How to Overcome Grief
For nearly 14 years, I have dedicated my life to the service of widowers worldwide, and during that time, I have learned much about what it takes to recover from male grief. From the widower’s mental and physical health to their financial health, ensuring their career is stable, and their relationships with their children, in-laws, friends, and family have each recovered if they suffered following their bride’s passing. Grieving men need to address each part of their life that may have fallen into disarray following the loss. Much like an airplane preparing to take off, all systems must be in a “go mode” before the pilot commits to going airborne. While my view is not a sure-fire way to regain JOY, it is one of the steps that may go a long way to recovery from grief.
I have witnessed many widowers stumble and fall following their failed attempts to regain normalcy in their life. The number one complaint I hear from those widowed is how lonely they have become. The home they shared with their bride falls silent. The scent of their wife’s perfume is absent from the pillow lying beside them. Yet a large percentage of widowers do little to remedy their situation. It is as though they become comfortable in their grief and don’t wish to lose it, for it is one of the remaining connections they have to their deceased bride. Men who grieve should take their time and only act when they are ready to do so. Eventually, most widowers will come around and realize JOY still awaits them. They think less frequently of the sad memories, such as regrets they may harbor, and slowly begin recalling those moments they cherish with greater regularity.
Grief has a place in our lives, and it shouldn’t be rushed, but are those widowers wishing to seek JOY ready to escape the jaws of their grief? What if the children still cry for their mother, or their adult children express concerns about their father dating too soon? What if the mortgage payments are in arrears and the lender is threatening foreclosure, a result of a reduction in household income after losing the wife’s salary or social security income? What if the relationship with your wife’s friends and family suffered due to any number of events during her illness or following her passing, or you finally realize how you have few friends you can lean upon and have no idea how to make new friends. Each of these situations – and there are many more – can serve as a constant reminder of the life a widower no longer enjoys, that of being a married man. Each prevents a widower from moving forward with his life and throws him back into the grief pool.
Learn to Unlearn
Men are fixers; it is part of every man’s DNA. When our wives would tell us that the light was out in a lamp, she was really telling us to change the lamp’s bulb… or fix it. As men, we understood this role – all part of being a husband – and we were more than happy to comply. But many men frequently fail to recognize how they are broken and require repairs. Just like a car with a flat tire that can’t be ridden, widowers who desire to move forward are best advised to – (as my brother used to say), “Take care of business first.” And that business is doing what you can to ensure the many areas of our lives are in good or optimal operating order.
Every widower is encouraged to become a student of grief and how it affects men. There are plenty of tools available to help in this process. Pick up a copy of my book The Widower’s Journey or another book specifically written for widowed males and read it. Develop a checklist of items needing your attention with target dates for the need to be filled, then prioritize your list.
Community & Faith
Join grief groups like GriefShare (usually available at Christian churches) or one sponsored by Hospice. Join Facebook’s private page exclusively for men – Widower’s Support Network – Members Only. There you will find instructions on how to form your own advisory board that can help with their sage advice, including your trusted advisors, family members, and others. See a doctor, even if you believe yourself to be healthy and take corrective measures where needed. Talk with your children, in-laws, family, and friends. Make time for them, seek their advice and counsel, and be candid with them. Remember, they lost someone too. Get your financial house in order. Make plans to reduce debt where needed and avoid going into additional debt or making significant financial decisions until everything facet of your life has stabilized.
Most important of all, if you are a man of faith, turn to your church, temple, synagogue, or mosque. Be sure your performance at work is at the level expected by those whom you report.
There is much to consider. You can do it, just as millions of other men have before you.
Herb Knoll is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network LLC, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker, and the author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey. Available at Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats. Herb hosts the Widowers Journey Podcast, available on all podcast hosting services. Herb is the founder of the (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network – Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men only, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support Network. You can contact him at herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.