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The Death of a Spouse Can Feel Like Losing a Part of Your Body

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The death of your spouse can have a huge impact on your health and well-being.

Q: "My parents were involved in a serious head on collision six years ago. My mother died after 7 months in the hospital, without ever coming home. My father can't even think about her, or speak about her without tearing up and becoming depressed. They had just celebrated their 50th anniversary the month before the accident and dad had been taking care of mom as she was in bad health. He is also a veteran suffering from PTSD and other health issues. Is this normal for couples being together for so long and one being a care giver? Do they miss their mate more than normal? I miss mom too, but I have gone on with my life and don't always cry when I reminisce about her."


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It’s impossible to make definitive statements about grief and grievers, as people are so individual. And, we always avoid making comparisons between groups of grievers by any categories.

But, if we were going to make any statements and indulge in a little bit of comparison, we would say that the impact of the death of a long-term spouse is the single event that is most liable to affect the health and well-being of the survivor.

From our awareness, you don’t even need to add in that one of them was the care giver for the other. For the vast majority of grieving widows and widowers (of long-term marriages) we’ve ever talked to, the sense of the death of their mate is “like losing a piece of their body.”

So sadly, we think your father is within the range of what is typical, given the situation. We might guess that by his age and other factors, he may not have the willingness to seek out solutions or help for his grief. But if he does, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of "The Grief Recovery Handbook." Before you give it to him, read the first 58 pages (Part One) yourself. Then you can give it to him and say, “Dad, here’s a book that I found helpful for me. I thought you might get something of value from it for you.”

From our hearts to yours,

Russell Friedman and John James


© 2018 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at [email protected] or by phone, 800-334-7606.


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