The Road Back To Happiness After Spouse-Loss

What if you woke up to discover that your happiness was completely gone? That happened to me one cold November morning. Sid, my husband and soul mate for almost thirty-eight years, had died suddenly in his sleep.

I felt like my heart could not possibly go on beating without him. I remember lying alone in the dark that night, begging God to take me, too. But when the sun came up, I was still breathing.

Even though I could barely function at the time, I knew deep in my shattered heart that somehow I would have to eventually figure out how to find the road back to happiness.

As family members and friends drifted back to their normal routines, I was left alone to ponder the questions, What do I do now? Will I ever really be happy again? How do I even begin to take that first step on the road back to happiness?

It was a slow, painful process as I inched my way along through the many stages of grief. I discovered that overcoming this tragedy would be the most difficult thing I would ever do. I also learned finding happiness again would take more than just time. Getting grief counseling and joining a support group gave me the tools I needed to take the journey that often seemed like two steps forward and three steps back.

One of the things that helped me the most was the advice I got from my counselor. My old life was not forgotten, but it was gone. In order to be happy again, I would have to find the “new normal.” Nothing would be the same again, but it was possible to find a new way to be happy.

Another thing that helped me was a question the counselor asked. If the situation were reversed, would I want my husband to give up just because I was no longer living? Of course the answer was “no.” In fact, the best way to honor Sid, I began to believe, was to make the most of the rest of my life without him.

Each person has a different path and timeline on the road to recovery. But I found it was very important for me to keep focusing on that tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Faith and hope were my constant companions as I trudged along towards a brighter future. 

I also felt like Sid was right behind me, helping me stay on course. Sometimes when I really got discouraged, I could almost hear him tell me, “You can do this.”

Slowly I pushed myself to resume the hobbies and social life I had lost interest in after Sid died. I found new interests, and made new friends along the way. 

I also discovered that it was very healing to help others. I began to share my experiences with other widows, particularly ones that had suffered a more recent loss. Finding the balance between moving ahead and honoring the past was a challenge, too.

That involved stumbling over some unexpected bumps like happiness guilt. All the twists and turns often made the journey exhausting, and sometimes it was hard to find the strength to go on. But I knew I couldn’t give up.

My road back to happiness was more like a steep, slow climb full of road blocks. But I made it. Now I know that I can treasure those memories from the past, live for today and look forward to tomorrow. And I know Sid would be proud of me.

Melinda Richarz Lyons 2012

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Melinda Richarz Lyons

More Articles Written by Melinda Richarz

Melinda Richarz Lyons earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Texas and has been a free lance writer for over forty years. Her articles have appeared in many publications, including "Nashville Parent," "Cats Magazine," "Reminisce," "True West," "Frontier Times," "Kids, Etc.," "Cincinnati Family Magazine," "The Tennessean,"The Fort Worth Star-Telegram," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love," and "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers." Ms. Lyons is also a published songwriter, and was the 2004 co-recipient of the Academy of Western Artists Will Rogers Award for Best Song of the Year. She is the author of several books, including "WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty," "Murder at the Oaklands Mansion," and "Crossing the Minefield," the story of her journey from grief to recovery. She has four step children and nine grandchildren and currently lives in Tyler, Texas with her husband Tom.

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  • Thank you for writng thi Melinda. I, too, had to find my way back to happiness after four family members died. Though it was a slow process, for the most part, I kept moving forward. My husband and I became GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren. Raising teenagers didn’t give us any time for self-pity and that was good. Today, I’m living a new and happy life. My journey is detailed in my latest book, Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss.

  • Teresa Smith says:

    My husband Wayne Diggs was unexpectedly taken on December 26, 2011 in Revere on a bridge early in the morning on his way to work at Garelcik farms in Lynn, MA. I’m sure everyone saw this or heard about it. He hit a patch of ice,skidded into a pole, and the truck caught fire, where he was trapped. The guilt I have been feeling since that day has been horrifying, and I am having such a hard time going on with my life. I have been feeling like I am to old to “start life over” and too young not to enjoy it, but he was my whole world. We did everything together, and were avid fans of the superhero movies, I can’r seem to find a happy medium. I cry everyday, and I feel like I’m keeping him from moving on. My social life right now is non-existent. I don’t take pleasure is being around people who we socialized with at all. I hate seeing couples, especially in supermarkets. I am only 55 years old, and I am soooo lost, I barely function. Everything I do is mechanical. Right after this happened, my daughters ahd me on a 24 hour suicide watch. That seems to be the only part I’m past. I need help, and I can’t find ANY support groups in my area. Can someone please point me in the right direction?? Thankyou

  • Wendy says:

