Can you help me cope with the practical, day-to-day aspects of my spouse's death? I'm already seeing a therapist, and close friends are helping me work through the grief. Where I really need some guidance is in the area of business details, daily responsibilities, house repairs, car maintenance, paying bills – that sort of thing. Decisions about little things of this nature are about to do me in. Do you have any helpful advice for me?
To begin with, you need a support system. Since you've told us that you're engaged in therapy and that several friends are walking with you through the grieving process, we're going to assume that you already have such a group in place. If that's the case, why not turn to them for the practical assistance you need? If there's someone in your life who's good at managing finances, ask him or her to give you some pointers on keeping your books and paying your bills. If you have a friend or family member who knows something about auto mechanics or plumbing or the ins and outs of business deals, get that person to come alongside you when you need help in one of these areas. You might also ask your therapist if he or she has access to practical resources of the kind you're seeking. If so, take advantage of his or her knowledge and expertise. It's as simple as asking a few questions and making your needs known.
As a caveat, we should add that the idea here is not necessarily to persuade other people to tackle these jobs for you. On the contrary, you'll be far better off if you can get them to teach, tutor, or mentor you to the point where you can handle the challenges of life on your own. Your goal should be to develop independent skills. This is important for a couple of reasons. In the first place, you don't want to wear out your support system. In the second place, at this stage in the grief process you desperately need the activity, the "busy-ness," and the mental engagement of learning how to do things for yourself. That in itself will take you a long way in the direction of emotional healing and wholeness.
If for some reason you simply aren't capable of carrying the load – if you're physically disabled, for instance, or otherwise unable to provide for your basic needs or handle your daily responsibilities – we recommend that you or a friend or family member get in touch with your county's Health and Human Services Department. If, after evaluation, you are determined to be an "at-risk adult," HHS can assign a case worker to come in and assist you with some of your practical concerns. You can also find a wealth of encouragement and practical advice at www.griefshare.org. Visit the GriefShare website for information about finding a group of people in your area who can guide you through the ups and downs of learning to live without your spouse.
In the meantime, don't neglect the important task of working through the emotional aspects of your loss. Keep going to counseling. Stay engaged with your family. Talk with friends as often as possible. Be honest about your feelings. Make a conscious effort to get your emotions out in the open in any way you can. If there's no one around to listen, try recording your thoughts in a journal. If possible, stay involved in a local church. Seek out the fellowship of other believers who are also struggling with the pain of losing a loved one. You'll be surprised what a difference it can make.
Below you'll find a list of some additional resources and referrals. We'd also like to invite you to call and speak with a member of our Counseling staff.
Widowed: What To Do When