Loss of a Spouse/Partner, Bereavement, and Vision Loss
The loss of a spouse is one of the most devastating events in life. No matter how long or short the marriage nor how close the relationship, there is no doubt that major life changes will occur following such a loss. Life will never again be the same. But, in time, life can be good again.
If you are a person with vision loss, you may have relied on your spouse in ways you never recognized. Your vision loss has likely become secondary to the loss with which you are now dealing. Suddenly, the other “eyes” on which you depended for, perhaps, transportation, personal finances, shopping, meal preparation, etc., are gone. The loss of your partner in life has left you feeling overwhelmed. And your losses are compounded due to vision loss. It will be necessary to deal with everyday living even as you work through your grief.
One of your most immediate needs with regard to everyday living may be for transportation. If you relied on your spouse to drive you, you must now explore alternative transportation such as hiring a driver or taking a taxi or bus. Friends and neighbors may offer to give you rides to appointments and to the grocery store. It is okay to accept their offers while you work out alternative transportation.
Try not to feel as though you are a burden to accept such help. You might offer to pay for gas or to do small favors in appreciation for their help. Eventually, you will locate other transportation resources with which you can function more independently.
Settling the Estate
Another immediate task will be settling your spouse’s estate. Just when you are feeling the least up to it, there are tasks that must be executed for your future security and living. Try to remind yourself that your spouse would want you to attend to their financial affairs in order to provide for yourself.
Consult an estate attorney and/or enlist a trusted member of the family to assist you with the many tasks associated with administering an estate. Whether the estate is large or small, there is some work that must be done to settle your loved one’s affairs.
Mourning Is Necessary
In addition to the business of settling your loved one’s estate, you will need to express your grief through mourning in order to reach a point of reconciliation. It has been said that mourning is grief expressed. And grief is your reaction to the loss. Each person mourns loss in their own way. There is no time table for mourning but mourning is necessary on your journey to become whole again.
Range of Emotions
It is normal to experience a range of emotions during your bereavement. If there was a lingering illness, you were most likely exhausted even before the death of your loved one. You may feel guilt regarding the circumstances of your loved one’s death, over words that were spoken or actions you took or failed to take. You may even be angry at times that your spouse has left you when you need him or her so much. These are all normal feelings.
Emotions are intense now and can change in a moment. Even a brief period of depression is common at this time as you adjust to your new life. But it is important to recognize when depression requires professional help.
Stages of Grief
One theory of grief and adjustment commonly cited is the stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. This theory outlines a logical series of five stages of grief that an individual experiences and must pass through in order to re-establish themselves in a healthy manner. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Grief, however, is not always so neat and orderly.
A more recent theory of grief and adjustment is that of organization versus disorganization, somewhat like being on a roller coaster. Very intense or rough periods may be followed by periods of relative comfort and calm. Over time, the intense periods of grief become less frequent and further apart. This theory describes the grief process as one of back and forth between equilibrium and disequilibrium until a steady sense of self in a new life is established. This theory is based on the work of Thomas Kuhn.
Learning more about one or both of these theories may be of benefit to you in dealing with your grief. One thing is for sure, you will never “get over” the loss of your spouse but you will eventually become reconciled to the loss and you will establish a new and satisfying pattern of living that suits your needs.
Grief Support group
Many people find that participating in a grief support group is helpful in their adjustment process. Your vision loss support group may also count among its members those who are widowed and who may be willing to share with you as well as listen when you need to talk. There is no right or wrong way to grieve but there are healthy ways to deal with your pain. Grief expressed has the potential for healing and enriching your life so do not suppress your grief.
Some find comfort in reading publications on dealing with grief. For others religious faith offers tremendous spiritual comfort. Some ways to cope with grief and loss include:
- turn to friends and family members—let them know how they can help
- embrace the rituals of your religious faith such as praying, going to church, and meditating
- join a support group—sharing sorrow can be healing
- talk to a therapist or counselor if your grief feels too much to bear
- face your feelings, don’t suppress them—in order to heal you must acknowledge your pain
- express your feelings in tangible and creative ways such as journaling, scrapbooking, or organizing a photo album
- look after your physical health—get enough sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet
- don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel including not telling yourself how you should feel
- plan ahead for triggers such as holidays which can reawaken memories—even after many years there are certain triggers that may cause a reawakening of your grief
Grief is Complicated
Be aware that grief may become complicated. The sadness of losing someone you love will never go away but that sadness should not remain the centerpiece of your life. If preoccupation of the person who died disrupts your daily routine and undermines other relationships, it is time to seek professional help.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, contact a grief counselor or professional therapist:
- feeling as if life is not worth living
- wishing you had died with your loved one
- blaming yourself for the loss
- feeling numb or disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
- difficulty trusting others
- inability to perform normal daily activities
Even though you will always have grief from the loss of your spouse, you will reach a point where you no longer need to express that grief through mourning. You will have reached acceptance and you will have reconciled the loss in your life. By now you have created a new pattern of living. A new chapter in your life has begun.