Sunday Book Review – Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

The Sunday Book Review highlights Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, who is a noted author, educator, and grief counselor. This book is a great companion guide for those of us who’ve loved and lost someone. It offers 100 practical ideas to help cope with grief.


Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies (Healing Your Grieving Heart series) by [Alan Wolfelt]

Available on Amazon



Helping widows and widowers learn how to cope with the grief of losing their helpmate, their lover, and perhaps their financial provider, this guide shows them how to find continued meaning in life when doing so seems difficult. Bereaved spouses will find advice on when and how to dispose of their mate’s belongings, dealing with their children, and redefining their role with friends and family. Suggestions are provided for elderly mourners, young widows and widowers, unmarried lovers, and same-sex partners. The information and comfort offered apply to individuals whose spouse died recently or long ago.


My 5 Star Review:

Comfort for the grieving spouse’s heart told in bite-sized, often one page chapters. Easy to digest as a complete read through, or as a night table book where you could keep it handy to open a page for a bit of inspiration.

The book offers short and comforting words and suggestions and short to-the- point topics and advice to live by. An easy read that had my head nodding in acknowledgement to much of it. This book offers good tools to help wade through the grief journey.

Dr. Wolfelt offers us 100 Practical Ideas in one page chunks as he shares a common issue mourners face with uplifting advice on how to deal with those moments. I will share quotes I felt poignant, and I’ll add my own thoughts from my own experience in response:

“The death of a spouse tears through every layer of your existence.” – Fact.

“You will grow to learn that you can mourn and live at the same time.”–  I’m beginning to learn this.

“The loss of a partner is among life’s most wrenching and challenging experiences.” – 1000000%

The doctor tells us “The journey of grief is a long and difficult one. It is also a journey for which there is no preparation.” – Fact!

We’ll learn that feelings of shock, numbness, and disbelief are nature’s way of protecting us from the full reality of the death of a loved one. Yes! Thank God for the numbness and denial! We’re advised to reach out to someone when we need to share our pain. Good advice for sure, but for some like myself, I don’t like to reach out and burden others. I wish some would pick up a phone and check up on me – if nothing other than common courtesy.

Reminders about who we are now after we are left as half from one. The arduous and painful work will begin when we assume our own new single identity.

Here’s a bigee for me: “Widows often tell me how surprised and hurt they feel when friends fall away after the death of a spouse. I found out who my friends really are,” they say. – This is my number one glaring headlight into my new life – the very, very few who are now in my life. Death surely tells a whole story.

“Caring for someone who is sick is physically as well as emotionally draining.” – Understatement! There is no pain like watching your beloved die before you daily.

I’m pretty sure I’m here: “You may not know what to do with yourself now that your days are no longer consumed by caring for your spouse.” – Yes, not only our world has been shaken, stirred and turned upside down, but now we’re also out of routine, another sense of loss – that we are no longer needed.

“Many people have lost touch with the gift of family. Your friends may come and go, but family, as they say, is forever.” – I’m sorry, but this part actually made me laugh. Let me rephrase that: Your family may come and go, but friends are forever. I’m a living testament to this.

“If you harbor bad feelings about your partner’s medical care, find a way to express those feelings.” – Oh I’ve expressed my feelings loud and clear. Covid killed my husband and he didn’t even have it. He couldn’t be assessed in hospital during Covid, so like the many more who died because of Covid, without having Covid will be numbers we will be receiving in time. My husband was a victim of not being able to get assessed early enough in hospital. That is Fact.

“Being without someone to hug and hold is often a big part of their grief. You may have kissed and hugged your spouse every day. You probably slept side by side. Losing this kind of physical intimacy can feel devastating.” – No kidding! The good doctor hit the motherlode here. We hugged and kissed many times a day. Of course we slept not always side by side, but spooned and tucking my always cold feet under his legs. There is no replacement. It’s loss upon loss us grievers will continue to endure.

“It’s not unusual for mourners to save clothing, jewelry, books, locks of hair, and other personal items. You may even want to wear your husband’s old sweatshirt or sleep with your wife’s robe.” -Some of the small comforts in my own grief. I gave away most of hubby’s things and kept what was most sacred to me: Special photos, his gold chain, now worn with his wedding ring hanging from it. His slippers by the bed. His favorite sweatshirts. And his love that is always around.

“Should you still wear a wedding ring when you’re a widow, or shouldn’t you?” – Naturally, there is no one answer. But if you’re asking me, I will be wearing my wedding ring til the day I die – no matter what may come.

“Griefbursts” – This is a perfect word for the unprepared for moments where merely a kind word, hug or song can set off the waterworks.

Throughout this book, the good doctor shares some good advice on things to do to get back into community, suggests when it may be time to talk to a counselor, join a support group, among many other suggestions.

Another quote I found resonated big-time with me was: “You may lack the energy as well as the desire to participate in activities you used to find pleasurable. The fancy term for this is ‘anhedonia,’ which is the lack of ability to experience pleasure in things you previously found pleasurable.” – I’m so there. I don’t like to be out long, and like to dash right back home when out for a time. What I need is a holiday away from my environment.

“If you choose to marry, know that you will never get over your grief for the spouse who died. You will always love your previous spouse and, even years and decades later, you will always feel some grief over his or her death. This is normal and necessary.” – I absolutely couldn’t agree more. Real love never goes away. Why would I even consider remarrying? My husband filled my heart and soul. That doesn’t go away. Marrying anyone else could only make them second best, and who would want to be that?

