My Husband Died: How can I live without him?

Dear Dr. Neimeyer,

My husband died in November. He was in his early 40s. We were together nearly 25 years; he was my other half. We did everything together. It is so hard for me. All I do is cry. I know that’s not going to bring him back but I’m so heartbroken. It is like I’m dying inside. Each day I talk to him and I get goose bumps on my right arm and my hand gets numb. Is that a sign? Is it true that they come to you? I just wonder if he misses me as much as I miss him. How can I live without him? It’s killing me.


Dear Netta,

Although we live in a culture that emphasizes individualism, the reality is that we are wired for attachment. As the feeling of yearning that you express poignantly conveys, we need others—and particularly a few “special” others—to feel whole. This is why one common feature of profound grief is the sense that a part of ourselves has died; in a psychologically real sense, it has. To lose a partner so early in life reduces us, and even our earnest attempts to retain a connection to him or her can feel like a pallid alternative to the gift of our loved one’s full presence. Learning to live with this very present absence often requires a considerable effort over time.

For all of these reasons, intense grief alone is not something pathological, something to be worried about. Certainly missing our deceased loved ones keenly and experiencing tearfulness when we think about them is common early in mourning, and probably occurs in proportion to our love. But as you move into your 7th or 8th month of bereavement, if you find that the tears are a constant companion and that pleasure is a stranger, if you seem to have lost touch with the uniquely valuable aspects of yourself, if you find yourself cutting off from others and having trouble functioning at home or at work, and especially if things seem to be getting worse rather than better, then consciously taking steps to reclaim your life may be in order.

So, what to do if this description seems to fit? One thing is to follow your instincts to talk with your husband, not only about your missing him—though that surely would be part of it—but also to share the highlights of your day, discuss your plans for the week, or solicit his advice about an important decision you are facing. AfterTalk can provide a portal for just this sort of communication: messages that affirm life as well as loss. Just as a weekly phone call to a parent or child living in another state naturally would include conversations about interesting and important updates on your activities, so too can a written letter to your husband continue to include him as an audience to your life in a way he might appreciate, not only in a way that would cause him concern. Your letter even suggests that you believe he may have a spiritual presence in your life, missing you in return. If so, you might sit quietly for a moment after writing and re-reading your letter, and try to sense what his response might be. Giving it voice in a letter written back to yourself can help strengthen your bond, and perhaps even offer you helpful advice and encouragement on setting aside your grief at times in order to reengage other people and projects. Though it is not a panacea for the pain of loss, reaffirming a living bond as a part—though not the entirety—of life can help ensure that the second six months after the loss is not merely a darker version of the first.

Dr. Neimeyer

26 thoughts on “My Husband Died: How can I live without him?”

  1. I just lost my husband to cover. We were married 69 years . How do I go on. Im so lost. Nighttime is scary for me. Please help me

    1. We are both named Sharon.
      We were together 50 years. He was a special person, as anyone who knew him would tell you. We were “different” from average people. We had a very deep bond. We were always together. He was also my only friend. I never realized that he was the one who made my life worth living.
      Worse yet, I blame myself for his dying because I know there were many times when I should have call the doctor, like when he stopped eating. He would still be alive if I had done so. I can’t explain why I didn’t do what I should have.
      My world is all black. Plus he had no insurance and I can barely scrap by with the little I have been left. We were planning to leave this awful place I am now condemned to live in. He took my life with him. There is nothing left.
      And to those people who say it gets better, well in my case it doesn’t. Each day is worse than the one before. I am as alone as a person could be. The silence is deafening.

      1. I know exactly how you are feeling. I lost my husband August 11th. We have been married and together over 30yrs. He is my world. I hope God takes me sooner than later so we can be together again.

        1. I’m 💯 in the same boat. Mine passed away August 11, 2021. Not a moment goes by that he’s not in my thoughts, my heart, my skin. He’s my priority everyday as I ask to be with him wherever he is EVERY SINGLE DAY. I dread waking up everyday & often hope for a reunion sooner than later.

        2. I know how you feel I lost mine last year I can not move forward lost my brother 2 years before tag both did the same thing I absolutely broken

      2. I just lost my husband of 43 years. He committed suicide after terminal prostate cancer diagnosis. It’s only be3n three months but the pain and the loss of ny best friend . I’m devastated. Life is not worth going on to me

      3. Abigail Arredondo

        I am feeling the same way. We married at 18ys. old and were married 38yrs. He was my whole world. I have depression and anxiety for more than 20 yrs. and he took carebof me and was always a phone csll away. Im just as lost as you are. All I do is sleep and cry. My adult children dont understand my pain and loneliness. I know how you feel and i wish i had answers but i dont.

    2. i lost my beloved husband last year after 66 years of marriage. we met when we were 16 and 17……….i dont want to live anymore and want to die. tomorrow would have been 66 years…. i wish i would die i have children and they grieve as well but they have their lives and really dont understand the loss between a husband and wife i willnever get over this loss….he was truly my best friend,my i lost my love
      i cant go on………i am 86 years old………..

