“My Husband Died Unexpectedly…”

Hi Dr. Neimeyer,

My husband died unexpectedly five years ago at the age of 54. We were together for 33 years. He dropped dead in front of me with no warning. They said that he was gone before he hit the floor. We had a very good marriage and I am thankful for the time that we had. We ran a business together for 30 years and have two grown children. I keep very busy, and that has been the most help, along with the fact that I do have a lot of close family nearby. My problem is that I don’t see a future for myself. I work, do errands and household chores, and that’s about it. I just don’t know what to do next or how to move on. I will be 59 in three months. I miss what I had,but I know I can’t get it back. I also feel that I don’t have closure because I wasn’t able to say goodbye! My son says that I need to get out of my comfort zone,but I don’t know how to go about doing this. I know that in some ways five years is a long time, but for me it’s like it was yesterday.

Thanks for your time!


Dear Dora,

When we lose someone suddenly, as you have, we are denied so many things: a chance to adapt, to anticipate the looming loss and discuss it with our loved one, an opportunity to affirm love, say goodbye, and when relevant seek and extend forgiveness for wrongs or disappointments across years of relationship. Not only do we miss this special person, but we also miss the opportunity to address what needed to be addressed and say what needed to be said. AfterTalk letters can take a long step toward helping us do this even beyond death, restoring a sense of connection that lets us convey what is in our hearts, and even seek the loved one’s counsel on our changed lives.

And this latter point introduces a key feature of your own grief experience: in losing your husband as a physical presence in your life, you also lost all of the future roles and goals that were tied to his being there. This is partly what people mean when they say that it feels as if a part of them had died with their partner, leaving them with a sense of merely going through the motions. Keeping busy helps, no doubt–it provides a buffer against the sort of rumination that can reinforce depression and helplessness. But it is not a long-term substitute for purposeful activity organized around new goals and roles, or that addresses the questions, “Who am I now?” and ” What now matters to me?”

These are big questions, but not impossible ones to ask and answer. One place to start is by looking at previous sources of pleasure and meaning. Across the course of your life, when did you feel most alive? Was it when you were spending time with close friends? Learning new things? Creating something beautiful? Helping others? When did you feel most like you were growing as a person, and what direction of growth might be suitable for you now? In one sense your son is probably right: change of any kind moves us out of our comfort zone, or we risk stagnation. The secret is to find the right balance of challenge and support as you explore new options. Start small–at least twice a week, shop in a different grocery store, ask a friend to join you for lunch in a new restaurant, wear different clothes. And then try adding activities that link to the long term interests referred to above–perhaps an art class, or volunteer work, or an out of town trip. With each small step the way will become clearer, and you will discover or rediscover the person you are now meant to be.

Dr. Neimeyer

5 thoughts on ““My Husband Died Unexpectedly…””

  1. Bull crap. Obviously you don’t know what it is to loose someone that close. The day I stop grieving is when we meet again.

  2. Lost my husband in front of me. He bleed out I call it thru his mouth. It seemed like a gallon of blood. I grabbed his wrist and there was no pulse this all happened in about 10 seconds, no pulse. We had a happy 36 years he had just turned 79 and 10 days later he was gone. I called 911, they could not help, they called the fire department in and they tried another 30 minutes or so but it was not to be. He had went to heaven. I know I will see him someday but this is still so hard and I still grieve as this has been just a year.

  3. My husband of 17 years died 11 days ago in our bed, with me trying to save him, of an undiagnosed heart problem.

    I found out from his sone less than 48 hours later that my husband had kept a secret from me for 2 months: he had a gun in our garage “to protect me” – but we had discussed his wanting to get a gun for YEARS and he would let it go and didn’t get one.

    So now I’m grieving his death, the horrible way he died, all that goes with that – AND the fact that he lied to me by not telling me he’d gotten a gun.

    So my love goes to disgust & hatred so I am processing all of that…

    How do I forgive him lying to me – even id only by omission? And I will but would like to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you.

  4. I know everyone feels their dead loved one leaves be hind a legacy but mine truly did. My husband not only fathered our 10 children but he through his efforts changed a whole generation of educational, social , and behavioral problems that we both grew up with. You see all our children are educated. They have never smoked, taken drugs or gone to jail. He is irreplaceable in my life. His sudden death at a time when we were just beginning ours is such a great loss. The 10 wonderful children he gave me are a comfort during this last 5 months. But the loss I suffered has hospitalized me with broken heart syndrome and left me with a great emptiness inside. Even though I have always been refered to as a strong woman. I feel so helpless at this time.

  5. I lost my husband 02/23/2020 to suicide. My husband and oldest son were not speaking and he tried to make it right but it didn’t work. Then my youngest son moved back home. I woke up to them arguing. My son said no wonder my brother don’t talk to you. And then he grabbed the gun Sat down on a chair and the gun jammed. He fixed it then shot himself. He got up and walked outside to where after a few minutes he dropped to the ground. He looked up to me then died. I see visions of this day everyday. The grief has not let up. I tried to be strong for my children . We were married for 30 yrs. I have none to talk to about this. People think I should be over it. But how??

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