Loss of a Partner during the Middle Years

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.

Carolyn was an executive for a major corporation when her partner, who worked as a freelance writer from their home, died unexpectedly. Frank had been a gourmet cook and although Carolyn’s work hours were long, she came home to wonderful meals and relaxing evenings and weekends in a secluded home. The couple’s one child was in college in a different city. With no one at home after Frank’s death, their house seemed inconvenient and isolated, instead of private, and the long work hours stopped holding meaning. However, Carolyn had financial responsibility for debts that she and Frank had incurred, her daughter’s college tuition, and nursing home fees for her infirm mother. She felt stuck in a life that no longer worked.

Survivors who had been taking primary responsibility for caring for children often find that choice is no longer economically feasible. Survivors in couples who shared childrearing responsibilities find it overwhelming, if not impossible, to do alone. Those who had been taking primary economic responsibility find that continuing at the same work pace may mean that they and their children have little family life.

People at mid-life, then, often find that with the loss of a partner, they also lose the shape of their lives. It can be helpful to separate the feelings of losing a partner from the new life challenges.

See our items with Questions and Solutions for Grief and Loss

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