Ask an expert: 'I can't move on from my husband's death'

Q: My husband died suddenly two years ago. He died of heart failure, which came as such a shock. He was really fit and loved running. We were together for 22 fantastic years and have three children.

I am still unable to come to terms with his death. I can’t sleep and my thoughts keep racing over and over in my mind. I rewind all the times I should have noticed when he was breathless.

He often complained of being tired but we kept putting it down to his busy work life. I should have sent him to the doctor for a check-up. I am torturing myself living in a world of what-ifs. I feel like my life has lost its meaning.

As soon as the children leave the house, I crawl back into bed and want to disappear. I tried counselling a year ago but it didn’t help. I felt the counsellor was uncomfortable talking about death so I didn’t continue.

It’s like I’m walking in a fog. I feel so guilty as my children have lost both their parents.

Answer: Your grief sounds so debilitating. You are struggling to accept the reality of your husband’s sudden death. You are drowning in guilt and recriminations. You long to withdraw from the world and your life has lost its meaning.

When we lose a beloved partner, friend or relative, our world is changed utterly. We don’t just get over the loss of our loved ones like a flu, but our hearts and minds begin to adapt to the natural healing process. We begin to slowly integrate the grief into our lives to find a meaning and a purpose for our future.

Over time, the feelings of loss become more manageable. That is what ‘normal’ grief feels like.

What you are describing sounds like complicated grief. This type of grief affects people who have lost loved ones through traumatic or sudden deaths. The bereaved struggle to make sense of what happened. They can experience guilt and self-blame, and become preoccupied with the cause of the death. They can remove themselves from the present and get stuck longing for the deceased and focusing on the past.

They have trouble accepting the death and experience difficulties moving on with their lives. They can struggle with a diminished sense of self or feel that their life is unfulfilling, empty or meaningless. This type of grief doesn’t get easier to bear. It lingers or gets worse.

Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that prevents you from healing.

I would recommend finding a professional who is trained in treating complicated grief. This has been shown to be highly effective in helping bereaved people with their symptoms.

People often say that some deaths are impossible to recover from. That myth is completely untrue.

With the right treatment, you will learn how to heal your grief and begin to embrace your life. Then, you can reclaim the future you and your children deserve.

Contact and ask them for a list of therapists who are trained in working with complicated grief. Or you can search online for therapists who are trained in this treatment.

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