may help

  • Even if you don’t feel like reaching out, finding a way to connect with others of your age who have also lost their spouse can make a big difference. This might be through a face-to-face support group or web-based resources.
  • If you don’t want to connect with other grieving people in person, you might benefit from reading books or online resources written by other people after the death of their partner.
  • Seek out supportive people among your friends and family, and try to help them to understand what you’re going through and what you need.
  • Regardless of how long you and your partner were together, you may also find some comfort or gratitude in recalling the time you had together.