Extra Strength Grief
When Your Soulmate Dies:
A Guide to Healing Through Heroic Mourning
Last week, a dear friend described to me her grief experience after the loss of her husband. Her mother died less than a year prior to her husband's death.
“I was devastated when my mother died. We had grown closer in the past few years, chatting on the phone daily. I miss her terribly and still find myself thinking I need to tell mom about something cute my grandson said yesterday. I thought I knew how grief felt…"
"But when my husband died so suddenly, my life just exploded. He was my best friend, my soulmate, for almost 30 years. He has been gone over six months, and I still can’t feel the ground under my feet. ‘Grief’ is not a strong enough word to capture the depth of my pain.”
In general, it is never a good idea to compare grief experiences. Each loss is so unique, we can be very surprised by the aftereffects. Some losses are so intensely life-changing that the grief feels “extra strength.”
“Love and grief are two sides of one precious coin.”
- Dr. Alan Wolfelt
I am always on the lookout for extra resources to help my clients between their therapy sessions. Grief materials written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, are consistently high quality and high impact. I only recently came across this title, and it has already earned a spot on my clinical bookshelf.
What do you think about the word “soulmate”? Would you use that word to describe your current, former, or future life partner? Is there someone else who qualifies as your soulmate? Maybe your best friend, closest confidante, sister, father, grandmother?
A soulmate is a person you trusted with your most personal thoughts, dreams, fears, and even a shared daily routine. What happens when you lose that connection because your soulmate has died? Who can you tell about your day? When something terrible happened in the past, this was the person you would talk to. Now they are not here to share the burden of this massive life change with you.
Not everyone would use the word soulmate to describe their very closest loved one. Don’t let that word stop you from the amazing benefits of this book. We can all agree that the pain of losing them matches the intense love we had for them when they lived. You might not feel like a hero during this painful time, but Dr. Wolfelt calls this heroic mourning because it involves the “severing of a timeless relationship.”
A well-known grief educator, Dr. Wolfelt shares his sage wisdom with an honest approach in his book, When Your Soulmate Dies: A Guide to Healing Through Heroic Mourning. This practical handbook expands on Dr. Wolfelt’s well-researched Six Needs of Mourning to address the special situation of losing your closest companion.
The 6 Needs of Heroic Mourning
according to Dr. Alan Wolfelt
1. Acknowledge the Reality of Your Soulmate's death.
2. Embrace the pain of the loss.
3. Remember your soulmate.
4. Develop a new self-identity.
5. Search for meaning.
6. Receive ongoing support from others.
Dr. Wolfelt uses the introduction to explore the background of the word soulmate and address varying thoughts on the word. He carefully breaks down the hero's journey metaphor as it applies to the mourning process. The book then begins with five pages of thoughtful questions for you to begin reflecting on your personal grief. I highly recommend using this practice as a starting point.
The unique experience of having a soulmate is explored in chapter two. A soulmate relationship is special due to the depth of the bond, and as a source of unconditional love. Soulmates share closely held core values, and their relationship is based on trust, intimacy, humor, and kindness. This type of relationship also typically includes heroic traits such as sacrifice, honor, and gratitude.
What were the priorities that you both shared? How can you continue to live out those important values? For example, did you and your soulmate believe that family togetherness was a priority? In what way will you maintain that tradition, perhaps with slight variations?
Maybe you could create a scrapbook with photos of past family events, then share it with other family members. This project honors the past as well as carries the precious memories into the future.
Chapter 3 introduces the basics of the Six Needs of Mourning, with Chapters 4 through 9 covering each of them in depth. These chapters are chock full of practical ideas that line up with your experience of a soulmate partnership. There are journal prompts at the end of each chapter, and relatable personal stories from other grieving soulmates.
Message: You are not alone in your grief,
and you can learn from others who have experienced similar loss.
Theme: Grief means converting a relationship
from one of presence to one of memory.
In this book, Dr. Wolfelt provides dozens of suggestions that focus on doing grief, instead of just assuming it’ll go away eventually. Time does not simply “heal all wounds.”
Mourning is an action.
In the final chapter, Dr. Wolfelt introduces the idea of reconciliation. Grief is not something to “get over” or merely resolve. There is no simple recipe for "closure."
Instead, grief is an experience that we integrate into our lives in a healthy way, while we engage in our new life after the loss.
This book is the perfect addition to your grief support system. You can buy it directly from the Center for Loss & Life Transition. (I have no personal or financial connection to this organization!)
Do you need more support for your intense grief? Call me for a free consultation today!
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