BW 030: Five Mindset Changes that Happen when Your Spouse DiesMay 09, 2023
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Losing a spouse sends you to the edge of the earth. You may often feel like you’re living in a different reality from everyone else. Things that used to be important to you may no longer matter as new priorities and interests emerge over time.
In episode 30 of the Brave Widow Show we talk about 5 mindset changes that can happen when your spouse dies.
We talk about:
~ Shift in priorities
~ Greater appreciation for life
~ Increased empathy and compassion
~ Acceptance of impermanence
~ Heightened awareness of your own mortality
~ Apathy for things you used to prioritize
~ "All of a sudden when your spouse dies, you realize how many frivolous things that you spent time on, how you might have gotten so worked up about certain things that now you couldn't care less about."
~ "The experience of loss makes you more aware of the value of life and how quickly that can be taken away from us."
The Brave Widow Community is a place where you can connect with other widows, find hope and healing, and begin to dream again for the future. Learn more at bravewidow.com.
Hey guys, I’m Emily Jones
I was widowed at age 37, one month shy of our 20 year wedding anniversary. Nathan and I have four beautiful children together. My world was turned completely upside down when I lost him. With faith, community, and wisdom from others, I’ve been able to find hope, joy, and dream again for the future. I want to help others do the same, too!
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Emily Jones: [00:00:00] Hey. Welcome to episode number 30 of the Brave Widow Show. When you lose a spouse, it feels like you have gone to the edge of the earth, that you are living now in some alternate reality that you are not even the same person that you were before you lost your spouse, and it can leave you feeling a little unsure, a little bit crazy, a little nervous that maybe something is terribly wrong, like maybe you're not supposed to be feeling the way that you do. So today I'm gonna share with you six specific mind mindset changes that happen when your spouse dies, so that you can rest assured this is totally normal.
One of the challenges that comes with understanding these mindset changes is later on navigating them. So what I [00:01:00] would recommend is whether or not you're part of the Brave Widow membership community, that you find some sort of community, some sort of support group online membership, close set of friends that you can relate to because these are the people that are gonna help you navigate this new normal, this new life. And that will help kind of be that thinking partner for you of reflecting and understanding how your mindset has changed, how your attitude, your perspective, your priorities have all changed. How different that is now that your spouse is gone and whether or not you feel confident in making decisions or knowing if you can ever go back to the way things were before.
So the first mindset shift that happens is that you have a shift in priorities. All of a sudden when your spouse dies, you realize, [00:02:00] How many frivolous things that you spent time on, how you might have gotten so worked up about certain things that now you couldn't care less about? You think about things that are gonna matter, like time with your family, time with friends, making new memories, having experiences, and some of the things that used to demand so much of your time and attention.
Maybe they've just kind of faded away. You start to realize the importance of pursuing your passion, of taking care of your physical and emotional wellbeing, of creating rapport and relationships and the things that you wanna be able to look back on fondly at 80, 90, a hundred, or whenever your time comes, you now have a much sharper [00:03:00] understanding of what your priorities should be.
The second mindset change that happens is that you have a greater appreciation for life. So the experience of loss makes you more aware of the value of life and how quickly that can be taken away from us. I often think of it as we no longer live in this naivety or this sense of innocence that we don't really understand the permanence of death. And it's not that I never understood it before, but it's hard, especially as a younger widow, to think, wow, somebody's life was only 20, 30, 40. If it's a child, it's even younger than that, and it's just sometimes eye-opening to realize just how much we should appreciate the time that we are given and the time that we do have here on this earth and what we do with [00:04:00] that time. You may cherish the small moments more. You may appreciate a sunset more. You may just really savor the small fine things in life that historically, you've taken for granted. I know when I went on a trip to England, there were so many things about the United States that we take for granted every day, even air conditioning.
Air conditioning and just conveniences we have, so our lives in the US are built around convenience and efficiency in many ways, even though it feels like it's not. And those things are so easy to take for granted when you have them every day, that when you go into another environment. Which to me, England shouldn't necessarily be that different from the US and my mind very similarly developed countries, but it is very different and England is not as focused on convenience and efficiency [00:05:00] as we are here in the us.
Compare that even to a third world country or a country that really has not developed at all, and you would notice even greater differences. So even just from that small example, Being able to think about appreciating what you have when you go through the tragedy of losing a spouse and what that means, not only of losing that person, but how it changes you personally.
