April is marked throughout the United States as Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month. This observance is dedicated to increasing awareness of the challenges faced by people who've lost a spouse as they work through the grieving process.
Mourning the Death of a Spouse
The loss of a spouse is a life-changing event that can affect every aspect of your daily routine. Here are some tips for handling this transition:
- Take it slow. Adjusting to the death of a spouse takes time. Give yourself permission to heal before you make major life changes such as selling your home, quitting your job and moving across the country, or dating again. Decisions made when you're feeling emotionally vulnerable are often the ones you come to regret later on.
- Make time for self-care. After the loss of a loved one, many people lose interest in cooking healthy food, exercising, and sleeping. However, neglecting these activities can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with the grieving process. They can also cause your own health to deteriorate if you suffer from a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Search for constructive ways to honor your spouse's memory. Write down stories in a journal or make a scrapbook to pass on to your children or grandchildren. Plant a memorial garden. Organize a charitable fundraiser in your spouse's honor, or make a memorial donation to a cause your spouse was passionate about. Your spouse may be gone, but his memory will live on forever in these ways.
- Find solace in your faith. Attending worship services, praying, singing spiritual songs, or engaging in Bible study may bring comfort. You may also want to consider turning to your worship leader for private one-on-one counseling sessions.
- Consider joining a grief support group. Many people who've lost a spouse find that connecting with others who've suffered a similar trauma is a comfort. Search for grief support groups organized by hospitals, churches, and local non-profit agencies.
Knowing When to Seek Professional Help
Mental health professionals often refer to the five stages of the grieving process as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While this framework is a useful tool in understanding how we move on from the loss of a loved one, it doesn't take into account the fact that grief doesn't progress in a straight line. It's normal for vast fluctuations in mood to occur from one day to the next, especially around milestones such as your anniversary or spouse's birthday.
Although fluctuating emotions are part of the normal emotional trajectory of grief, professional counseling services may be appropriate in the following circumstances:
- You find yourself engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking excessively, using illegal drugs, or driving recklessly.
- You suffer from nightmares or flashbacks about the events surrounding your spouse's death.
- You find yourself feeling guilty when you think about moving forward with your life after your spouse's death.
- You've had thoughts of suicide.
Seeking Compensation for Your Loss
If your spouse was killed in an accident caused by another person's negligence, you may be eligible for compensation via a wrongful death claim. This type of personal injury suit includes reimbursement for medical costs up to the time of death, funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased person's earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Spouses can also request compensation for loss of consortium as part of the claim.
Loss of consortium damages refer to the trauma associated with the death of your life partner. This includes factors such as:
- Not being able to have children together, or having to raise your children alone
- Being forced to handle cooking, cleaning, yard work, and other household tasks as a single person
- Losing the person who helped you with your own problems and challenges
- Suffering anxiety, depression, and isolation as the result of your spouse's passing
- Losing the overall quality and enjoyment of your daily life because of your spouse's death
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s personal injury attorneys have extensive experience helping Louisiana residents seek compensation in wrongful death claims. Please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.