    I am going through a very difficult time – I lost my husband on the 24th January 2012. He was 66 years old and had suffered from vascular disease with health problems starting 10 years ago. He had two femoral bypasses in 2002 and only one was successful so he had his right leg amputated and continued to live a very full life – he was fitted with a prosthetic leg and could drive and go shopping and also work. He was amazing and has been such an inspiration to others as he went about his life with enthusiasm and appreciation. His last three years have been difficult with regard to this disease as it does not only effect the limbs but also the brain; as much as he loved the cryptic crosswords and always on a quest for knowledge, we used to find that he would fall asleep in front of the computer and also in the car before him going off. On the 27th November 2012 we were coming home on the Sunday afternoon and it was raining and he was holding onto an umbrella which got caught up with the gates and he fell and broke his femur and hip on his stump side. They tried to operate but he reacted to the anaesthetics so he was put in manual traction and sent to a rehab hosptial where his good leg because of being on his back and not moving, turned gangerous so he was then returned to a private hospital where they amputated the other leg. He was never the same = went through a dementia of sorts but the last week of his life he understood what had happened to him. The Thursday before he died he took me aside and said ‘Be Kind to yourself’ – he never spoke again and he died the following Tuesday. He was trapped in this broken body; he was only given Morphine once on the Friday and then on Saturday the doctors were pursuing aggressive antibotic treatment because both stumps of his legs were infected. I asked on the Sunday if they could continue the morphine to relieve pain because although he could not speak I could understand that he was in pain. It was denied and we were asked if we wanted to take him home because they do not practice euathanasia but I was not asking for a lethal dose of mediscine I just wanted him to have some relief and to go with dignity and they did not grant that at the hospital. He struggled on through those last days and on his death certificate it is stated he died of pnemonia – it saddens me that what could have been a tranquil and peaceful transition was made so traumatic for my husband and my daughters. To witness him lying there without his legs; having the sisters come in to insert pipes down his nose to suction fluid from his lungs and to just seeing him there so helpless. I really felt we could have been more assertive but one hands over a loved one and expects those in charge to have the compassion and means to make a patient comfortable. It was a relief when he took his lask breath and we could once again see him as we knew him – at peace. I know I cant change the past and am making an effort to create new beginnings but all what I and my family witnessed is just so horrible that it is hard to move forward. Obviously we appear to be all fine and coping but underneath the facade is a huge amount of anger, helplessness and intense sadness. However, we are forgiving people, spiritual people who are moving forward in gratitude and appreciation for all my husband has left us – a huge legacy of goodness, integrity and honesty – we are so blessed and it is in living every day, every moment that we are aware of so many blessings. The way forward is to be aware of God’s presence in our lives – the simple and everyday things – the sunrises, sunsets, nature, music, kindness from others, appreciating that we can enjoy our food and taking in every mouthful with immense gratitude and as I look around my lovely home I just say ‘THANK YOU LORD’. Thank you for me and allowing me to live my life – thank you for surrounding me with so much beauty and thank you for the special 37 years I have shared with my special man.

  • Connie Douglas says:

    First of all I extend my thoughts and prayers to you if you have lost a loved one. There is no easy way to talk about such a loss. There is no easy way to make sense out of life after the loss of a loved one. I know because my husband passed away January 3, 2012 from medical complications resulting from chemotherapy. He had opted to receive chemotherapy because he was terrified by his diagnosis. He was told he had stage 4 Colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver and lungs. At the time of his diagnosis he was given 6 weeks to live. He died 10 months later. Such a diagnosis was enough for my husband to follow the oncologists recommendation and do a series of hard core chemotherapy treatments immediately. Larry lost over 100lbs. over those months and suffered more than I could bare watching. Chemotherapy is a hard core poison supported and encouraged by the medical establishment. We were told there where no guarantees and what we should do was chemo and make Larry comfortable, planning for his demise. As a person with a serious diagnosis it seems best and important to do as doctors advise thus relinquishing control of our own lives and health ,strictly out of fear, because we believe doctors know best. The truth is, having gone through the last ten months with my husband I witnessed the death of my husband from the complications from chemotherapy and not from the cancer. It made sense to me when the diagnosis came down that there must be a cause. Cancer cells ( cells that have changed DNA that multiple none stop and mutate creating malignancies and metathesizes) are in everyone. Suddenly or over time something builds up and things change in the body and the cancer cells go ballistic replicating at such a rate that their waste product becomes a blood marker in blood tests that can be referenced to indicate cancer is in the body. Doctors tell patients to eat sugary foods ( ice creams etc.,) to help a patient maintain weight. Sugar feeds cancer cells. Doctors told us not to do green foods or take nutritionals because it was a waste of money. It just seemed practical and sensible to eat healthier and that somehow Larry would do better. So we did this. He juiced, received alternative care nutritional IVs and Vitamin C IVs. Because he had colon cancer his colon wasn’t functioning well so he was eating less and less. The first 6 months he did well. His Blood markers indicating cancer cell by products went from 5,000 down to 200. The doctors raved and said what ever we were doing don’t stop but they didn’t want to know what we were doing. In other words the doctors would not view common sense nutrition, supplementation and IVs as appropriate cancer treatment they would support nor was what we were doing profitable to them or sell-able. Let’s not forget, someone is in bed as a matter of speaking with the big pharm. companies and they do receive benefits from the sale of their drugs. This is just part of the story about my husband.

