Beyond Widowhood: Grief And Spousal Loss


This fall, we’re offering a unique grief course in Fargo focused on widowhood. There are many unique grief challenges faced by widows and widowers. Many encounter a loss not only of their spouse, but also of their way of making it through life.

After a spousal loss, grievers often struggle with loneliness and the need for companionship. There are also losses of security felt from having a long-standing way of life. A spousal loss completely changes the day-to day-things you took for granted and could count on.

Sometimes widows/widowers can have difficulty knowing how to socialize, because the loss may change parts of their identity. They may struggle with who they are as a person without their spouse. Many of our widowed clients also have talked about having difficulty with learning new skills or knowing how to approach the day-to-day business of life, because as a couple they had a division of labor and each employed themselves in their area of strengths.

There isn’t a “normal” expression of grief after losing your spouse; it can look very different from one person to the next. Grief is a unique journey for each person. Common physical reactions include sleep and appetite disturbances, headaches, hypersensitivity to senses, indigestion, tightness in the chest, hollowness in the stomach, lump in the throat or immune system breakdowns. Mental reactions can include short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion, preoccupation with the loss and difficulty making decisions.

Emotional reactions include a wide range of feelings, such as anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, despair, loneliness, wide mood swings, guilt or even relief. Grievers may have many “why” questions, have anger at God, experience a change in beliefs and values, a loss or strengthening of faith, change in one’s identity or a need to find meaning in the loss.

Grief sometimes can become complicated to a point where a person may need additional support and help. The key is to notice if symptoms are intense for a prolonged period of time and affecting finding any enjoyment in day-to-day life. Some of the signs that you may need extra help include minimal or total lack of emotional expression, extreme reactions (usually anger or guilt) that persist over time, prolonged depression, insomnia, marked change in health or extreme agitation.

Hospice of the Red River Valley (HRRV) provides a number of grief support groups and classes in our service areas. Support groups are powerful ways of finding validation for your feelings and deriving a sense of shared experience and commonality. Each of our uniquely designed groups provides support and practical suggestions for one’s grief journey.

The “Beyond Widowhood” Transitions Class we’re offering this fall was developed out of a need expressed by widows/widowers who had questions or needed support in addressing some of the basic things that change when we experience a spousal loss. Topics include: maintaining emotional and physical health, re-examination of values, decision making as a single person, home maintenance, financial questions and planning and making connections with others.

Visit our website to learn about the grief classes, or you can call (800) 237-4629.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit