Self-Talk Matters

Your internal dialogue and self-talk determine how you feel about
yourself and how you act in the world. For widows, it’s especially
important to understand how your self-talk promotes or prohibits
healing after a spouse or partner dies.

It’s not uncommon for widows to focus on negative thoughts because
they’re overwhelmed with grief, realizing all the secondary losses that
accompany the death of a spouse, and feeling the hopelessness of
being suddenly solo.

Widows often have lots of negative internal dialogue after their spouse
or partner dies because death is devastating, and the self-talk in a
widow’s brain often revolves around words like can’t, never, and

As in, I can’t focus on anything, or I’ll never be happy again and I
shouldn’t be feeling this way.

We Can Influence our Grieving

If every time someone asks you how you’re doing and you say, “I can’t
focus on anything,” you will eventually believe you’re literally incapable
of focusing on anything. This is because a thought repeated often
enough becomes a belief. But even though you might have difficulty
focusing today, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to focus on
anything ever again.

The same is true for grief. If you tell yourself that you’re a terrible widow,
that you shouldn’t be feeling sad or mad or bad, or that life isn’t worth
living anymore, then eventually those thoughts become beliefs. And not
only will they be harmful to your mental health, but they will also
prevent you from moving forward with your grief.

Repeated Self-Talk Becomes Stronger

The thing about internal dialogue is that the more you repeat a thought
or phrase, the stronger it becomes in your mind. If your self-talk revolves
around negative thoughts like, I’ll never be happy again, you’ll be hard
pressed to find even the slightest sliver of happiness. If you tell yourself
repeatedly that you can’t do something, your brain won’t find evidence
you can do it.

If the thoughts you think and the internal dialogue you create cements
your beliefs about yourself and your circumstances, doesn’t it make
sense to think better thoughts?

Even though it sounds good in theory to improve your internal dialogue
and get off the hamster wheel of negative thoughts, it’s not always that
easy to do.

However, it’s important for widows to shift the harmful thoughts and
beliefs that are keeping you stuck. Here are four ways you can improve
your internal dialogue and move forward with grief in tow.

Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, ask yourself the
simple question: Is it true? When you question the validity of your
thoughts, you can separate what’s true and what’s a belief you’ve

For example, you may think that your family doesn’t care about what
you’re going through. But is it true? Probably not. It’s more likely that
they just don’t know how to show their support during such a difficult
time in your life.

Think of at least two other ways to reframe the negative thought
For example, if you think you’ll never escape the crushing loneliness of
widowhood, ask yourself, how can I reframe this?

One way to reframe the negative belief is to think of loneliness as a gap
between the social connection you want and your inability to
experience it. In that way, you can create the experience you want
without waiting for anyone else to do it for you.

Replace Negative Thought with Positive One

A second way to reframe the negative belief about loneliness is to
remind yourself that loneliness is a feeling that comes from a thought.
And you can change thoughts that don’t serve you.

You have the power to change your thoughts. The key is to believe that
you can. It takes some practice, but eventually your brain will believe
the new thought you want to think when you repeat it often enough.
For example, if you think I’ll never be happy again, try replacing it with I
won’t always feel this way or getting better takes time. If you think the
thought, I can’t move because I have too many memories in this house,
try replacing it with moving to a new house is the best decision for me.

Talk to a Professional

Grief is hard, and it’s important to have someone who can listen and
guide you through the healing process, so your internal dialogue
doesn’t overwhelm you.

When you’re widowed, thinking about or talking about your deceased
spouse or partner brings up all kinds of emotions. A professional
counselor or therapist can help you learn how to manage those intense
feelings and offer support to help you look at things differently.

If words like can’t, shouldn’t and never have hijacked your internal
dialogue, it’s time to change the script. The main thing to remember is
your thoughts aren’t good or bad, they’re just thoughts.
And it’s up to you to decide what you make them mean.

Read more about Kim Murray and her work at:


Kim Murray

Kim Murray learned more than she ever wanted to know about grief, loss, and solo-parenting when her husband died from Glioblastoma in 2014. Instead of allowing herself to disappear into the grief abyss, she set out to help other widows on their own grief journey by creating Widow 411 to offer a variety of useful resources to help make widowhood suck a little less ( Kim is also a cofounder of the Widow Squad, an online community of widows moving through their grief in healthy, self-affirming ways (

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