You now have a much greater appreciation for things. I look at conversations I have in the car with my kids as opportunities to talk about hard or uncomfortable things, cuz number one, they're trapped. They can't go anywhere. And number two, those are the things that help build relationships, rapport, and memories really together as a family. And I appreciate that way more than I have in the past.
All right. The third mindset change that happens [00:06:00] is increased empathy and compassion. I consider myself a highly empathetic and compassionate person. But I really didn't understand the extent and the depths of what losing a spouse does to someone and how that can then in turn change just how they are in life. Having worked in healthcare for 20 years I was always aware of people, patients who had come in are not feeling well. They're scared about a diagnosis, they are nervous about test results. Maybe they've been waiting a long time to get these results, and so for me it was very natural to realize that people in that environment aren't acting as they normally would. Maybe they're shorter, more irritable, maybe they're just more nervous. It's harder to get information out of them. They're not thinking clearly. But I oftentimes thought about it in that setting, not [00:07:00] necessarily out everywhere that I went. So just in general, I think you have a greater sense of empathy and understanding that someone may look perfectly fine on the outside and someone may seem like they have it all together and life's great, but there could be challenges that they're battling and dealing with that we don't see. So we have a greater tolerance for things that normally might offend us or irritate us or for the actions that someone performs. This can also deepen the relationships with friends and family and help increase your ability to support them when they have times of need. I know for me, I have a much higher tolerance for things that just really used to get on my nerves, and now I step back and look at it. As you know there, there's things we all do to each other that are slightly annoying and irritating and probably get on each other's nerves. But at the end of the day, when I look [00:08:00] back, A year from now, five years from now, and so on, I'm not gonna remember all those little things. I'm going to remember the overall way I felt around that person and the relationship we had and the memories.
And it's not worth fussing, over every little thing. You as part of your empathy and compassion. You may also check up on people more often. So if they've had a sickness or a loss, or you want them to feel supported, you now have a much greater awareness of how to support them, how to make them feel seen, how to make them feel cared about.
Even if someone loses a parent, if you haven't lost a parent, if you've lost a spouse. Some similarities there may be to having lost a parent and things that you could do that would be nice to honor the memory of that person. To let the grieving person know you haven't forgotten about them on Mother's Day and some of those other occasions that may be really hard for them, and you tend to have maybe [00:09:00] a softer heart for people that are going through some of those same things.
The fourth mindset shift that happens is you have this acceptance of impermanence or mortality, so you understand how quickly life can be taken away. How fragile as human beings we are. Even if someone's in great health, in great shape never smoked, not done anything to harm their body. They could still receive a terminal illness, they could still be in a car wreck and be gone the next day.
We just don't know how much time we have. We are here today and gone tomorrow. So you may have a greater sense of acceptance of change, a willingness to embrace the present moment to value and savor it for what it [00:10:00] is to not hold on to the past and the way things need to be because you recognize that through life we're constantly changing.
We don't stay in this place of complacency or in a normalized routine, life is going to have disruptions. Life is going to have change, and so you recognize that there is really no permanence. Even though we like to think we have our routines and our hobbies and our daily, weekly, monthly things that we do, at the end of the day, there's always some new change, challenge or hurdle for us to overcome. Therefore, life really has a very little permanence to it.
The fifth way your mindset shifts is that you have a heightened awareness to your own mortality. We talked a little bit about this, but you have a greater understanding that at any moment you could be gone, expected or unexpected. So this may completely change [00:11:00] the way that you do estate planning, financial planning. How you organize things for your home and your life. You may be someone who wants to oppress this. You don't wanna think about it. You suppress acknowledging that there is a component of mortality to your own life and so you don't wanna worry about that. Or maybe you don't really care how easy or hard it is for people who must go on after you have died. So you don't really care to organize things and make life easier on other people, but for the most part, you at least have that heightened awareness there. There are so many times when I hear other couples that are talking, or if I see in a Facebook group, someone's talking about whether or not they should get married. They don't really wanna get married, they wanna stay, just engaged or boyfriend girlfriend. It's so hard for me not to just jump in and be like, no, [00:12:00] you want to do this or You don't wanna do that. Or, you gotta think about when one of you dies because you know when you're 20 or 30 and you're just thinking about getting married, you're not thinking that either of you's gonna die for a really long time.