If you are grieving, read this book.





30 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

  1. I’m glad there are books such as Dr. Wolfelt’s to help you and others going through this realize their feelings are completely normal. Regarding friends dropping away or pulling back—I’m guessing for some they simply don’t know how to react. A lot of this unchartered territory and lots of people (sad but true) don’t know what to say or do so they pull back. I think the primary thing would be to be a good listener.


    1. You are correct Pete – a good listener. And true, many get stuck searching for the right words. But good friends seem to always know the right thing to say and do. Some others who aren’t helpful are really being their usual selves. As Maya Angelou says: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” 🙂


  2. I, Me and Mine are the hardest words. I have no need to move, I like our home, but I feel guilty calling it mine. Our lives are very different and my familyy have been great, my youngest grandson looks just like one of the very few pictures I have of my husband as a little boy. Friends have been excellent coming round and just being normal. Covid helped a lot because I didn’t want life to return to normal. If friends suggest taking me out to dinner now everything Is normal I panic. I am not ready to be the gooseberry. Going out to dinner with friends was what we did as a couple. Yes I would not dream of taking my wedding ring off and I would like a big badge, Unwilling Widow. Not deserted, not escaped from a bad relationship! I will carry on coping fine like my mother did and so as not to cause my children any more stress than they had last year.


    1. Janet, I hear exactly where you are coming from. “Unwilling Widow”, is the perfect description. And I completely get the ‘friends for dinner things’. Right now the only thing towing me along is girl friendship and our writing world. You are blessed to have family ❤


  3. I know that they say that each person’s grief is different but do lay out the various stages of grief, but this guide does sound as though it offers some practical strategies. Thanks for sharing with us Debby and the book has clearly resonated with you..♥♥


  4. Thanks Debby for sharing this resource. I will be passing this along to a few friends of mine who have lost their spouses this past year. I liked how it specifically deals with spousal loss and grief. Each grief is unique and deserves to be validated as such.
    Hugs to you my friend,
    Love Lisa xoxo


    1. Thanks so much Lisa, for your comment and for offering to share my review around to those who should find this book both validating and comforting. ❤ xx


  5. wow, such a powerful review because you were able to add your own experiences as examples of the advice offered in the book. I am glad you found the book so helpful. I hope by sharing your thoughts it helps you in your grieving. Have a wonderful day, Debby!


  6. What a review, Debby. You give credence to the advice and wisdom of the book. It seems completely on target and validating. I also like that they 100 practical ideas are presented in small chunks. That’s often the natural way (or only way) that the pain of grief can be tolerated. Thanks for sharing your journey. I hope it brings some comfort to share your experiences as well as to know that you’re helping others. Hugs.


    1. Thanks so much Diana. I do hope my reviews on these types of books do help others. And yes, the presentation is perfect for people like me who can only digest so much at a time. ❤


  7. As a survivor of ovarian cancer, I volunteer and advocate for women with gynecologic cancer. Therefore, I am too often a witness to the death of loved ones. This sounds like a book that will help me and others. Thank you for sharing about it, Debby.


  8. Another one to add to the collection for future use! Seems like a very wise and helpful thing to put this into one-page tips that can be accessed as needed or the choice of a whole bunch all at once!


  9. Debby, you really added to this book by sharing your own personal experiences and reactions to some of the 100 tidbits covered here. Thanks for making this book even more valuable than it is.

    I’m so sorry your husband’s and your family are lacking. They should be there for you! Maybe they are still battling with their own grief over him? I do have to somewhat agree with Pete as well. Some people just don’t know how to react or what to do regarding reaching out. They might feel uncomfortable facing you in person or they might worry about upsetting you when they show their condolences or talk about your husband.

    I remember being in Belgium recently and thinking that I was “glad” it had been eight months already since my dear aunt passed away, before I hugged and hung out with her daughters. We could talk more easily about her, since some time had passed.

    This is such a difficult time on many levels. I’m happy to learn that you do have good friends and people who care! ❤


    1. Liesbet, thanks again for sharing in the conversation. You are so right, so many people don’t know how to be around a broken hearted person. But I will tell you one thing, the people who truly care about us, know how to be around us. Those close to us know what we need. We need conversation. We need to talk about our lost person. It’s extra special to talk to people who knew him well so they can appreciate more. They don’t need to say all the fluff – ‘it will get easier,’ ‘time will heal’ BS. Like when I tell Bri a story about George, I’ll cry when I’m telling it, and then she can make me laugh about a good memory about us 3 together. Generally speaking, people who actually give a shit pick up a phone and call to see how I’m doing. And I am so grateful for my wonderful far away friends who message me, email me to check up and say hi, send cards. Really, it is those lovely gestures that help lift my spirits. So thank you friend. And back to your aunt, I know exactly what you mean about visiting after some time has passed as opposed to walking right into the scene. Hugs my friend ❤


  10. My lovely unicorn buddy, this is a heartfelt review and it is great this book resonated with you. I am not surprised some have fallen away as it’s such a sharp acidic time for you and yes, Maya’s quote is one of my favourites. Wrapping you in oodles of love, my lovely, always. ❤ Xxx ❤ ❤


  11. I remember my mother telling me how a few friends fell away when she became a widow at the age of 56. She also told me how she had been approached by a few married men and how she was looked on with suspicion by some women in the early years of widowhood. She never remarried. x


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