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 as many paths to healing as there are widows and bereaved women in the world….but there are no quick tips or easy answers.
After you read my thoughts on how to start over after your husband dies, look through the comments section below. See what other widows write about their own grieving process – and how they help one another. 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.
When you’re starting over in your 60s – especially when you feel like no one cares that your husband died – remember that you won’t always feel this way. “It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy,” Jane Fonda once said. There is a wellspring of hope and healing 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.
Reading books can help you cope after your husband dies. In Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief, Joanne Cacciatore accompanies readers along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Joanne is a bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field of grieving and healing. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities – as well as her own experience with loss – Joanne opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor grief.
You might 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.
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 Comfort and Hope When You Feel Old and Alone. “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.”
How are you experiencing grief? While there is no one right or typical 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 61 year old husband and my daughter’s marriage and overseas relocation,” says Lori Makarow on How to Make Your RV Retirement Dreams Come True. “I realized that I have dreams and don’t want to wait until I’m an old woman to pursue my ideas. Learning and exploring the world makes me come alive! Life is a grand and glorious experience, and I no longer want to wait until I’m in my 60s or 70s to start an exciting life. 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
“Since my husband died, I feel very incomplete,” says Anne on Getting Through the Day When You’re a Grieving Widow. “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 60 or 80 – 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,” says one reader. “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.”
Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine is an active daily way to process your grief and healing after your husband dies. Grieving takes time and energy; this book will walk you through the worst of it.
“When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” writes Megan. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”
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.
“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.
I welcome your thoughts on being 60 and starting over after your husband dies. Feel free to comment below. Take your time reading the comments of other widows. What are they saying about their husband’s death? What similarities do you see in your own grieving process?
You may see yourself in these comments. Know that you don’t have to start over alone. Most things are worse when you feel abandoned and lonely, especially if you’re in your 60s and have lost a husband you loved and lived with for decades.