Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

Learning that you are not alone is one of the most comforting ways to start over as a widow in your 60s. Here are several tips and resources for coping with your husband’s death. These ideas for starting over won’t solve all your problems, but they may bring you a measure of comfort and peace.

Starting Over in Your 60s After Your Husband DiesIn I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One, Brook Noel and Pamela Blair offer hope and comfort, support and solace for widows who are starting over after a husband dies. These writers know how you feel; they are women who have experienced sudden loss and unexpected grief. This book is like a rock-steady anchor that will help you weather the storm of pain and begin to rebuild your life. I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye is a book that will uplift, comfort, and console you as you face the idea of starting over as a widow – no matter how old you are.

After you read my tips below on how to start over after your husband dies, look at the comments section and see what other widows write about their own grieving process. You may find yourself comforted and blessed. You might also read find my other articles helpful, such as How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief. Bookmark this page so you can return to it later.

Reading books can help you cope after your husband dies, which is why I list several books on the grieving process in this article. You might also find grief support groups to be helpful as well – especially if you live alone or spend a great deal of time on your own. A support group can offer in-person comfort and connection through the grieving process, and you may meet other women who know exactly how it feels to start over as a widow. I facilitated a variety of support groups through my practicum (I have a Master of Social Work), and I’m amazed and humbled by the power of support groups to help women grieve, cope, and heal. If you haven’t visited a support group for widows, I encourage you to research grief support groups in your area.

One of the most important tips for starting over in your 60s (or at any age) is to take it one moment at a time. And, know that it is too late to start over. Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose your spark. It’s dimmed, but it’s flickering and your light isn’t out yet.

“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy,” says Jane Fonda. Don’t lose hope, faith, or joy. There is a wellspring of joy hidden in you…and it will bubble up again! Here are a few tips for starting over and rebuilding your life after the death of your husband.

How to Start Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

Remember that every widow processes grief differently. Some women retreat, others reach out. Some people change everything about their lives – they move, go back to school, travel, or quit their jobs. Other women want everything to stay exactly the same.

When you’re starting over in your 60s, allow yourself to play with the idea that a new season of your life is beginning – and it may not be as lonely or difficult as you think. As you go through the grieving process, give yourself time and space to think about how you’re going to spend the next half of your life.

Learn what to expect emotionally when you’re grieving as a widow

Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

“You may feel a profound loss of security and confidence in the world [after your husband dies],” writes Dr Therese Rando in Coping With Sudden Death.

“After all, you have been taught a dramatic lesson: Loved ones can be snatched away without warning. You may always await another loss to befall. Research has shown that widows whose husbands died suddenly are slower to move toward remarriage, since they are unwilling to risk future unanticipated loss again for themselves and their children. Avoidance and anxiety eventually can lead to states of anxious withdrawal since the world has become such a frightening, unpredictable place.”

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Are you coping with the “typical” response to grief? While there is no one way to grieve as a widow, many women respond in similar ways. Starting over in the second half of your life is more stressful and difficult for many women. This can lead to anxiety and avoidance, which may prolong the healing process.

Prepare for the painful hurdle of holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays

If the holidays are approaching – or an anniversary or birthday – your grief may intensify. Grief is heightened over holiday seasons and celebrations because of the memories and the family traditions. Your memories of the past magnify your loss, and make your husband’s death all the more real and painful. He will never again be part of the celebrations and traditions.

How is your relationship with God? Faith is a key factor in the grief process, especially when you’re starting over in your 60s. You’re young to be a widow, and your loss may affect your beliefs, faith, and relationship with God. I hope you’ll experience the very presence of God, upholding you, comforting you, and giving you strength for each new day.

If your life has changed because you’re starting over after your husband’s, then certainly your holidays will change. There is no avoiding the holidays, but you can find ways to cope with both the grief that change brings and the stress of the holidays, anniversaries, or birthday celebrations. Recognize that holidays and special occasions will be different from now on. Don’t compare this new stage of life with the nostalgia of past holidays and events.

