Grief and Loss

Possibilities for Change after the Death of a Partner

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments

That grieving occurs in stages is a theory that has gained support and become popular in the last fifty years . This idea of grief-in-stages supports the view that grieving takes time and includes many different experiences. It also suggests that grieving should end in acceptance, letting go, and moving on. For many people, moving on means leaving behind the best part of their lives and much of their identity. As one widow of a glorious 23-year relationship said, “Why would I want to do that?” An alternative way of thinking about grief is to find a way to continue aspects of the lost relationship. This continuation may take the form of a survivor:

  1. internally speaking with his partner;
  2. holding his partner close in his heart and mind;
  3. seeing himself through his partner’s eyes.

There is no “one way” to live with the death of a cherished partner. The following examples illustrate how three people continued the relationship with their partners:

  1. Ben put pictures of Gloria in every room of their home after her death. Looking at them helps him continue to be the person he wants to be: the person he became in relationship to Gloria. Three years after her death, when he wanted to be involved in another relationship, those pictures helped him be clear that any new partner would need to honor Gloria’s place in his heart.
  2. Mary painted a picture of Sy that contains the names of his loved ones. The painting hangs on her living room wall where everyone can see his connections. To keep him alive for his sons, she often asks, “What would your dad say about that?”.
  3. Dan writes letters to Ryan and answers them in Ryan’s voice as only he knows it.

These three people are going against the accepted wisdom that urges survivors to let go, and all have found that holding on gives them much more to go on with.

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Funerals, Memorial Services and Rituals

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments

Funerals and memorial services mark the momentous transition from life to death. They can serve both as a celebration of a particular life as well as a mourning of its passing. In this highly symbolic context, eulogies can be important in solidifying the story of the person’s life and his relationships. Eulogies that serve this purpose often happen automatically and seem to be an effortless result of the funeral ritual. In situations in which there is a significant partnership, but not a marriage or a traditional recognition of the partnership, this ritual of transition can become one of discounting, and may cause pain to the survivor.

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Solutions for dealing with the death of a partner (Do’s and Don’ts)

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments


  • Give yourself permission to grieve in your own way, taking your own time.
  • Realize that the grieving process will probably be discontinuous.
  • Sort out the different problems associated with the loss and respond to those that are easily remedied.
  • Consider whether the societal idea of letting go and moving on is right for you.
  • Allow yourself to continue the relationship with your partner in your heart and mind if it suits you to do so.
  • Allow yourself to talk about your partner and encourage those around you to do so if you find this helpful.
  • Draw on relationships with friends and family.
  • Consider joining support groups of people going through similar experiences.
  • Turn to God or spirituality in any way that you find meaningful.
  • Create or continue whatever rituals of relationship that you would find sustaining, such as talking to your partner or celebrating your anniversary.
  • Feel free to enjoy your memories and keep them part of your experience. It may be more satisfying to see the memories as though you are there seeing through your own eyes, rather than watching yourself in the memory.
  • Try out taking on interests and activities of your partner. You may feel closer to him by carrying on something that he would be doing if he were still alive.


  • Assume that there is a right way of responding to your partner’s death.
  • Allow yourself to be pushed to move on or to be finished grieving.
  • Be silenced about your partner if you find it meaningful to talk about him.
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Questions for people who have lost a partner

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments

Questions for a young person who loses a partner

  • How can I keep focused on what is most important to me (which will be different at different times) instead of getting pulled into trying to fit the lifestyle norm?
  • If you could ask your partner’s help in sustaining you, what would she say about you that would let her know you can do it?
  • What else might she say?
  • What might she most hope you would keep alive about her and about the relationship? Why?
  • Who in your life might continue to honor your relationship? Is there a way you can facilitate that happening?

Questions for people who lose a partner in the middle years

  • What are the most important concerns for me right now?
  • How can I put the other concerns on hold or get temporary help (for example, so that I can make life shape decisions after responding to the grief)?
  • What aspects of my life and experience are most important to me?
  • If I shape my life to honor those aspects, what will be the effects on my life and relationships?
  • What would my partner say about changing my life shape this way?

Questions for people who lose a partner later in life

  • If you could ask your partner what he knows about you that would give him confidence in your ability to face the future, what would he say?
  • Which of his words would you like to keep available to you as you continue in life?
  • How would he support your changing your life to fit not having a partner?
  • How would keeping him in your heart and mind make a difference as you face the future?
  • In reviewing your life, what interests and activities have been most meaningful? Are there ways that you can re-engage (or stay engaged) with them now?
  • What can you draw on in your relationships and experience to help you through this time?
  • What memories give you confidence in your abilities? What relationships sustain you?
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Death of a Partner in a Problematic Relationship

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments

Although it might seem easier to lose a partner when the relationship has been difficult or unsatisfying, the feelings of dissatisfaction can make the survivor vulnerable to guilt and second thoughts. When she remembers the best times of the relationship, self-blame can convince her that if she had done things differently, she and her partner could have had good times. The grief then can be colored easily by regret and guilt. If the survivor’s friends and family are aware of the difficulties in the relationship, they may expect her to quickly move on and they may not support her process of grieving. If they are not aware of the difficulties, she may feel like an impostor because they assume she is overcome by grief and loss.

We have a cultural prohibition about speaking ill of the dead. Because of this prohibition, the survivor may find no opportunity to talk about the different aspects of her experience because only the positive aspects are acceptable. Also, if she wants to begin a new relationship, she may have difficulty cultivating a positive identity as a partner because of the negative experiences with her lost partner.

The survivor of a problematic relationship should try to sort out the different emotional responses and to talk with a friend or therapist who can accept these responses and validate them. People in this situation may also find it useful to keep a journal to help sort out varying emotional responses.

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Loss of a Partner during the Middle Years

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Grief and Loss | 0 comments

Grief and Loss: Death of a Partner

In the middle years, most of us have established the direction and rhythms of our lives. We are often in a very productive time of work and may have family responsibilities that include caring for our children as well as supporting our parents. For those who lose partners at this time of life, it may be difficult to fulfill responsibilities and have the time and space to grieve. For others, the life plan established with a partner may no longer fit. However, changing a career path or moving from homemaking into a career can be very difficult at this time of life.

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