When is it expected for a living spouse to be come social again?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Jhb71843 asked...

When can a surviving spouse expect to become social again?

Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

Grief is so unique that it would be unfair and impossible to suggest a one-size-fits-all answer to your question.

And many variables play into a living spouse’s readiness to interact socially. For example, if the living spouse is still working or has a regular stint as a volunteer, he or she may feel compelled to get back to those responsibilities sooner rather than later.

And there also appear to be some differences between introverted versus extraverted widows and widowers. The more introverted you are—that is, if you recharge your battery more by being alone than being with others—the more likely you will take longer to feel ready for social engagements. However, even the most extraverted people can become more introverted during the early stages of grief. This is normal. It takes a while to process all that you have been through in losing a spouse.

The important thing to watch for, however, is whether you are choosing to be alone as a form of isolation. Extensive isolation can actually worsen the grieving process. Eventually, it is helpful to share your grieving thoughts and feelings with others. It is also helpful to get outside of your own thoughts, re-engage with others, and even have some fun.

If you insist on a benchmark, you might note that many people feel up to more social activities six months after the death of a spouse. But that doesn’t mean you are weird if you’re ready at two months, or need as long as a year or more.

Community Answers

Joanie2 answered...

I lost my spouse almost five months ago.  I found it easier to cope at the very beginning as I was so busy attending to settling all his affairs, getting back to work, paperwork, phone calls, etc.  Everyone was "there for me."  Now almost everything is done, most people are busy with their own lives so I'm finding I am less social and feeling alone.  I am also dealing with disposing of all of his possessions, as well as with handling home repairs, and many other financial decisions in a scary economy.  I find this has been my hardest time.  I therapist did me a lot of good, encouraging me to cry a lot to get it out of my system or it would hit me later on.  It is important to turn your negative thoughts around before they overwhelm you.  You must keep busy, think positively, read good books on grief management, and talk to others, either in a grief counseling session, support group, or those who have been through it.  And, by all means, get out of the house!  Hope this helps.

Ltonioli answered...

Like The question answered By JOANIE2, I also am left with lots of stuff, bills due, taxes due,house repairs and maintence, and so on...My work took me out of town 2 weeks after my husbands death, I had a choice of saying no, but I needed the money, and I think it may have been the best thing for me, I travel for a living and my husband used to join me or catch up with me on my travels, so that brought back fond memories, and when alone I would have my cries, it is 8 months and I still cry and miss him, he was 62 and I am 56, very young! I have family but they have family and most of the friends we had are 1000 miles away, I do see them, beacuse of my work, but I still find more when I am home that I am very lonely..So I say go and do, where ever what ever...Our lives need to go on!

Kathy s answered...

It IS true that we're very consumed by the settling of affairs at first, but that didn't last long for me. Things went very smoothly. I no longer work because I worked for a company that didn't understand that you don't just immediately "get back up to speed" after losing a spouse and a mother all in one month. Since I was 62, I retired and just spent time doing things that needed to be done around the house and stayed in touch with friends. But some of those friends eventually fade away, so I put more effort into my hobbies (photography, reading and kayaking). I've always been fine alone and know when I need to seek others. After about a year someone said he wished I'd start dating. I said, "Why would I want to do that?!?!?!" But, after thinking about it, I did. He's wise enough to give me my space. I know myself well enough to know that I have absolutely no desire to remarry or live with anyone. I miss my husband every single day, but there's nothing I can do about it, so I'm enjoying the freedom to just be me, and I'm about as happy and content as I've been in a long time. It's a very liberating feeling. To others who are having a difficult time with all of it . . . one day at a time. Just take time to really get to know yourself, and the rest will follow.