Participate in activities and be with people who make life worthwhile

After your husband dies, you may feel that nothing matters and nothing makes life worthwhile. Death has a funny way of making daily life feel inconsequential and meaningless.

But, if you want to start over and be a happy, fulfilled woman in your 60s, you need to figure what will make the rest of your life the best of your life.

“I had to ask myself what makes life meaningful after the death of my little boy and the impending demise of my daughter,” says writer and editor Lori Chidori Philips. “Learning, exploring my inner and outer world has been very helpful. Life is a grand and glorious experience, and I liken my life to strolling through a sunny meadow, gathering wildflowers of experiences to take back with me. Knowing that the good, the bad and the ugly all serve a purpose in expanding my awareness makes life meaningful to me, no matter what happens.”

It all serves a purpose – even the death of your husband, after years of marriage. You may not be able to see this now because you were part of a couple for so long, and now he’s gone. The very idea of starting over when you’re 60 years old and have depended on him for so much may be exhausting.

Connect with other women in their 60s who are starting over

I wrote this article because a reader left this comment on Help for Widows and Widowers – A Story of Loss, Survival, and Peace:

After Your Husband Dies Starting Over in Your 60s

How to Start Over as a Widow in Your 60s

“Since my husband died, I feel very incomplete. I was with him for 30 years and we did everything together. I feel like I lost my identity. It’s not like I haven’t tried to feel good, but it just doesn’t feel right. starting over again in my 60s. I never thought this would happen to me. I feel so alone. My husband did everything for me and now I have the responsibility of running it all. It seems impossible. I miss him a lot.”

One of the best ways to start over when your husband dies – whether you’re 68 or 28 – is to connect with women who are going through the same thing. Don’t tackle life alone. Get support from widows who understand what you’re going through, who are starting their lives over too.

After your husband dies, you may forget that you’re not the only one grieving. Sometimes it’s healthier to focus on your own mourning and healing, and other times it’s better to reach out and help your loved ones through their grief. What’s best for you? It depends on your personality, lifestyle, and family members.

Read novels about grieving and starting over after a spouse dies

how to start over as a widowIn Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf tell the story of a widow and widower who knew of each other – but they didn’t know each other well.

Addie and Louis embark on an unlikely friendship, an antidote to the loneliness they most exquisitely felt at night. As this friendship deepens, it is tested by the town’s busybodies and meddling family members.

Our Souls at Night was inspired, in part, by Haruf’s own marriage and the intimate, late-night conversations he and his wife relished, just like Addie and Louis. And just like Addie and Louis, Haruf proves that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself, take risks, find love, and write a great novel.

Here’s what one reader – Fran Smith – says about this book:

“This book is an intimate look at how two aging people address loneliness after a spouse’s death. As a 77 year old woman, I have many friends who have gone through that, and the most difficult issue is needing someone to spend time with. This book is a lovely depiction of how they try to deal with their situation.”

Resources for Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

starting over 60s widow husband died Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman is an active daily way to process your grief and healing after our husband dies. Grieving is an active process that takes time and energy; this book will walk you through the worst of it.

“I have given this book to many people now as it was the only comfort I seemed to find after my husband passed away very suddenly,” says a reader. “I would read the passage in the morning, go to work and then read it again before bed. Then I would write my feelings directly on the page. It is so good to have a record of my grief as well as having some guidance to deal with it in the best way possible. I thought I was more or less healed from the worst of the grief after year one passed, but year three seemed to turn out to be just as hard. I wrote in a difference color on the page so I would know which year was which.”

Reach out. Get help starting over. Don’t try to face this alone.

Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband DiesOne of my favorite practical guidebooks for starting over in life is This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down. Four women wrote this book – they’ve dealt with starting over, husbands dying, businesses failing, children leaving, and illness threatening. They figured out how to start over and create new lives when their old ones died.

