At one point or another, almost every married couple will have to deal with loss. Whether by natural causes, an accident, or some other cause, it’s possible that you’ll outlive your spouse. If you do, it’s important that you know how to proceed in the wake of such a loss. From the practical to the emotional, here are some suggestions to help you through:
1. Call the Appropriate Authorities
If your loved one passes away in a hospital or under the guidance of a healthcare professional, that individual will start the process of filing a death certificate. If the death occurs at home or outside the care of a medical professional, call the police so that they can be dispatched. In turn, they’ll place a call to the corner or medical examiner to deem if any further action is necessary.
2. Notify Loved Ones
The next step is arguably the hardest. After notifying the proper authorities, it’s time to get in touch with loved ones. Don’t feel the need to call every person in your life (there are people who can pass along details for you), but there are certain individuals that will need to be contacted personally. This may include children, parents, siblings, employers, and close friends.
These conversations will be difficult, but it’s better for everyone if you go ahead and have them. If you don’t feel like providing a bunch of details right away, that’s your call. The important thing is that your loved ones are aware of the situation.
3. Meet With a Funeral Director
As much as you want to close the door and grieve, it’s imperative that you first take care of the logistical aspects of your spouse’s passing.
“You should meet with a funeral director within 24 hours of a death to begin to make final arrangements for your loved one,” Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service explains. “Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when you are in heightened emotional state, but, funeral home staff have years of experience dealing with these issues, and strive to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”
4. Prepare an Obituary
One of the more difficult tasks after the passing of a spouse is the preparation of an obituary. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to write one, feel free to pass it off to someone else who was close to your spouse. However, if you can muster up the courage and fortitude, this is something you’ll be glad you handled when you look back.
5. Hire a Lawyer (if Applicable)
Depending on the circumstances of your spouse’s death, it’s possible that you’ll have legal recourse. A wrongful death lawsuit may be a possibility. If you have even the slightest inkling that this is the case, hire a lawyer to walk you through this process.
Wrongful death suits are especially important for younger couples with children. If your spouse was the breadwinner, a wrongful death claim can provide money to offset the loss of future income. But even the death of a stay-at-home parent can have a significant impact on your life.
As Gartlan Injury Law explains, “A spouse who used to stay at home with young children may be forced to scramble to find work, pay for daycare, and struggle to pay bills. If the decedent was a homemaker, it can mean the surviving spouse being forced to hire housekeepers, nannies, daycares, and other services to make up for the loss of the help.”
A wrongful death lawsuit won’t bring your spouse back, but it can limit the financial ramifications and minimize the practical challenges you’ll face moving forward.
6. Begin the Grieving Process
Finally, you’re free to begin the grieving process. Go easy on yourself and don’t feel like you have to live up to a certain set of expectations. You are your own person.
“You may feel numb, shocked, brokenhearted, or anxious. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive or relieved that your spouse is no longer suffering if he or she was ill for a long time,” relationships expert and author Sheri Stritof writes. “You might even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you. You may cry a lot, or you may not. How you grieve is unique to you.”
Take Care of Yourself
No situation is the same. Two people can experience very similar loss and handle it in two totally unique ways. Having said that, it’s imperative that you set aside time and energy to care for yourself.
The loss of a loved one is always tough, but the loss of a spouse is arguably even more difficult. Take your time and don’t neglect your basic needs.