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If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’ve recently lost your loved one and are looking for ways to cope. During the initial mourning period, our brains are filled with questions about the future, this one in particular > How to live without the one you can’t live without?

But I won’t go on and repeat the same ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ which you’ve probably heard a million times by now. Instead, I’ll help you teach you can live without the one you can’t live without.

Instead, I offer a helping hand to allow you time to process your feelings and eventually find some inner peace. When something like this happens, it takes over every aspect of your life and consumes you. Many people fall into severe depression.

While I can’t promise that it will be a painless journey, I can assure you that you’ll be okay with time. That’s not to say you’ll forget about your partner, but you’ll learn to live again.

Why Do I Feel Like I Can’t Live Without Him?

Let me start off by saying it’s completely normal to feel this way. When you love someone so deeply and give them your entire heart and soul, it’s going to feel like the world’s ending when they’re not there anymore. That gaping hole in your chest is a sign of just how much you truly cared about them.

Such an incident is life-changing; there’s no way to move forward but through it. Every little thing will remind you about them; every occasion, every anniversary, every Valentine’s Day, every birthday, will feel like hell to the point where you might even reconsider the meaning of life. 

But with every ‘I can’t live without you by my side,’ a tiny part of you will start to heal. It’s a time-consuming process, so don’t give up just yet, my girl!

How Does Death Affect Relationships?

When you’ve lost your soulmate, you won’t be the same anymore, at least not for a long time. This can also cause other relationships to become strained because nothing feels worth living for. Here are some signs you might be experiencing:

  • You might need constant reassurance and love from your friends and family in an attempt to make your heart whole again.
  • You might feel hateful towards other happy couples.
  • You might not feel like laughing or talking to people around you.
  • You might feel like people get awkward around you.
  • You might feel a disconnect from the spouse’s side of your family.
  • You might feel random pangs of anxiety for no apparent reason.

This list can go on and on because everyone has a different experience when it comes to loss. If you’re suffering some of these signs, know that countless others are feeling the same way right beside you. You’re already dealing with so much stress, and this just makes it so much worse.

Grief Brain

The striking thing about grief is that it can quite literally rewire your brain, thus affecting your memory, cognition, and concentration. You might feel like you’re making terrible decisions lately and are just not present in the moment. 

If any of these things feel familiar to you, there’s a term for it: Grief Brain. The first six months are the hardest, but you’ll find it getting better gradually. If these symptoms continue to last for more than a year, you should consult a doctor because it could indicate a deeper problem known as prolonged grief disorder.

Understanding the Five Stages of Grief

Whether the loss of your spouse was unexpected or they were diagnosed with a terminal illness, you’ll feel grief in five particular stages. Knowing about them helps you understand and process your feelings better.

Denial

The entire process of grieving is overwhelming. Denial is often the first response to death because our brain gets overloaded with emotional pain and doesn’t know how to deal with it. It also gives us more time to absorb what has happened to really understand that the person we lost isn’t coming back. 

Throughout this phase, you’ll experience many things, like hearing the voices of your loved ones and feeling their presence around you. As you gradually begin to overcome the numbness, your brain gets flooded with a tremendous amount of pain, but it’s all part of the process.

Anger

Anger varies from person to person. It’s often a masking effect for all the emotions you’re feeling. When you’re unable to express or interpret how you’re feeling, all you’re left with is rage.

This rage can be directed at yourself or towards the people around you. It’s also common to get angry at the person who passed away because they left you behind. 

Bargaining

When you’re feeling out of control, you try to make deals with yourself or God if you’re religious. This is often the ‘what if’ phase where you keep questioning what you could’ve done differently to prevent the demise of your partner. 

Holding onto these feelings helps you counter the immense sadness you’re feeling and allows you to have some semblance of control.

Depression

Once you move past the what could have happened phase, you’re left with an aching pain that causes you to isolate yourself from everyone and everything. All you feel is utter despair, so you often go quiet and retract back into your shell.

Acceptance

After going through the turbulent cycle, you’ll eventually end up here. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happy now. It means that you’ve processed your feelings and finally come to terms with the incredible loss you had to endure.

During this phase, sometimes you’ll feel guilty about enjoying a brief moment of happiness or going out to socialize. But your partner would want you to be happy and live your life once again. 

It’s also important to realize that you can still feel sad about your loss and that acceptance doesn’t mean you’re devoid of any emotions. I know several of my friends who’ve lost their husbands still experience a pang of sadness despite having accepted their death. It’s completely normal. 

How To Live Without the One You Can’t Live Without

Your journey through the cycle of grief is a long and difficult one, but there are some things that I know helped people around me to reach the final stage of acceptance. When you’re my age, losing a loved one becomes the norm, so it’s vital to make an effort to process your feelings actively.

