I am a widower. You got knocked down, but you get back up. Everybody finds their way again, and these are some ways I am doing it.
Set a deadline. I don’t have any strong culture or religion to work from so I just figured out a year is good round symbolic duration. For one year I am a widower. After that I am a millionaire playboy philanthropist. From Batman to Bruce Wayne. There will be a little re-birthday just for me.
I find the worst thing is having to re-live my loss to strangers – to the police, to the bank, to immigration officers, to co-workers. Which you will have to do sometimes, but you have plenty of other happier things to talk about as well. It’s not wrong to put your loss to one side for later, it’ll always be there, but you will be stronger. Every couple of months I get sent a newsletter about suicide. I’m sure it helps some people but I hate the damn thing, it goes in the bin.
Common knowledge is to re-arrange all your furniture. Like, if a tornado hit it. Like, you are exhausted by carrying things up and down stairs and so you sleep soundly. Like, you are on a mission that allows no other intrusive thought. Like, whatever life was lived here it’s been remixed by a bad DJ. And in your new environment you can get on with your new life.
Obviously you need to put something where you-know-what happened. If you choose something ridiculous you might find yourself staring forlornly at a novelty sock drawer, and snap out of it.
Don’t just get a hobby. Become theatrically obsessed with something. I want to be the tedious Man Cave guy, not the dead wife guy. Particularly as my Man Cave jokes are a re-occupation of space in my home which would otherwise be sad.
Whenever you get the bad thoughts go out and walk around. Look at the world. Wear out some shoes and wear out that misdirected energy.
Sleep is key. Sleep is repair. A strategically placed pillow allows you to sleep in the same positions you’ve known for the last 25 years without your knees knocking together. It should not have an anime picture on it that’s gross.
Despite that you’re going to age visibly. Sorry. If that worries you then lay off the grog. For me grog is not a problem but not everyone is so lucky. Careful.
Time to reread your old Roman stoic philosophers. No matter what they say, everyone you know is terrified that you’re going to weep all over them and will avoid you. Fortunately for me I did so much of that when young I’ve worn it out. You might once, but you’re in charge of the tone of your friendships, and if you practice calm and acceptance then they will too. And being chill actually helps your mood.
Caution: That person at a party that reminds you of your partner has no especial insight into your loss. That’s all in your head.
You remember your partner when you and they were young. But look in the mirror, time’s moved on. I’m pleased to say I have no great desire to shack up with a 20 year old, may you also be free of such delusion.
Ghosts: There are only the ghosts in your head. If you find it hard to go to the toilet because you might be observed by angels, you could hold a cleansing ceremony. Some people use incense. I have preferred to unleash an endless torrent of belching and other biological sonic place markers of such might that no woman alive or dead would possibly share this space.
It’s OK to talk aloud to yourself. Or a cat. I can’t have a cat right now, might get a robot one, which is just as oblivious as the real thing. It’s even OK to talk to the dead, because you’re really addressing some of the wiring in your own head that needs revision.
Media: I have a ritual of scanning and sorting photographs of the dead which I’ve done twice now. I think it’s because you look through them all and then you reach an end point where you can stop, and not have to look at them until much later.
If after a year you are healed and looking forward to new adventures then you have only done what your partner should have hoped for you. You’re a living thing not a grave marker. And at least for me, I do not believe in afterlife, nobody is watching, it’s completely up to me to make sure that life is spent well.