Learning how to live with loneliness after losing a spouse

MADISON, Wis.—Oct. 26, 2022—When you lose a loved one, there are always a lot of changes. When that loss is your partner or spouse, those adjustments can become drastic. Coping with grief is difficult even in the best circumstances. Adjusting to living alone, and possibly parenting alone, means balancing your finances, maintaining your home, and caring for your well-being, all while dealing with the grief of your loss.

“It’s important to remember that there is no single set of rules or timeline for dealing with grief,” says Dr. Ken Robbins, Medical Director of Behavioral Health for WPS Health Solutions. “Everyone is going to cope differently. However, there are some needs that are universal. We all know what it feels like to be lonely and experience sadness. It’s vital that we address our mental health in times of grief.”

Tips for adjusting to living on your own:

  • Maintain social connections: Make an effort to stay in touch with your loved ones—your friends and family. You should avoid becoming too isolated even though grief can make us feel like we want to be alone all the time. Time spent alone is fine, but it can be a problem when it becomes isolation.
  • Don’t wait to ask for help: It’s likely you’ll face new challenges living alone or guiding a family by yourself. You should not feel like you can’t ask others for help. Maybe your spouse did most of the yard work and now you need an extra set of hands. Maybe they handled the finances and now you need to talk to a professional.
  • Don’t stop learning new things: When we are faced with changes and new challenges, it is tempting to stop trying new things. Loss and grief can already make us uncomfortable, and we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone even further. It’s fine to retreat into your comfort zone sometimes, but it’s vital for your mental health to keep experiencing new things.
  • Treat loneliness and depression the way you would any medical condition: Most people would not think twice about seeking medical care for broken bones, diseases, or other injuries. However, some people still hesitate to treat their mental and emotional well-being the same way.

Behavioral health focuses on behaviors, habits, thoughts, and actions that directly impact your mental and physical well-being. Seek treatment if you are experiencing loneliness, have increased anxiety, or think you may be depressed.

Behavioral health professionals have specialized training to help you understand your problems with an objective, independent viewpoint. They can help identify why you may feel unhappy, depressed, anxious, fearful, or in need of emotional help. They can also prescribe medicine—or connect you with someone who can determine if you need medication.