One year after my wife died, things aren't getting slowly better. I'm worse.

Last updated: April 13, 2010

My wife died of dementia and heart complications a little over a year ago. I'm 80 and in relatively good health. We'd talked about the situation ahead of time, and my wife urged me to sell, move on with my life -- even remarry -- but so far I can't seem to do anything. I was her caregiver for so long that I just feel lost now.

I fumble around in our big house and know I need to move somewhere more manageable and deal with her belongings. My daughter in Texas and son in San Diego both want me to move closer, but I'm not sure I want to become such a big part of their lives -- not that I'm having much of one of my own.

I thought I wanted to stay here, close to our church and friends, but everything reminds me of my wife. I miss her at every turn. She was the planner; I called her my entertainment committee. How do I decide what to do -- and more important, find joy again?

Grief is different for everyone. You don't slowly get better at a specific rate, so there's no "right" amount of time to grieve, and no cutoff date when (if ever) you should stop grieving.

You'll have good days and really bad days -- times when you feel numb and lost, and times when you feel antsy and impatient. You just have to accept the emotions as they come, feel them, then step aside and allow them to pass.

It's good that you recognize that it may be time to think about a new place to live. It can be hard to move on with your life when everywhere you turn reminds you of a time that's passed. A dear friend of mine who lost her husband said it best: "You have to hold those memories close to your heart, but there comes a time to make new memories."

We tend to freeze when it comes to big decisions because it feels like we'll mess things up if we don't make the "perfect" choice. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. You might want to consider renting for a while at the various locations you're considering, including near your son or daughter, to see what you think of them.

Do plan to "age in place" -- meaning, get a condo or apartment where you don't necessarily need a car and are close to things you enjoy and need (maybe a park, for instance, and a good grocery store). That way, when the time comes that you aren't able to drive, you'll be able to stay as independent as possible. You might even want to consider a community specially designed for aging in place.

As far as your social life, check out newcomers' groups when you move. Many communities have a smorgasbord of organized activities, and you may find a thriving community where you fit in well.

If one thing that's keeping you from moving is feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with your home and possessions, fly up one of your children or a friend to help you [organize the move] ( and go through everything -- or consider hiring a senior move manager if you can afford it.

We can get lost in our keepsakes and feel that we're betraying our loved one if we move on. We're not -- it's often a necessary step. Get through this process quickly. Anything sentimental you think you might want to keep or your children might want, put in storage or give to them. Keep moving and create momentum.

If you're grappling with grief in such a way that you can't sleep, sleep all the time, have lost weight, don't do the everyday errands and chores you've always done, or avoid friends, you may also be dealing with depression. Talk to your doctor and see if he recommends a short-term mild anti-depressant. What may also help: talk therapy, talking with your clergy or other spiritual advisor, and joining a spousal bereavement group.

Tackle your sorrow as you would any health issue -- get the help you need and then get on with your life. Our brains love stimulus, and a new environment may really perk you up.

You're a healthy, intelligent, vibrant man. Find a place where you can create a new life you enjoy, preferably somewhat close to family. This isn't the time to simply please them, but we need them and they need us. They don't have to be your whole life -- you don't need to see them so often you become one of the "kids" at the dinner table. What feels best for you will probably turn out to be best for all.

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11 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

8 months ago

I lost my wife 9/1/2012 we had been married almost 35 years.ah the tears are already starting as I write this,I have had 7 spine suriges & 5 fusions 2 neck,3 in the back,but her loss is so much worse.But with the grace of god I am going too move on.I wish I had a answer for all. At least my youngest son live's with me, and that is all that has saved me.Trying to live on ssdi will keep you busy,So many of ourt old friends seam to have stayed away,They do not know what too say I guess. I am trying to get a new loan on our house,hope to take my son on vaction this spring. God bless you all. James Colvard