I welcome your thoughts on  being 60 and starting over after your husband dies. Please comment below, or at least take time to read through what other widows are saying about their husbands’ deaths. You may find comfort and joy, support and healing. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but sharing your story can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, which will help you heal.

If you see yourself in those comments, remember that you don’t have to start over alone! Most things are worse when you’re alone, especially if you’re in your 60s and have lost a husband you loved and lived with for decades.

“When one person is missing, the whole world seems empty.”  ― Pat Schweibert.

Articles on Starting Over

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin…real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ~ Alfred D’Souza.

Life is filled with obstacles and pain, but it doesn’t have to be full of suffering. May you find healthy ways to grieve the loss of your husband, start over as a widow, and even embrace the next season of your life.



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281 thoughts on “Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies

  • Nan

    I wanted to give an update on my situation. It’s almost two years since my husband died (May 2, 2016). The first year was incredibly hard. Apart from the death of my husband, I went through a number of awful experiences including a major auto accident in which I sustained the fractures of hip/pelvis/ribs. Then I went through a hurricane and trying to keep water from coming into my house. I had a plague of rats in my yard and on my lanai (an unintended result of my bird feeding!). My dog died.I bought a house, sold a house, moved to another state, and then my two closest friends abandoned me.
    I have no living siblings or parents and my adult children are both addicts, so there is/was no family support. My attempts to stay grounded and move forward included one on one counseling and two trips to Europe. The trips were my attempt to prove to myself that I can “do this” thing of living by myself without everything I held nearest and dearest to me, as well as an opportunity to face some fears. They were partial successes.
    The first trip was the easier of the two. I went to London, and the fact that there was no language barrier was very important. I forced myself daily to get out of the hotel, even if just to stroll around and look at the sights. My hotel was situated next to a train station, and I had envisioned taking a couple of short day trips to areas I had visited before and wished to see more in depth. I never even went to the ticket window. I kept asking myself what was I afraid of but could not formulate an answer. Instead, I congratulated myself on the singular accomplishment of showing up to a Mystery Dinner event where I was the only singleton. They squeezed me in to a table for 8 and at first it felt awkward, but my table mates soon made me feel more welcome.
    I also took an escorted bus day trip which only produced moderate anxiety when walking to the train station, fearful I was going the wrong way or going to miss the bus because of some error. Still, seeing a bunch of sites with no one to talk to about them was sort of depressing.
    The second trip was really difficult. I went to my favorite city – Paris. I speak very little French. Just the phrases you need to be polite. As with the trip to London, I went alone; no tour group, no friends. I had arranged for a car to pick me up at the airport so that was helpful and they already knew where I was going so I didn’t have to worry about that. Once I arrived at the hotel I went for a brief walk around the immediate area but didn’t stay out long. I felt very anxious and fearful. There was no obvious reason for this. I was in a very nice area.
    Over the next few days things went from not so good to worse. I became physically ill for about 36 hrs and couldn’t leave the room, then when I did go out again I had my wallet stolen, despite the fact that I am a seasoned traveler and had taken numerous precautions.
    As with my trip to London, I did not accomplish a number of goals I had set for myself. I felt sad, lonely, and defeated.
    That was last October (2017). I still see a therapist from time to time and that’s helpful, but the majority of the time I feel frozen in time. I don’t know who I am without my husband. I don’t know where I am headed, and I don’t have the enthusiasm to do much beyond binge watching Netflix series. I would like to travel. I feel ashamed because I have the means and the time but I am lacking the nerve to do it after my previous trips. I don’t want to spend money to sit in a hotel room overseas feeling lonely and sad. I can do that for free here. I’ve thought of trying a tour where I wouldn’t be totally alone, but am concerned it would be filled with couples which would be sad for me to face every day. I still have difficulty being around people who are happy. And although I have much to be grateful for, I feel stuck. I was looking at photos today of this time two years ago and thinking about what was going on and that we didn’t know my husband was only a few days away from death. I’m 70 years old. I’d like to spend whatever time I have left enjoying life. I just find myself lacking motivation.