Find New Hobbies

Distractions are some of the best things to help you feel like yourself again. What that looks like for you depends on your personal preference. 

Some women may pick up old hobbies like quilting or knitting, while others may look for new hobbies. It might look different for you because there’s just no right way to do this, and there’s certainly no guidebook for healing- none that actually works.

You can try different activities like attending a pottery class, glass painting, reading a book, watching a movie, or anything else that sparks your interest. Even when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, do it anyway because it helps.

Stay Active

Exercise produces endorphins that make you feel better. This is why staying active can really help relieve the immense amount of burden you’re feeling. It doesn’t have to be something big like getting a gym membership; even a simple jog or a walk will do.

If you can’t seem to leave your house, motivate yourself to work out at home. If nothing else, it can be a simple five-minute YouTube video. It’s just about getting up and moving to help you feel slightly better.

Surround Yourself With Friends

Humans are social animals, and we all need company, especially in our time of need. I used to isolate myself a lot whenever a hurtful event occurred, but it always ended up being much better when I communicated with the people around me.

Even if you have an intense desire to be alone, stop avoiding calls, make some plans, and talk about what you’re feeling. If you’re afraid of people not understanding you, you have to tell them what you need, or else they’ll never know.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

When you can’t be with the one you can’t live without, even small things require much effort. And that’s okay. By not giving yourself time to grieve, you’re stuck in the denial phase of your battle, and you’ll never be able to feel like yourself unless you move past it. 

Stop diving headfast into work and sit with your feelings. Cry, weep, scream, yell, let it all out because you’ve been through a lot. 

Do Things When the Time Is Right

The process of mourning doesn’t allow you to do things when you’re not ready for them. When you’re struggling with questions like how to live without the person you love the most, you can’t be expected to get up and go to a raging party. 

People will tell you many things like you should start decluttering sentimental items or put yourself out there again, but no one will tell you that you can only do these things when the time is right.

Look Into Counseling

While there is so much stigma around therapy and mental health in general, it’s crucial to take time for your needs and address the ache of losing the love of your life. Yes, many people go through it and come out the other side, but that doesn’t undermine your loss and pain.

If we keep thinking someone has it worse, so it’s not a big deal, we’re essentially gaslighting ourselves into minimizing our problems. I know we’ve all been there as our mental health shifts in old age, but this is a sensitive time in your life, and you shouldn’t be suffering in silence.

Preserve Your Memories

After experiencing intense despair, you can’t just ‘move on,’ as people would say. This is why preserving your memories with your late partner is healthy. 

Whether you choose to hold onto a piece of clothing, their perfume, their pictures, their phone, or whatever it may be, you’re not doing something wrong. Remembering the happy times you experienced together and the joy they brought into your life is beautiful. 

You’re Not Alone

When it all comes crashing down, I just want you to remember that you’re not alone. I’ve seen so many people going through the anguish of losing their soulmate, so I understand how hard it is. Even the term ‘moving on’ feels icky because how do you move on without a loved one?

But moving on isn’t about leaving all their memories and the time you spent behind. It’s more about accepting that they’re not there with you physically, but they’ll always be a significant part of your life. There’s a part of them in everything you do, every meal you cook, every laugh you share; they’re always there beside you, holding your hand throughout the rest of your days.

Final Words

Losing anyone in your life hurts. A lot. But losing someone you spent every day and night with, for years and years, hurts more than words can even begin to explain. You’ll feel their absence every day, and the house just won’t seem the same without them in it. 

Some might say, “Hey, you should try to lift their spirits instead of talking about all this sadness,” but I disagree. Talking about things that hurt and feelings that arise is very important because all anyone wants is to be seen and heard. When you feel like the world’s ending, toxic positivity isn’t the solution; it’s talking about all the terrible, awful parts of losing someone so that you can begin to heal.

Everyone mourns differently. Everything you’re feeling is valid, irrespective of whatever anyone else says. And there’s no rush to ‘be happy,’ so don’t feel pressured. Take your time and allow your brain to restart again because it deserves a break to accept the immense loss it has experienced. 

Iva Ursano
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Iva Ursano is a solo female traveler originally from Canada and currently residing in Guatemala. After hitting rock bottom in 2013, she completely reinvented her life at 52 years old, packed up two suitcases, and bought a one-way ticket to Central America. She runs this website for women over 50 to help them make the rest of their lives the best of their lives while feeding street dogs and helping the less fortunate in the town she now calls home, Panajachel. You can follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram (Street Dogs of Guatemala)

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