      1. Dear Jake life is a wonderful thing and your husband would want you to go on and keep his memory alive he would be upset to know how sad you are and he would want you to remember him with love now not loss as live well knowing you will be together one day ❤️ 💙

      2. Angela Kaminski

        My beautiful 86 yer old friend, I am so sorry for your loss. I can feel the heaviness of your heart. He is there, always listening, just beyond the veil that we can’t see through. He is waiting for you and when it is your time you will embrace one another again. Allow your broken soul to see the beauty of what is still in this life you are living…a simple smile from a stranger, a beautiful sunny day, a child’s giggle, the memory of the good times spent with your husband. May God bring your heart ❤️ peace until you see him again….

  2. How can you dictate at what point she should not be crying every day? Everyone experiences grief differently and to place your perceived expectations on her is not right

  3. I wish I could help everyone, because that is my nature. But I am feeling the same after losing my husband of 37 1/2 years.
    I can’t feel better because he’s not here. I don’t want anyone to tell me it will get better. It doesn’t. Life drags on without him and his perpetual silliness and devotion.

    1. I have no life without him. We were almost like 2 people in one. Days are horrible; nights worse. There was no one else who even understands me. I hate where I live and there was insurance so basically I’m a poor widow.
      I still get up to tell him something that I found on the Internet etc. and have to stop myself because he isn’t here.
      All I can see are long, lonely years ahead. And we were just on the edge of finding another place to live when he suddenly passed. And that’s not even possible now.
      Linda I am wondering if you are living in the same place you two spent your lives. It is hell for me living here because he is all over the place, if you know what I mean. Never thought I would end up in this living hell.

      1. Has it got any better?
        I have just lost my husband and feel the same as you.
        He was my whole life and it is so painful without him.
        My protector, carer, comforter and only friend has gone.
        Lots of hugs to you Sharon

  4. I am so upset and sad because I can’t visualize my husband and the memories are non existent. I have pictures everywhere in hopes of bringing him back. I loved this man more than I can say and hate this is my reaction to his death. It was a sudden death to West Nile Virus, three days from the start he was in a coma and never regained consciousness and was dead by the twelfth day. I was not able to say a proper goodbye due to the coma despite being at Mayo everyday. I am miserable .

  5. I understand. The days are long, I can’t wait until the day is over and I final fall asleep praying that he will come to me in my dreams. I don’t care about money, food, not even our children, absolutely nothing. Every day is a constant one. One plate, one folk, one cup, one crying, I never felt alive until he walked into a room now it’s just me. Everyone goes about their life and plans, their want for life and what it has offer. I just want yesterday back, I want his big arms around me, to hear him whisper softly in my ear “I love you”. To touch his face, hold his hand. I would give up forever for one more minute with him. I don’t belong here without him, not sure why I’m still here. There is no more laughter, no more plans. Where once there was warmth and happiness are now cold and sadness. He took my soul, my whole being when he left me here.

  6. I lost my husband of 37 years almost 3 months ago. I feel so much of what everyone is saying. The only thing that makes my days less dismal is staying busy during the day. When I am busy concentrating on whatever I am doing it gives me a temporary break from my grief. Nights are very difficult. I tend to sit, cry and dwell on the illness, the horrible traumatizing time in the hospital and the helplessness of watching my husband slowly getting worse. Those 4 months unfortunately are overshadowing the 37 years we had together. I know I need to let those months ago and instead focus on the good times but I don’t feel I am ready for it yet. I do know when I don’t stay active during the day, I sit and watch t.v. for 16 hours straight per day and just cry and feel myself going to a very dark place. I know better but I do allow myself to sink this low at times and it feels not only unhealthy but dangerous. After 3 days of darkness, I made myself go on some errands just to get out of the house. Even though I walked around numb, empty and in a daze it was still better than watching endless hours of t.v. For me, I know what to do to help myself to cope but sometimes I just don’t follow my own advice.

  7. My daughter passed away on 26th January 2022 unexpectedly after falling and bumping her head on edge of bath, My husband passed away on 29th March 2022 When my daughter passed my legs were wobbly and i felt weak with shock. My husband had been given six months to live due to pancreatic cancer. He had operation for bowel cancer a few months before but pancreatric was overlooked I have a son who lived with us on and off while my husband passed away at home. It has been difficult to carry on. I couldnt talk about my husband without crying and cried at night. We had been married for 40yrs and knew everything about each other, how we felt and thought. I could bear to be at the house without him at Christmas and I decided to go on a cruise for 2 weeks. We came back and it was twice as bad without him. I feel my live has ended so I know how it feels to lose a soulmate and my daughter was an understanding woman who left 2 teenagers behind. She didnt want to see a doctor and I was told she was feeling unwell since the October before she passed in January. It doesnt seem real but I am forcing myself to carry on. I have no friends. I have a sister and sister in law who I regularly chat with. My son visits every 2 weeks. My life is very bleak and lonely. I have a cat and go out and try to keep busy and I feel Ok when its sunny but depressed when its cloudy. I just live every day and it comes. I wonder how long i shall live without my husband but know I have to carry on