      Hi..Sorry things have been so hard for you…if you are able to accommodate one..get a circumstances are similar to yours bar your health..accident..I walk my girls every day..its a wonderful way to lift your sadness..their love is unconditional..there are many dogs in dogs homes feeling lonely and sad who would love to find a new home and love..hope this suggestion helps…..

  • Linda

    Ladies, all of us feel the same way. I too, am a widow of three years and two months. I was married for 42 years. We moved from our home state 15 years ago, and started a life in a warmer climate to be able to enjoy the weather because we knew he would not have a longer life to enjoy retirement. He had been ill often since the age of 40 yrs., and passed away the age of 64 yrs. Due to ill health that effects finances for all those years, there is no retirement to look forward to. I work full time; which is a blessing, however, I need to for as long as I have my health. My life long friends are 1,500 miles from where I live, all family deceased with the exception of our only child, who lives 4 1/2 hours away with a family of her own. I am the only widow I know around me! I know that must be hard to believe. On the exterior, I look well put together, do my job well, but inside is an entirely different story. I am 64 years of age, and have “put myself out there” to meet others, invited women to lunch, dinner, etc., but have not really connected with someone that I can call a friend to share the simple pleasures that life holds . I feel so isolated. God is the center of my life, and He holds me up each and every moment. I can feel it. I pray that I recognize what my purpose is in this life moving forward because I know He has a plan. We had a wonderful loving marriage, and miss him each day, but so very glad that he is through his physical pain and mental anguish of all the physical trials he endured. All of us make progress each day, and many of us feel that we do not, but we do. I truly wonder if I will ever feel a whole person again in years that are left for me. None of us are alone in our feelings, but it would be wonderful to be able to share them with other women, and become friends that can physically do activities together, share experiences and be a real part of our new way of living our lives. I am hopeful it will not be too far in the future.

    • Sally

      Dear Linda
      Having just read your post, you have expressed exactly how I have been feeling for the last 6 months. I lost my husband of 30 years to liver cancer 6 months ago and I am struggling with being lonely, scared for my future and friends whom just don’t understand. I have tried to
      Get out and socialise with my community but people are very protective of their group of friends so therefore they are very unfriendly & unwilling to get involved with a “widow”. Family have even been distant. No one calls or visits, and when they do they bring nothing but negativity & expect me to be back to myself. I am not the same person I was & I still need time but I think they feel I am coping & handling this lonely life. I go to bed scared and lonely. I wake up with nothing to look forward to. I just wonder if life will be better for me.

      • Colleen

        Hi Sally,
        It’s been a year and a month since my husband passed away and I feel exactly ike you do. Friends and family were there for me at first, but now they think I’m okay and moving on with my life. Truth is, I haven’t been able to get used to the cold hard fact that my beloved husband is never coming back. He was my rock and my rudder through life, and without him I feel like a ship afloat in the ocean without any direction. I’m afraid, loney and depressed. I’ve considered grief counseling, but I know nothing is going to bring him back and I’m not one to share feelings with a group because I don’t like crying in front of people, let alone strangers. I guard myself against being a Debbie-Downer around people because I’m afraid it might make me feel even more isolated if I drag everyone down around me. Friends and family just don’t get it and they think that, after a year, I must be okay. I’m 63 and my two grown daughters don’t live near me, and the two friends I have that live near me are going through their own problems. I want to feel there is a purpose to my life, but I can’t help miss the warm feeling of security and love my husband gave me and I wonder if I’ll ever find that again. It’s scary, and I miss my rock.