Anonymous said 10 months ago

My wife was killed in a traffic accident in Portland OR Dec.17 1013. She was in a pedestrian crosswalk with our dog, Cassie. I have been overwhelmed by the support I've received but it does not stop the pain. I hope in the future I can learn from others who have had similar experiences.

over 1 year ago

This is all good stuff, I appreciate you folks sharing. My wife of 23 years just passed away suddenly a month ago, and I am just here. I don't sleep much, I'm scarred how bad I have yet to feel, Im worried what will be of me. People who are still grieving tremendously years after scares me, I dont want to be stuck in this forever, I think there is a point one must move forward . I belive in God and that gives me much assurance through those tearful moments, which are about 6 or more times a day right now. An empty space in my bed, will I ever love again? but thanks all for being here, it sure helps as the clock slowly approaches 4am and I have yet to try to go to sleep. This is like almost not real, like maybe shell even be coming back home soon. anyone else have their mind play those games with you?

Anonymous said over 2 years ago

My wife pasted away in Nov. 2010. It is something that I will never get over, It was very hard in 2011, I found myself breaking into tears just thinking about her. I tried going to several Churches, but I felt out of place. I went to a grief group a few times and that made me feel better, I think that is a good help. I was very lonely and started taking ladies out to dinner, it was nice to have the company, but I ended up spending more than I could really afford. I think I was hoping to find that special someone to take my loneliness go away. My grief group said I was mistaking dating for socializing and should be going out with groups. One thing I will say is don't be in a hurry to change your life style. You have plenty of time for that later. Don't move right away, I know that it is painful coming home and I spent a lot of time going out just to get away. But I still have all of my wife's things in the house. I have been going through and donating little by little, There is no hurry. People who have not gone through this can not give advise. It is a "very " painful loss. Keep yourself busy, make sure you are financially okay, consult an account or lawyer if need be, but don't under any circumstances make a decision that you will regret later. Take your time to grieve and don't worry God will help you if you ask him.

over 4 years ago

I am a widow of 2 years and truly understand how you feel. I joined a bereavement support group and have made many widow friends but the feelings of loss and lack of motivation continue. Most of our group state that the second year of bereavement is worse than the first year. We are numb for the first year and have so much to do with paperwork etc. It is a triumph just to get through the activities of daily living. Its like watching someone who used to be you living someone else's life. Reality sets in the second year. You know that this is what your life will be like going forward. You cannot get comfortable with your "new normal" because it isn't what you wanted. What you want is your old life and you can't have it back. Most of us in the widows group also say joy is missing from life and we are doing all the right things -volunteering, traveling, social activites etc.-but the old happiness and feelings of satisfaction are still absent. And in the second year you feel as if you should be making more progress, making more decisions about how to go forward such as moving, looking for a new job, financial things etc. And you still don't have a clue as to what you want if you can't have the past. I don't have the answers for you but you are not alone. I can tell you that time seems to help . Those who are 4-6 years out from the loss seem to be more comfortable with their lives. Although, as you can see by the posts here, the feelings of loss don't go away completely. It is a long and painful journey and we need to give ourselves plenty of pats on the back just for being where we are. Good luck to you and kudos for having come so far.

over 4 years ago

I feel your loss. My husband of 12 years died 17 years ago. I can guarantee you that it gets better. However, after 1 to 2 years for me it was worse. That is when the reality of what happened to you sets in and it just sucks. My husband died of cancer leaving me with a 3 year old son. I thank god for him every day. I find myself helping to care for my dad with alzheimers now. My mom is worn down and it is so hard. I pray that you find something to help you deal with the bad days. Keep talking to people and I recommend a support group. There are some really kind people out there and all we have to do is ask for help. Take care! Joan Huxhold

over 4 years ago

Your words touched my heart. My dad just lost his wife my mom, and they were married for 51 years. The last 6 or 7 years my dad was her sole caretaker. Reading your post gave me an understanding from another point of view so I want to thank you so much. I urge you to keep on writing because the more you do the more you can get those feelings out and also help others. It's normal to want to move, or not move, our head will take us on some pretty crazy trips when we lose someone we love. Noone can say or do the one thing that we want the most, and that is to have just one more day,hour, or minute with our loved one. All that really will help is time, and I know how much that stinks, but with God's help you my friend are going to be a newer, stronger man, it is coming we just don't know when? Pray for the strength and willingness to continue you life's journey. All my blessings a friend who cares.

