Coping with the sudden death of a partner

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The problem
“I am in pieces and don’t know where to begin. My husband died last week – he was only 54 and, although he was overweight and had diabetes, he seemed quite healthy. He had a stroke, then he caught COVID-19 and that was that – he died within three weeks.

“Now I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to turn to for help and I’m not coping. Both our children have left home, and the house feels so empty. I can’t imagine my life without him in it – he’s been the one constant through everything that’s happened, and I’ll never find that with anyone again.

“I can’t get over the fear that I was responsible, as although he always stressed that we needed to be careful, I perhaps wasn’t as careful as I should have been. What if I picked it up and brought it home? I had a bit of a headache and sore throat about a month ago, after meeting some of my work colleagues in town, but didn’t think anything of it and it only lasted a day or two.

Read more: How to offer support to a grieving friend

“I can’t sleep as I’m crying all the time, and my brother-in-law’s no help as he says I just have to get on with it. It’s alright for him – he’s living with his girlfriend – but I’m here in the house on my own. How do people ‘get on with it’ when something like this happens?”

Fiona says
“People don’t just ‘get on with it’ – they have to grieve, and they all do so in their own time and in their own way. What’s more, people may need help to do the things necessary to process the loss, and eventually begin to move forwards.

“It’s a huge trauma, and sadly an awful lot of people are going through something similar right now – including the fear that they may be in some way responsible.

“I’m sure your brother-in-law is trying to put on a brave face – perhaps he thinks that will help you – but I expect he is grieving too; it’s just that he will be doing it in his own way.

Read more: The five stages of grief are different for everyone

“Being on your own in an empty house doesn’t sound good for you right now – do you, perhaps, have a friend who could move in? Or is there someone you could stay with? I realise lockdown restrictions may make this difficult, but your mental health is important and you could do with support during this difficult time. If you are living alone, it may be possible to look at this as a bubble arrangement, so that you’re still keeping safe.

“I am not going to insult you by saying this will get easier – the next few weeks and months will be hard. But, with support, you will be able to get through it.”

Below is a list of Australian and International Bereavement Services that may be useful to those who are grieving and those who are working with bereaved individuals and families.

Bereavement services in Australia
“There are other sources of support out there too, as well as grief counselling. And if you do feel you are finding it hard to cope, you can also speak with your GP. These services all exist for a reason – because they are widely needed.” Fiona adds.

Read more: There are things you can do to lessen your sorrow

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Have you been through something similar? What support would you offer?

– With PA

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