  • April

    Suddenly lost my husband after 28 years together. He wasn’t even 50 years old. There are no people, support groups, or activities, that can take the place of your spouse. You are completely alone and you spend every minute of your life alone in an empty house. No one comes home anymore, night after night. You do everything alone. Every holiday, you are alone and they mean nothing now. You look forward to nothing, except sleeping. You are left to deal with EVERY problem..alone. Depression isn’t even a good enough description. Denial and procrastination become the main words in your life. What’s the point of doing anything whether it be cleaning, making things look nice etc, it’s no longer a *home*. It’s as if two people died. No one understands it unless they’ve been thru it. And sadly people think you should be “over it” after a certain amount of time. It never gets easier. Anyone who says that it does is lying. It only becomes harder as you begin realizing you will be alone for the rest of your life. Then there are the people who’ve lost children who say “I know how you feel”. No you don’t. Just as I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child. They are two completely different types of losses. I will leave it at that. You can go to all the groups, activities etc but at the end of the day, you’re still completely all alone. Friends disappear (if they even were friends to begin with). People are only there for the first 6 months (if that). I don’t understand the comment in the article that “It all serves a purpose”, but honestly, I don’t care. Is losing everything, trying to take care of a house alone, pay bills, and ending up with you’re life destroyed, part of that purpose? When you truly love someone, there’s no moving on. And the saying that life will never be the same, but it will be different, doesn’t even come close to describing how painful that *different* will be. And it’s missing one word at the end; alone.

  • Kathy

    My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December 2016. This past Friday we had to enroll him in hospice. All I have been doing is crying my eyes out all day the last couple of days. I just cannot imagine life without him. I am so overwhelmed. He has been the light of my life for 24 plus years. My house is a total disaster zone there is clutter everywhere so I don’t want friends over.i I know my husband will most likely pass within a couple of weeks. He mostly sleeps and not eating and just sipping drinks. I hate this so much. It’s so hard. I am glad I found this site.

    • lydia

      KATHY…I understand your great pain…when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer…it was hard…The chemo was bad and he only had l week of treatment when he suddenly died in his recliner while I was getting Gatorade for him at the store….The cancer had traveled to his brain…I had asked God to please not let him go too far with the pain and He didn’t…My husband was eating mashed potatoes and ice cream. No one can really understand unless they go thru this horrible pain and grief.
      One of the ladies said in her statement that she forced herself to go on a trip or two and I think that’s what made me force myself to take water aerobics at our local college. It was our anniversary on March 3rd and I was in a bad way. So I told myself that getting out was important ….I know you will feel alone in this…and miss him terribly…but try to get out in the world a little and cry when you need to. it will be 1 year since he died and I really don’t know where that year went. I pray that you will get the comfort you need. Lydia

      • Kay

        Know the pain, it has been 19 months it is so hard to move forward. We knew it would be soon but I look back now and think I should have said……. I struggle everyday. I thought time but it seems now I have to do things on my own and it is hard to do that. I really don’t remember that first year now is reality. I really don’t know now who I am, I was a wife since I was 17, 50 years together it is hard Ii think I put on a mask when I am around others. Sorry just one day at a time.

  • Kay

    It has been 18 months since my husband passed. I can go for a week now with out the poor me setting in. I have started to write down what I am feeling weather it makes sense or not, it has helped me to say ok it is time for you to take control for your life. I had retired two years early with my husband’s illness so I have applied for a part time job. I am not a hobby stay at home person, I have always worked, so I am going to try it. friends have changed or I have so I need new social not what I use to do with husband. Sounds like I am rambling but I feel better when I vent. Love reading others input it helps me.

    • Lydia Gauthier

      Peggy…I fully understand…My husband has been gone for only 10 months and I know
      how you feel….I don;’t know how long your husband has been gone but its horrible at first…then at 9mos. I started to feel better. I however have fibromyalgia which limits what I do but when I feel really bad I jump in my car and get a coffee from mcdonald’s and just ride…go to a store if I feel up to it and talk to another person…when I get home I feel better….it will never be the same without him …we were married for 55 yrs. but I know I have to find a new me and that may take time…Prayer is very helpful as God knows you and loves you and is keeping your husband safe in his arms so you can see him again. Take good care of yourself

  • Diane

    Today is especially difficult because it’s the third anniversary of my husband’s death.  My heart is still so overcome with grief and disbelief.  I don’t know that I will ever feel whole again.  Family and friends seem to think I should be stronger with the passing of time, but the truth is just the opposite. I know other widows who have lost their husbands and they feel much like I do.  Time has not healed our broken hearts! 

