What should I expect to go through in my grief?

Bereavement specialists used to refer to the so-called five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It seemed an easy way to define some fairly common reactions to the death of a loved one. Latest research has shown that grief is not easily defined or categorized, and trying to do so may cause more harm than good. Each person is unique. There is no order to grieving. There are no time limits. There are no stages.

Rather, there are reactions, and those reactions range from the physical to the emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and behavioral. Grief is more of a roller coaster than a step-by-step process, and reactions come and go in seemingly random order. Grieving is a very human, very natural process. You may try to deny it, run from it, hide from it, but it is part of us. It may help to see grief as a blessing, however difficult to bear, because it honors the person or people we love.

Why am I angry?

Anger is a common reaction, and it can drive people away when we need them the most. You’re angry at your lost love, you’re angry at the Powers That Be, you’re even angry at yourself – for not doing more to save a life. In the end, though, the process of grieving helps you let go of anger and allows you to be open and loving to those you do love, and maybe even to someone you’ll love in your future.

Is there really such a thing as “closure?”

We used to think that grief was time-bound. It is not. We live with loss. Intensity may lessen over time but the grief remains. You might experience a profound, unexpected reaction to the death of your spouse years later, perhaps triggered by an emotional event of one kind or another – such as the marriage of your son or daughter, an accident barely avoided, the birth of a grandchild, or something as simple as a memory triggered by an aroma.

How do I know the difference between grief and depression?

Grief and depression are different. Grieving is not unhealthy. But if you are exhibiting manifestations of depression during the grieving process, it might be wise to seek the opinion of a trusted friend, a counselor or a mental health professional. If your grief becomes disabling, if your anxiety becomes overwhelming and paralyzing, and certainly if your behavior becomes destructive to yourself or others, then seek professional help.

As Thomas Golden writes in Swallowed by a Snake: “Grief is like manure: if you spread it out, it fertilizes; if you leave it in a big pile, it smells like hell.”

The message here is to look for support. Look for fellowship and companionship. Share your feelings, spread them out in a safe environment, whether in therapy or a men’s support group. It helps.

Is participation in a men’s support group necessary?

That depends. Many men who have participated in groups report that they have undergone considerable transformation. Granted, they may have done that even without the support of a group experience. The support and communication of fellow group members may expedite a renewed awareness of the simple fact that life does go on. Our lives continue. Our children’s lives continue. Yes, there’s a hole in your soul, a missing of someone that no one or no thing can replace. But life itself is still a beautiful thing, and very much worth living to its fullest.

By interacting in an organization of men who counsel other men, men who have gone through it often share their experiences, and in the sharing they pass along great wisdom. While each individual’s needs and motivations are unique, this bond of loss creates a connection that goes beyond the weekly circle. Often groups evolve and become a network of friends who share more than their grief – they share their joy.

As grieving men reach this understanding and appreciation, they begin to move on. Grief counseling, as found in men’s group sessions, may no longer be necessary.

How can I find a men’s support group in my area?

You can check the database on the Support Groups page of our website to see if we have identified a group in your area. If you don’t find one that’s conveniently hear you, check with the local hospice, hospital, VNA or similar organizations to see if they offer men’s support groups. If word of mouth does not work, a little Internet surfing may turn up something. If you can’t find help or support you may contact us by email to: info@nationalwidowers.org
or by telephone at
1-800-309-3658.

After my wife died, my friends and neighbors have been bringing meals to my house. I know this will soon stop and I am dreading the day. What do I do then?

Many widowers are strangers to the kitchen. The good news is that there are many solutions to this problem. Here are just a few of them for the main meal of the day:

  • Eat out with friends. The company of a good friend even makes the food taste better!
  • If friends are not available, or you just feel like being alone, but feel awkward sitting alone, sit at a counter if there is one. Or sidle up to the bar and order from the bar menu. You may even meet someone nice to chat with. Sometimes the company of a stranger is enjoyable – with no strings attached.
  • Use a food service to deliver pre-cooked frozen meals, which you can pop in the microwave.
  • Some local supermarket prepare the food for you., some at no extra cost. As well, many have prepared dishes you can buy at the deli counter.
  • Don’t forget your charcoal grilling skills; it wasn’t your wife who did the outdoor cooking. The manly foods – steaks, burgers, hot dogs, chicken – these will put you back in touch with yourself.
  • Do it yourself: Remember, if you can read a recipe, you can cook. You don’t have to be Chef Boyardi to make decent pasta with tomato sauce (you can cheat and buy bottled marinara).

How do I deal with household matters I was never involved with before?

You may not have ever realized the complexity of running a household – until you have to do it yourself. The lazy and most efficient way is to hire someone to clean and shop for you on a weekly basis, or more if you like. On the other hand, if money is a problem, or you prefer to do it yourself, keep a list of needs, write them down, and take the list to the local markets. When in doubt, ask a woman for guidance, or another widower who has figured it out already.

What can I do about coming home to find an empty house?

Leave the lights and the radio on while you’re gone. It might cost a little in electricity but it will be worth it rather than enter a dark and silent home. A couple of simple things might help: making sure there are lights on when you came in at night and having familiar music playing. Keep a photo and other belongings of your wife in a place of honor. When you really miss her, take a break and turn the sadness and loneliness into a memorial to her.

I’m interested in finding new companionship. Is that ok? How can I communicate this desire to my children?

Clarify that you are ready and why you are interested in dating. At the same, ask yourself what you are seeking? You may be longing for companionship so you feel you must date but dating isn’t the only form of companionship. Seek a social life first, before a sex life. Don’t just use another person, but be ready for the give and take of a relationship. Don’t seek a replacement for your spouse. Consider what this new relationship would mean to your family? Talk to your children or other close family members. Make sure they are ready. Is the resistance by family members worth the cost? Evaluate the consequences of the choice you make. Introduce the new person to your family slowly. Recognize that your family members have their own issues; they too have lost someone very close to them. Be patient and understanding with them.

I have no desire to meet someone new. I feel like there’s no one who could replace my late wife. Is there something wrong with me?

Definitely not. You may have no interest in romance, or even simple female companionship for some time and that too is fine. Every man moves at his own pace. Low sexual energy might also be part of the grieving period. That too is understandable.

How can I find a men’s support group in my area?

You can check the database on the Support Groups page of our website to see if we have identified a group in your area here. If you don’t find one that’s conveniently hear you, check with the local hospice, hospital, VNA or similar organizations to see if they offer men’s support groups. If word of mouth does not work, a little Internet surfing may turn up something. If you can’t find help or support, you may contact us here or by telephone at 1-800-309-3658.