Chapter 2: When someone in your family dies

Losing a spouse or partner

After the death of your husband, wife or partner, you may experience many losses. Just naming these can help you understand your grief and how you might adjust to life without this person.

Helpful resources

Module 6, Managing difficult situations, including Chapter 3, Living without my spouse or partner

Understanding your losses

"Am I still a wife now that my husband has died?"

We define ourselves by our relationships to others. We are children, parents, siblings, colleagues, neighbours, friends and spouses.


"My partner was in the forces. Am I still a military spouse?"

Your sense of identity can change when someone important to you dies. The more important that relationship was, the bigger the impact.

 "I can’t believe how much I miss his touch, his smell, the feel of his skin on mine. I find myself holding onto a pillow in bed and imagining it’s him."

When a spouse or partner is dying, you might experience a loss of sexual intimacy before death due to low energy or other medical issues.

The loss of an intimate partner is much more than sex. For some couples, intimacy becomes less about sex and more about physical closeness. We lose the person we cuddle with by the fire, the hand we hold during a scary movie, or the person who massages our neck after a bad day.

 "Everyone knew us as Terry and Lou. Now I’m just Lou."

Going back to your social life without your spouse or partner at your side can be difficult.If he always led the conversations or she was more naturally sociable than you, grief can be like learning a new language.

Although re-connecting with friends and acquaintances can feel awkward, the good news is that you never have to repeat the "first time." Eventually, you will get used to the new social landscape and find your place in it.

 "Every day he would bring me a coffee in bed. It was one of our rituals that I miss the most."

Losing a partner will change your daily life and routines. For example, your habit of waking up and going to work at a certain time can become difficult to keep. You might feel lost and disorientated without the normal patterns you could once count on.

Adding some structure back to your life might help. Try to make a flexible plan for your day that can change depending on how you are feeling. This return to routine may help with your overall sense of organization and focus.

 "I am always worried about balancing our budget. She was always so much better at that."

When your spouse or partner dies, you might feel less confident and secure. You might have relied on him or her for help with everyday tasks or when you were in trouble.

"I feel very nervous in the house alone."

You might have felt safer living with someone who worried and cared about you. The world can be scary when that person is gone.