over 4 years ago

Dear Sir, Although it is extremely difficult to live life without your wife. However, if one can understand the true meaning of life with a spiritual outlook things can be little comfortable. You will agree that every individual has a limited life span and during the journey of life one of the parter leaves earlier although rarest couples may leave the mortal world just one after the other. In my opinion you have already attained the age of 80 years and still are maintaining good health, which is distinctly be attributable to your possessed with wisdom of living life. I would advise you to desist from living with or nearer to your siblings and either shift to some tenament where old persons live and share the experiences of others persons when yuou will be able to compare your life with the life of others. Further,devote your time to the cause of ofphan children or handicapped where, I am sure you will forget the negative aspect of your life. Thanks. B.K.Khurana

over 4 years ago

Each persons situation is different and requires careful consideration. Many studies have shown that it is very important to remain engaged and social to fend off depression and loneliness. Moving is quite burdensome and brings on a great deal of anxiety (compounding the issue) if not managed appropriately. Ideally it would be great if your children can assist you; however, dependent upon the relationship, having children help may not be the best idea. If not, there are some great senior move managers who are trained to handle just this issue.

over 4 years ago

I am younger than you but have been widowed for 6 years and felt stuck for many. I admire you looking at how you are feeling and addressing it! I did not want to move by my daughters or mother because I felt they would "take care" of me and I knew I should take care of myself. Asking for help is huge but receiving it can be joyful as well. Take off and go to a place you may always wanted to explore. Maybe you rent something furnished for 6 months to get a flavor. Maybe you rent near your children and get involved with other senior care volunteer activities. I started dancing... Men are terribly needed on the dance floor. I started writing... To purge the sometimes frightening feelings I started taking care of myself....something I still struggle with putting at the top of the list If you come to Austin, you have a built in friend. Austin is my new found town. Look at what can support you right now . I have written several blogs on change and loss and moving forward through grief... Check out Be good to yourself as good as you were to your wife and great things will unfold!

over 4 years ago

My husband died 18 years ago; I still miss him & depending on my mood, thinking of him can still bring tears. However, it only took 3 years to work out of the black haze that I seemed to be moving around in just after his death. I coped by keeping busy: >I went back to school & earned another degree. >I started traveling internationally. >I made a consious effort to socialze with my single (for whatever reasons) friends & to meet more. >I tried out some volunteer activities I thought I'd like (some worked out; most didn't--but it is worth trying. My current effort at this is to volunteer at the Internation Equesterian Games in KY!) >After a few years, I started dating again. I was not trying to replace anything--just to be friendly & to share whatever I had to give with whomever wanted to share too. >I also spent more time with my family & childhood friends by traveling across 4 states to visit more often. I was thinking of moving too, but after awhile--as I started feeling better & find ways to fill my life up that was meanigful for me, I decided I'd be better off right where I was--in the home my husband & I built together. The terrible emptiness & sadness has been raplaced by mostly pleasant memories even though there is a certain wistfullness too..... > Mid-way of all this, I retired, as I've found so many things I WANT to do that I don't know when I ever found the time to work!, I think the key is being flexable; trying different things without being afraid to change course or move in a different direction when the opportunity presents itself. Also, try not to get stuck in things you don't want to do or don't like, just because you think you "ought" to--your reason for bending your will around another's is gone now & s/he would want you to to as happy as possible so your memories tend to the happier ones too. You are starting on a new phase of your life--good luck on your journey!

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