How Long Does Grief Last after the Death of a Spouse & How to Cope

If you’ve recently lost your spouse and are in the throes of grief, you may be wondering how long does grief last after the death of a spouse. This is perfectly normal; grief is a painful process. However you’re feeling right now is ok. Here at Ecorial, we know that grief is an individual experience, which includes its length. Let’s discuss how long does grief last after the death of a spouse, factors that influence its duration, and ways to grieve your spouse. 

How Long Does Grief Last After the Death of a Spouse?

If you’re wondering how long does grief last after the death of a spouse, you aren’t alone. While there is no timeline for grief, unfortunately, grief is often the most intense for the first year, especially for the first few months following a loss. Many people start to experience some relief after the year mark. However, grief ebbs and flows, and waves of grief many years afterward are to be expected. For some, it may take years to come out of grief. Here are some factors that may influence how long you grieve the loss of your spouse. 

The Shock Factor

The level of shock experienced with the death of a spouse can influence the intensity and duration of your grief. If your spouse was going through an illness or health problems, you might have come to expect their death. And, depending on the length of their illness, it’s possible that you started to grieve, or at least were able to prepare somewhat, for their passing.

This is very different from when a spouse is taken from you unexpectedly and out of the blue, such as with a car accident or a heart attack. Shock is considered a stage of grieving; it is visceral and takes time to move through.

The Lifestyle Factor

How intertwined your life was with your spouse will also influence the length of your grief. While every couple is connected, each couple is different. If your spouse was the center of your social world, their loss changes a lot of your life’s structure. If you’re more of a loner and your spouse was your primary source of friendship, that will have a profound impact. 

The Type of Relationship Factor

The type of relationship you had with your spouse can affect the duration of your grief. If you and your spouse were close, you will profoundly feel their loss. This is not to say that if you had conflict in your relationship, you would be grieving less, of course. But, the loss of anyone you were especially close to is devastating, and even more so if you were married to them. 

The Length Factor

How long were you and your spouse together? That can change how long you grieve. If you were together for 40+ years before your spouse passed, that would leave a large wound. The loss of a spouse at any stage of life is tragic, but more interdependence has been cultivated over a decades-long relationship, which can accentuate the grief of loss. 

Ways to Deal with Grief After Losing Your Spouse

How you deal with your grief after losing your spouse can influence how long it lasts. There are many effective ways to manage your grief. Your ability to use them will depend on where you are at in your grieving process. For example, doing deep journaling may not be possible during the initial shock stage.

Here are some ways to process your grief.

  1. Actively give yourself permission to feel. This can be challenging because grief is full of intense, deeply uncomfortable feelings, and many of us were taught that having big feelings of anger and sadness is wrong or bad. As a wise adult, tell yourself it’s ok to feel what comes up. 
  2. Talk to your loved one through letters, emails, or texts. Tell them about your grief, how much you miss them, and how much their loss has impacted your life. Actively expressing yourself this way can be very healing.
  3. Express yourself in other ways. Scream into a pillow or punch the bed when anger surges. Dance it out to one of their favorite songs. Scribble with colored pencils and crayons and draw a picture of your broken heart. 
  4. Talk to a friend, a therapist, or both. If you lack access to either, consider an online support group.
  5. Recognize that grief is an individual process and will look different for everyone.
  6. Prepare for waves of grief, such as on special anniversaries, birthdays, or holidays. 
While there is no timeline for grief, it will eventually ease. It’s perfectly normal if that seems impossible when you’re in the depths of mourning the loss of your spouse. Practice as much self-compassion as possible. You can use your loved one’s Ecorial online memorial page to share photos, videos, and memories while connecting with others who loved them.
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