A Survival Guide to Being Widowed Young

Losing your life partner is one of the most traumatic things that can ever happen to anyone. It throws everything in your life upside down, and life will never be the same again.

The first few days and weeks pass by in a blur as you deal with the immediate aftermath of bereavement. Registering your partner’s death, organising the funeral, filling out endless paperwork, sorting out your partner’s belongings, if you feel up to it, and dealing with the grief and disbelief of other people too...

When someone dies there are three practical things that need to be done in the first few days:

  1. Get a medical certificate – you'll get this from a doctor (either from your GP or at the hospital where your loved one died). You need the certificate to register the death.
  2. Register the death within five days – you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral and for other paperwork to do with your late partner's estate. Many WAY members have recommended asking for several copies of the death certificate in order to make some of the paperwork easier when closing down bank accounts, telephone contracts etc.
  3. Arrange the funeral

Although you probably won’t feel much like eating and sleeping at times, it’s important to make sure you look after yourself properly - and to make sure that you get a regular meal. If possible, arrange for friends to bring round ready-cooked meals that you can eat there and then, or put in the freezer for another day. You probably won’t feel much like shopping or cooking, so this is something practical that friends and family can do to help.

There will also be lots of other practical things that get neglected after your partner’s death. In her hugely practical book about bereavement, If There’s Anything I Can Do..., WAY’s former Chairman Caroline Voaden suggests writing a list of the most pressing things that need doing around your house - from mowing the lawn to fixing a puncture on your bike, from doing the ironing to unblocking the sink - then put the list on the fridge or somewhere visible for visitors to see. If they offer to help, they can choose something from the list.

Ofcom has recently published information about notifying a phone or broadband provider of a customer’s death.  Follow the link for more details about who to contact, what you will need and what to do if you would like to keep the service connected.

Melancholy photo of a woman sitting on a windowsill looking out through the window.

Here are some other survival tips to help you get through the first weeks and months of bereavement:

  • Talk regularly about your grief and your memories of your partner with your friends and family.
  • Talk to your GP, and see a counsellor if you feel this would be useful - Cruse Bereavement Care offers bereavement counselling.
  • Accept help and support whenever it’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask for help, if you need it.
  • Exercise moderately and regularly, if you can.
  • Go to a yoga class or book a regular massage that will help you to relax. Failing that, treat yourself to a regular soak in the bath tub.
  • Keep a diary or a blog - increasingly young widows are turning to the Internet to document their grief. See some example blogs here.
  • Make a memory box including photographs and some of your partner’s favourite things (if you have children, they can look at this in the months and years after your partner died).
  • Join a support group like WAY and talk to other people who know what you are going through.
  • Plan for ‘special days’ such as holidays or anniversaries. Feelings can be particularly intense at these times.
  • Plan, and allow yourself to enjoy some good times without guilt. WAY has lots of events and holidays that you can join in with up and down the country, and even overseas, with other people who understand what you're going through.
  • Try not to make any major life decisions within the first few months after bereavement, if you don't have to (including moving house, changing jobs etc.).
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