“When one person is missing, the whole world seems empty.” How do you start over as a woman over 60, after your husband dies? There are no easy answers or quick tips. My thoughts on how to start over won’t solve all your problems, but they may bring you a measure of comfort and peace.
In 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. Learning that you are not alone is one of the most comforting ways to start over as a widow in your 60s. You may comfort and support in their stories and struggles. You may want to share your own experience of losing your husband yourself comforted and blessed. You might also read find my other articles helpful, such as How to Keep Going When You Lose Your Soulmate.
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 while getting my Master of Social Work, and was amazed by the power of support groups to help women grieve, cope, and heal. If you haven’t visited a grief group for widows starting over in their 60s, look for support groups in your area.
Here’s one of the most important things to remember about starting over when life knocks you down: you won’t always feel this way. It’s hard and heartbreaking when your husband dies, you’re a woman in your 60s, and you still have so many years of life left! I can’t imagine how you feel or what your days are like now…but I encourage you to take one moment at a time. Know that while you will never be the same, your life is not over yet. It’s different and perhaps a little dimmer but your own story hasn’t finished yet. Don’t lose your spark! It may be flickering but 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. 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
“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.”
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:
“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
In 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
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.
One 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
- One of my most popular articles is How to Let Go of Someone You Love. Read it, and you’ll see you’re not alone.
- If you are struggling financially, read How to Start Over When You Need Money.
“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.