    In the meantime, I hope people read this, chat with me and get the word out that diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean we must surrender the power and control of our lives and health over to anyone because we may be scared. Yes, we have to find medical people to interpret blood tests and discuss things with but the ultimate decision to use chemotherapy should be given a lot of real serious thought. before using it. In our situation we saw that chemotherapy kills the body, weakens the immune system, changes the patient’s personality, agitates and destroys what natural ability and spirit the body has to heal itself. I saw daily, that my husband was deteriorating. The nutritionals, IVs and vitamins sustained him for the first 6 month. Then his body began to sputter and slow down as a result of chemotherapy and within 4 months more the chemo had so weakened his immune system that he died from a bacterial infection run amuck.

    The real thing here is this. Become proactive and as healthy as you can with good, straight from the farmers field nutrition, healthy water and plenty of exercise. Know what is in your food and where it comes from. Never give your power away to anyone no matter what. Research, research, research, becoming your own best source of knowledge about caring for your health. Change bad habits before you receive a cancer diagnosis and start connecting the dots about the use of pharmaceuticals and their place plus learn about alternatives means of healing the body. Above all kept the faith about recovery, healing emotional woundings and cultivating a good attitude about life and the real gift it is. Live, Laugh and Love. Remember the outcome is not necessarily the goal that matters ( even though living is the purpose of recovering from health issues ) as much as realizing the journey we find ourselves in today is really, all there is.

    The best of luck to you.

    Connie D.

  • Janet K says:

    I lost my fiance on August 8, 2011 and it still hurts to this day. We had been together for 15 years and had just finally bought a ring – which arrived in the jewlry store the day after he passed away. Gunnar was out mowing, mowed over a nest of bees and was stung numerous times. He was medflighted to te hospital and was on life support 4 days. I was told there was no brain activity on the 4th day and made the decision to end life support.

    I will never forget the fog and lost feeling I felt that first night at home, in bed, knowing he was gone forever. How do I move on with life without him. But through prayer and friends, I took it one day at a time and here I am, nine months later. I do think of him every single day and there are days where the tears come out of the blue – from a smell, a sound, or something I see.

    One thing I am learning along the way is that I can NOT fill the hole in my heart with other things. I realized a couple weeks ago I was turning into a different person – I was going to the bars, which I never did in the past. I tried to have a relationship, telling myself I was ready – only to find myself getting hurt and doing things I wasn’t so proud of. It made me realize that I am not doing as well as I may have thought. It does take time, and I’m trying to rush myself through the grief. Another thing that struck me was when someone told me I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship because I’m not “over” Gunnar yet. That really hurt – I will NEVER be OVER Gunnar. Yes, I will move on some day – I will find another man someday – but that man will have to love me and accept the fact that Gunnar will ALWAYS be a part of me and I don’t want to forget him.

    All lessons that I am learning along the path of this unbelievable road my life has turned onto. It’s just all so unreal how life can change in a split second – for anyone!!

    With love and prayers to you all!!
    Janet

  • Wendy says:

    I wrote to you in May -confused with everything going on and didnt know I was on your website already. Have just read my first email to you and that stands but it appears I have got my days a bit mixed. Oh well, that shows you how time distorts but also it heals. So please dont again put my comment on. Am going forward, sometime with difficulty but mostly it is all good. I will never be the same again – have lost part of myself in this awful time of grieving but as one door closes I am sure another opens. I am very blessed and grateful for many, many things in my life. I just extend so much love, peace and white light of healing to all others going through the experience of loss. It is not easy. However, we are all stronger and more resilient than we think and with understanding and unconditional love it does make all things better. Other people some times confuse one – instead of support there is silence but they too have their difficulties in life; maybe unable to extend and reach out to others. One is never here to judge; only to observe and to respect others and to be grateful for life and all the different people that we come in contact with. Thank you again – what would I do with the internet. With love, The Google Granny

  • bobbi says:

    I lost my husbund 8 years ago
    I still struggle with many things

  • Nancy says:

    My husband of 10 years passed away on March 20, 2013. He had congestive heart failure for a little over a year and then in February was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He chose to be at home with the help of hospice and I was his caregiver. Looking back I realize that we began the grieving process together and were given the time to talk about so many things that some are denied. The first couple months were a fog, with me keeping busy doing things at home, but rarely leaving the house. He had been my world and now my world had been turned upside down. I knew I was honoring his wishes as far as the cremation and memorial service, the distribution of some of his personal things, etc, because we had talked about all of that ahead of time. As reality set in and my days became more focused I didn’t have a clue who I was anymore. I was not the same person I was before I met him, nor was I the same person as I was with him. Thus my journey of self discovery has begun. I am an artist and couldn’t even step into my studio for a couple months. Once I began painting again I felt less of a fog around me. I enrolled in a pottery class and will be volunteering at a local women’s shelter teaching an art class. I am back out involved in life, which is what my husband wanted me to do. We had talked about that often over the last year of his life. During this process of self discovery I have met a man who also lost a spouse a couple years ago. He has shown me that there is room in my heart for love again while still honoring the memory of my late husband. Some people tell me it’s too soon, but it feels comfortable and right for me.