Our Widowed Young Support Coordinator explains that making choices on your own can be very difficult after the death of a partner and provides some advice as to how to begin to function independently.

After the death of a partner people often feel overwhelmed, with many emotions not experienced before and feeling out of control.

It’s important to realise that what you are going through is normal, that others have walked in your shoes and survived, eventually developing a new normal.

At our day and weekend support events we highlight things that have helped us, but also point out that everyone needs to make choices which are right for themselves and for any children they have. Making your own choices about the things you do is very important because it gives you back some control and meaning.

Choices that seemed easy when we could talk them over with our partner, now seem so difficult. We doubt we can make good choices on our own, and fear that we’ll make wrong ones. This can leave us with a feeling of paralysis, wanting to move forward but scared to take a wrong turn.

Jerry Sittser, who lost his wife, mother and daughter in a car accident, writes in his book A Grace Disguised: ‘Those who suffer loss … want to return to the harbour of the familiar past and recover what was lost – or they want to sail on and discover a meaningful future … Instead they find themselves living in a barren present, empty of meaning.’

However hard it may be, unless we want to live in that ‘barren present’ forever, we do have to make decisions on which way to go. So where do we start, and what are the important things we need to bear in mind?

Making choices about what is important to you, helps you to be more independent and in control of your life. Learning to make your own choices can be hard if you’ve not had a chance to be in charge before. Sometimes when people begin to make choices, others who care for them may not approve or listen because they may not yet be comfortable with them making their own choices. Don’t be afraid to say what is important to you – just explain to people why it is. It’s important that you find a way to begin functioning independently – below are some tips to help you start to do this:

  • Accept that you can’t do everything that two people used to do
  • Prioritise things on a ‘must do’ list
  • Put finding time for you and doing some things that you enjoy, high on your priority list
  • Do the higher priority things you are good at and like first
  • Find another way of doing the high priority things that you are not good at and don’t like – ask for help from trusted people or buy in services if you can
  • Decide to do something that you have never done before – tell a good friend and ask them to encourage you, but also hold you accountable
  • Ask friends to show you how to do something new, then you can try yourself the next time
  • Plan to do some things that you’ve always wanted to do but never been able to
  • Consider whether the lower priority things need to be done at all!
  • Stop things that are not good for you or are no longer important to you
  • Talk to friends who understand how you are feeling
  • Make a list of your successes and look at the list regularly
  • We do learn and grow through trying – failing from time to time is positive because we learn from this

Remember, we have Widowed Young Support volunteers on our support days and weekends who have a wealth of experience in making choices and moving forward. They’d love to share with you how they developed a new normal on their different journey. Visit our Widowed Young Support pages for details of our upcoming events. Please join us if you can.

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At Care for the Family we support couples, parents and those who have been bereaved. If you would be able to make a one off donation to support our work, we would be very grateful. Thank you.

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