17 Big Mistakes People Make After Losing a Spouse

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By Darryl Henderson

Going through the loss of a spouse is a difficult time, so many mistakes can be made when you’re distracted by grief. These mistakes can relate to emotions, life, or financial decisions, so to advise you, we’ve listed the 17 biggest mistakes people make after losing their spouse.

Suppressing Grief and Emotions

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It’s okay to grieve, but one of the biggest mistakes people make can be to keep it all inside and act like they’re fine. Failing to acknowledge your grief means that you aren’t taking the steps to overcome it, and suppressing these emotions will never lead to a path of healing.

Making Impulsive Life Decisions

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It’s understandable why people make impulsive life decisions after losing a spouse; it’s because their whole world has been turned upside down! Unfortunately, rushing huge life decisions—such as relocating or entering a new relationship—can mean they’re only avoiding self-reflection, which is a huge mistake. 

Isolating From Support Systems

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Friends, family, and professional support systems are there to help during grief, yet many people make the mistake of shutting themselves away. Cleveland Clinic talks about how it’s okay to have alone time but not to isolate yourself–that’s just self-destructive.

Neglecting Self-Care and Wellbeing

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Taking care of yourself after losing a spouse is one of the most important things you can do, but many people make the mistake of neglecting their physical health. This could be avoiding basic hygiene and healthy eating, or it could even be something worse, such as substance abuse.

Poor Financial Planning

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One of the last things someone wants to deal with during a period of grief is financial planning, but avoiding it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you can’t arrange finances yourself, it’s key to find professional services to help; otherwise, you might fall into debt.

Never Talking About the Loved One At All

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Suppressing memories, avoiding anniversaries, and refusing conversations altogether can be common mistakes after losing a spouse. Although it may seem like a good coping mechanism to avoid speaking of them, it can lead to further grief and pain because you’re failing to reminisce on the good times and treasure their memory.

Neglecting Legal Matters

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The death of a spouse means dealing with wills, estates, and beneficiaries, and avoiding any of this can be a big mistake. Overlooking legal matters like this can have long-term consequences for finances, properties, and anything being passed down, making your grieving even more challenging.

Rushing into a New Relationship

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Many people make the mistake of avoiding their grief by immediately getting into a new relationship in order to avoid being alone. They use new lovers as a distraction, which only causes problems down the road, but instead, Psych Central highlights the importance of going slowly after loss.

Putting Children’s Needs Aside

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If you and your late spouse had children, another common mistake can be to neglect their emotional needs while dealing with grief. Even worse can be when you try to shield them from the reality of the loss – even if you think you’re protecting them – because it can leave them confused.

Overburdening Yourself As a Distraction

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It’s easy to think that the busier you are, the less you’re thinking about the pain of grief, but piling on responsibilities and added stress is only going to make everything worse. Not only does it mean you’re not facing up to the grief, but it also runs the risk of burnout.

Avoiding Healthy Coping Mechanisms

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It can be common to feel guilty if you experience any joy through activities or coping strategies when grieving the loss of a spouse. Many people turn to less-than-healthy coping mechanisms instead, but this is a big mistake. You should absolutely take advantage of any hobbies that bring you comfort.

Depending On Loved Ones Instead of Professionals

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Loved ones are there to support and help when you grieve, but it can be a mistake to depend on them for therapy and emotional needs. Finding a licensed therapist instead of depending on loved ones is key, with the Mayo Clinic advising that a therapist with a “specialized focus may best meet your needs.”

Neglecting To Communicate Your Needs

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Another big mistake people make after losing a spouse is failing to communicate what they actually need help with. Your loved ones will know you are struggling, but if you fail to communicate the specific ways you need help, nobody around you knows how to support you.

Blaming Yourself for the Loss

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Being the surviving spouse can often mean you blame yourself for the death or simply feel guilt that you’re still here. It can be very easy to punish yourself as a way of dealing with grief. In order to move on, you instead need to acknowledge that the loss was out of your control.

Disregarding the Impact on Mental Health

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, around 5-10% of people suffering from a loss will also experience depression. A common mistake for people grieving can be to dismiss any signs of this because depression is a serious condition and should be addressed by a professional.

Resisting Change or Growth

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It’s a difficult thing to accept, but life without a spouse needs to continue, and this means planning for change and growth. Refusing to accept that only means that you’re not going to be able to live your life without them, and this means you can miss out on new opportunities.

Neglecting to Create New Rituals and Traditions

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Finally, failing to establish new rituals of remembrance can be a big mistake when grieving a spouse. It’s important to find a way to celebrate their memory and have a day, location, or ritual that will help you heal from the loss while also commemorating them. It’s what they would have wanted.

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