• Other Friendship Advice

Complicated Grief: Having an extremely hard time getting over the death of a spouse

Published: November 3, 2011 | Last Updated: January 24, 2017 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
Complicated grief is more likely when a husband and wife were extremely dependent upon on one another for companionship.


Dear Irene,

My wife died last May, almost six months ago. We were so devoted to each other that we didn’t need any friends. I don’t go to pubs or clubs and am very much a loner. Now, I seem to be pushing people away in case they want something I’m unable to give them. I don’t know where to turn for help.

Signed, Michael


Dear Michael,

I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s natural for someone to feel a profound sense of loss after the death or a
spouse. In fact, more than 50 percent of widows and widowers suffer from major depression in the first few months following their loss.

Although there are a wide variety of normal reactions to the death of a spouse, some people don’t feel much better with the passage of time and are unable to get past their grief on their own. For example, the surviving spouse may:

  • Be unable to stop thinking about the death or about the deceased partner;
  • Feel depressed, angry, lonely, or helpless;
  • Withdraw from people;
  • Be unable to enjoy life, function as usual, or find purpose in living; and/or
  • Feel like he or she wants to die.

When this occurs, therapists call this “complicated grief.” Complicated grief is more likely to occur in instances when a husband and wife were extremely dependent upon on one another for companionship.

If you are having a hard time recovering from your loss after this period of time, it may be helpful to speak to a mental health professional. A therapist can provide support so you can begin to feel better about yourself and see a future ahead of you—although it will, no doubt, be markedly changed from your past.

Try to remain connected to people who care about you, whether they are family, friends, neighbors, fellow congregants, or other members of your community. You may also want to find out whether there are
support groups in your community where you can meet other individuals who have shared a similar experience to your own and will be able to make new connections, at your own pace, without undue demands.

Again, my condolences on your loss. I hope these suggestions are helpful.

My best, Irene


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Category: Death

Comments (3)

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  1. Irene says:

    That’s a great suggestion. If you don’t know where to find one, you can usually check with a house of worship or local hospital. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Best, Irene

  2. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the LW could find a grief group in his area? My husband’s first wife died young, and when I met him six years ago, he was attending a weekly grief group for young widows and widowers. He still attends the weekly meetings even now.

    I think in the early days, the group provided some safe, guided social connections in lieu of friendships. My husband tells me it’s a good place to go to talk with people who know what it’s like to lose a spouse. I can be supportive up to a point, but I want him to focus on his life now when he’s with me.

    Also, sometimes “friends” either don’t understand or are dealing with their own grief regarding the loss, and may not be able to provide the support the grieving person seeks. My husband found that many of his friends were really his first wife’s friends and their husbands, and they couldn’t deal with some of the stuff he needed to share with someone. If my husbands attends grief group for the rest of our lives, it is okay with me. I can see how it helps him.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would say it can take years to recover from that kind of loss. Friends do help recovery, though. If you had few friends, but some are coming forth now, let them help little by little. It might feel weird or even like betrayal to give your attention to someone else, but try it, act as if you want to do it, because people contact does help and the last thing your spouse would want is for you to be isolated in your loss.

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