    I sometimes feel like I am on the outside and unable to tell friends and family how deeply I’m hurting. I don’t want them to think I am having a breakdown. I try to act like I am happy and in control so they want to include me in activities and be around me. I do not want to make others sad. I have started working part-time outside the home and keeping busy, but the lonliness continues to have a grip. I’m trying so hardl to find happiness and some sense of normalcy again. 

    I am finding it difficult to reach out to God since my husband passed away. I somehow feel I lost my connection. I have trouble staying focused to meditate and pray. I have a tendency to cry in church and feel embarrassed and have to leave. I don’t know how to get over this. Friends have asked me to go with them to church or a service but I feel embarrassed because I can’t contain my emotions.

    • Lydia Gauthier

      Diane….I don’t think we will ever be without some grief and a feeling of being so alone. I was like you….I wanted to be strong for the family and for myself…but today is my anniversary of 56 yrs. (he died 10 mos ago.) all I could do today is cry. A guy I know said it this way….when I go to the store, I know nobody else knows or cares when I’m coming back. But I have decided to not hold back my sorrow anymore…I just spoke to my son who just listened and it did me a lot of good. My hairdresser said ….in response to my sudden burst of tears….look! if you feel pain and need to cry go ahead…people should be honest about their feelings. maybe if you expressed your feelings more to your fam and friends you would feel better…God has helped my a lot but sometimes I feel unable to cope with everything. When i’m like that…I can’t deal with the least rejection or problem.Others don’t really understand unless they’ve been thru this…they don’t realize it doesn’t last a day or a week..but a lot longer. if you don’t feel better after a while…think about a support group or another widow to talk to…Take care

    • Pam

      Diane, I too lost my husband of 40 yrs three yrs ago. I am surprised how much I have not settled into this widow role. I have made new friends with other widows, started volunteering, and keep quite busy. But no one knows how lost I feel every day. I was his caregiver over 8 yrs. So I lost my best friend and my purpose when he died. I keep asking God “what now?” But have not received any direction. This is probably the most frustrating part for me too. I accept this season as His will but it must have a purpose? My children and grandchildren have no idea how unhappy I really am, however, this is MY challenge and no one else’s. I must discover who I am without Pat; so far I haven’t been successful and I will be 70 this year.

      • Kay

        Pam, I know the feeling. Even though my husband had a short illness only 10 months and he was gone, I don’t know what I should be doing. I am 69 and spent 49 years with him I don’t know what direction to go. So I decided to go back to work part time. I need something so I will try this if not right I will try something else.I agree my children and grandchildren don’t see the hurt and how lonely it can be. Take care hope I talk to you again. Kay

  • Teri

    I have just lost my husband and soulmate 14weeks ago, it is devastating frightening and confusing I feel so lost, we did everything together, I am trying so hared but it’s hard so

    • Deb

      Hi Teri
      Trust the ones around you, allow them to take care of you, allow them to make the daily decisions while they are doing those take that time for yoursel to stay connected to your solemate. Solemate is the key word he will be still will you, he will give you the strength to carrying on.


    My husband and I became aware he had a terminal illness..given 10-12 months..he died 2 days after discharge from hospital..we were fortunate being aware we would lose each other..we talked about it..cried together in each others arms….discussed his ‘farewell’..I hate the word ‘funeral’… take this time to SAY EVERYTHING..relive memories..laugh about funny things you did together..when the time comes you will not be living with the pain and regret of ‘I wish I had told him how much I loved him’..there was nothing left unsaid when the time still hurts so much having lost him but I think of it as ‘the end of a chapter of life’ and nothing left unsaid.

    All the very best for the future and may your God carry you in the palm of his hand during this journey.