Chapter 4: Your changing relationship with your husband, wife, or partner
Many people thought we were the “perfect couple.” We were not. We had many ups and downs, and not everything was settled before she died.
I fell I love with him when I was 13 and never let go. He was my best friend and the love of my life.
Most relationships have their share of mixed experiences; ups and downs, arguments, disagreements, and compromises are natural. Some relationships are generally stable or calm, while others are more unpredictable or even volatile.
It’s important to acknowledge both the strengths and the challenges of the relationship you had with your partner. Ignoring or denying aspects of your relationship that you find difficult can interfere with your grief.
Click on the boxes below to explore some of these further.
You may recall some of the best times you had together, which can be bittersweet, bringing you both comfort and sorrow. You may also remember more challenging times of conflict or misunderstanding, which can bring up mixed or unresolved feelings.
When you are grieving, emotions can become magnified. What may have once been a small detail or a brief moment in your relationship can seem much larger or more important. The thoughts and feelings you have might be ones of deep love and gratitude, or they might be feelings of anger, guilt, or shame. These can seem overwhelming, especially at night.
There may be situations that you relive, perhaps finding comfort in them; or you may wish they could have been different, or you could change how you or your spouse responded to them. You may be grieving the relationship that you cherish, or you may be grieving the one you wanted it to be but never achieved, and that now never can be. If you become stuck in this “redo” mode, it can prolong your grief and make it more difficult.
Reflecting honestly about your relationship can reveal its complexities, including imperfections, which can help you to recognize and acknowledge what you miss along with what you might not miss. With time and attention, this can help you find ways to live with your losses while holding important memories of your partner.
What may help
If you notice that you’re lingering on certain memories or feel stuck in certain emotions, you may want to put them aside for a while. It can help to write them out and put them away, perhaps in a box, on a shelf, or in your freezer. Later, your perspective may change, allowing you to sort through them with less distress.
As you reflect on your relationship with your spouse, ask yourself what you have learned or been given:
- What is their legacy? What have they left behind?
- What did you learn from them?
- How did they help shape who you are today?
- How will they continue to influence your life?
- How will they continue to influence the lives of others?
Look for supportive friends or family members who are able and willing to listen to you talk about your partner and the relationship you had. They may also be able to offer different perspectives from yours.
If you continue to struggle with intense or disturbing thoughts and feelings, consider meeting with a grief counsellor. This may help you to put some things to rest or gain new insights that can help you to move ahead in your life.