And so I try not to be like that old person in a group that's trying to help bring awareness. But as you see and hear those conversations around you or online, you do have this heightened awareness that we are moral beings. We're not gonna be here forever. And you wanna be prepared and you want everyone else around you to be prepared because you know how much easier that will make your life for the life of others. If something does happen to you and you have everything already all lined out.
All right. The sixth mindset shift that happens whenever you lose a spouse or your spouse dies is an apathy towards things that you used to prioritize. [00:13:00] So, I used to be very adamant about how I wanted the house to look, what color I wanted things to be, where I wanted things to go, how frustrated I would get if people just left their clutter everywhere.
And it just, I really just wanted things a certain way and it wasn't that I couldn't have repainted or reorganized or done some of those things, but, Nathan and I didn't really agree on some of the areas of our house. And so we just kept putting changes off because we couldn't really come up with something that felt good and comfortable to the both of us.
And what's funny is in many ways, those things haven't changed. I've just left them. I no longer care. It's no longer a big priority, would it be nice to do some of that stuff? Sure. But I've noticed a distinct level of apathy towards that and towards other things that for a long time, maybe [00:14:00] up until recently, Not quite two years out, but getting close that I just didn't care.
I didn't care about the latest technology. I didn't care what color the kitchen was. I didn't care what decorations were out. I didn't care to put up the Christmas tree in one of the rooms I didn't care about having a bunch of different clothes to wear different shoes, just things that might have been a big priority or maybe were even like a moderate thing that I would think about. I just didn't care anymore. A lot of times you'll see this even for people in the workplace where people are very driven, they're ambitious, they wanna move forward in their career. That's no longer priority.
It's not uncommon to see people change careers or people change roles, I know some folks who've been widowed in the same timeframe that I have that are in leadership roles that have said to me, I really, I don't wanna be a leader right now. I just wanna come to work. And do my job and go home. I don't wanna have to think about it [00:15:00] after hours. I don't wanna have to manage a team. I just don't have the same passion and drive for it that I used to. And I can completely understand why that happens. It's like this world you had that was vibrant and full of color and beautiful and it had its ups and downs now has become this world that you're just, you're kind of walking through, maybe you feel a disassociation or you feel distanced, like life is kind of happening around you or to you, but you're not really involved, you're just kinda watching it from a distance or maybe everything just has a slight shade of gray to it now.
It's not as vibrant and beautiful as it used to be. And that's a very difficult challenge and hurdle to overcome at times. [00:16:00] So it is normal for you to become apathetic about things that you used to prioritize. It's normal for you to change hobbies and change habits, and change things that you want to spend your time on.
All of these mindset shifts that come together, just give you this bigger picture of how you are now looking at life. Most likely you're not caught up in this various self-centered, self-focused life of achieving the goals and the dreams and doing all the things and going all the places. You now have a greater appreciation for life and memories and experiences and relationships and things that matter. So your view and your perspective of the world has completely changed, and you're gonna navigate that differently than you have before.
And while you might try to explain it to your family and friends around you, [00:17:00] it's very likely that until they've gone through something similar, they're not really gonna understand. They're gonna continue to live life the way that they have. All right, so those are the six mindset. Changes that happen when your spouse dies.
And again, this is really just to help you be reassured and know that each of these things are normal and to encourage you to partner up with someone else or a small group of people or a community of folks that also very clearly understand these mindset changes. They've gone through them themselves and they will surround and support you as you navigate this next part of your journey in life.
Emily Jones: Hey guys. Thank you so [00:18:00] much for listening to the Brave Widow Podcast. I would love to help you take your next step, whether that's healing your heart, finding hope, or achieving your dreams for the future.
Do you need a safe space to connect with other like-minded widows? Do you wish you had how-tos for getting through the next steps in your journey, organizing your life or moving through grief? What about live calls where you get answers to your burning questions? The Brave Widow Membership Community is just what you need.
Inside you'll find courses to help guide you, a community of other widows to connect with, live coaching and q and a calls, and small group coaching where you can work on what matters most to you. Learn how to heal your heart, find hope, reclaim joy, and dream again for the future. It is possible. Head on over to brave widow.com to learn more. [00:19:00]