  8. My husband died may 28 th. He hemorrhaged from his nose & mouth profusely like a Gusher. I ran around for a basin , the phone to call 911 , to unlock the door for the paramedics & when I was running back up the steps I yelled to him are you still bleeding & with still a strong voice he yelled back”yea”. When I got back to our bedroom he was crying that he had severe back pain & wanted to lay down. I told him not to because he could drown in his fluids but he was in extreme pain & did lay down. I was able to put the o2 on now because he stopped bleeding but he was unresponsive now. I recalled 911 but they said 5 more minutes. I said he won’t be here in 5 more minutes. As my arm was underneath his head and still unresponsive, he died in about 10 minutes. He was my best friend. We were married 37 years with our anniversary coming up in 3 months. I feel like part of me died when he died and really I’m ready to go home now too. Nothing is the same. Even when I go out to dinner or lunch with a friend or two I find no peace. Maybe I’m ok for a while with them but as soon as I go home its lonely and nothing but silence which is awful. I can’t stand the tv or radio on either. I feel that I have to wrap up all the stupid phone calls & paperwork and then get the headstone & then I’m ready to go home too. I hate it here without my wonderful husband. Life will never be the same. And I really don’t see it getting better. Weekends & holidays are extremely lonely. My friends have their own families and even if they do invite you(which is rare) you feel alone even with a crowd.

  9. I know how you feel. My partner of 16 years died a month ago. We were joined at the hip always together. Neither of us have family or children and so I am having to deal with his death alone. I just do not want to live without him..Is it normal to feel this heartbroken ?

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. Yes, it is normal to feel so heartbroken. I lost my husband suddenly 6 years ago. My whole world came crushing down and all I saw was darkness, no future. I spent a lot of time in my garden taking care of my plants. One day, I had a spiritual experience and I felt a connection with him. I saw numbers, repeated sets of numbers among other things. I researched into numerology to find out what this all meant. I see 1111 every day. I learnt to talk to him regularly. I had a good friend who understood and gave me emotional support these few years. You won’t get over it, you will in time learn to live with it. I know he is with me in spirit. Love continues forever, this I have personally experience and that is how I slowly heal and am still healing every day. One day at a time.

  10. I feel your pain. I am lost in a wilderness I never knew existed. I lost my entire family in the space of 15 months and both my daughters left home shortly afterwards. The loss is immense and indescribable. I survive, I no longer live nor exist. Time is my worst enemy; there is simply too much of it and the road ahead is one I struggle to follow. I have no future nor do I want one; this was taken the day I lost my husband. This world has no point or purpose for me, I just wait until it is my time. One day, I hope to no longer have to face another morning, afternoon, evening or night.

  11. My husband died the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, 2022. It used to be my favorite holiday.
    Mornings are the worst part of the day for me because the realization hits me hard that I have to get through another day without him, and that this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life. He was the love of my life, my safe place in the world, and the best thing that ever happened to me. I try to stay active and socialize as much as I can. Often I have to almost beg people to be with me, especially on weekends because all of my friends, although kind to me, have their own lives, and their own husbands with whom they spend most of their free time. What I wish more than anything is to just go to sleep at night and not wake up. I want to die, but I’m not suicidal for reasons I won’t go into. Therefore I’m trapped in a life I don’t want. I don’t see things ever getting better.

  12. My husband died 3 weeks ago. We were together 38 years. I am so lost. I am going through all of what you mentioned. I want my time to come too. I have 3 amazing sons. They have wonderful lives and I am proud of them. I would not self harm, but I am tired and want to be with my husband. I am searching for hope that this can get better.

  13. So many of us and our grief runs so deeply with the very same feelings. It’s an unimaginable loss to even think about let alone try to get over. I don’t want to in fact. I write to my husband every day on my computer. I read and reread all of our cards and letters to each other from dating to the last one received from him over a span of 33 years. I have put them all in large notebooks by dates. He has been gone 3 months and still I sit here and read them over and over. Every night I pray I don’t wake up in the morning. I think of ending my own life. But then I think about heaven and the promise of seeing him again and I find I can’t do it. I can’t take the chance. There is a time stamped day and time when I will leave this earth just as there was one for our spouses. We could not have changed the outcome even if we could have. And yet, the guilt is within me constantly. What more should I have done, could have done? I am trying to rebuild my faith in God and started to read the bible. It does help along with going back to church which I had not done in 50 years. Praying is the only way I have found some relief from all of this pain. And the promise of being with my husband again when my time comes to leave this earth. I wish you all peace and faith and patience that God does have a plan for each of us.

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