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.
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.