What Is The Widowhood Effect? And How To Cope

Loss and grief are difficult to navigate, and losing a close loved one, such as a spouse, can leave you feeling lost and alone. While caring for others is a common human experience, the bond that spouses share is unique and intimate. The loss of your spouse impacts every aspect of your life and can leave you feeling scared and depressed. Marriage vows often discuss commitment for life, losing a major part of your support system can force you to feel empty. 

When dealing with and navigating through any loss, it is important to rely on those around you for love and support. Your family and friends can help you manage your emotions and daily tasks during this difficult time. Acknowledging your pain and discovering healthy ways to cope with your serious loss can also help you to work through your grief and pain. A variety of physical and mental health impacts stem from the loss of a spouse. This article will talk more specifically about the widowhood effect and cover various ways to cope with the mental and physical implications of this effect.  

What Is The Widowhood Effect?

You might be wondering, “What is the widowhood effect?”. The widowhood effect describes a physical health phenomenon in which older people who have lost their spouse can have an increased risk of death within the first three months following the passing of their spouse.

This medical ailment is also often referred to as broken heart syndrome. Medical professionals are uncertain as to why the occurrence of this phenomenon is unpredictable, however, there are serious correlations between losing a spouse and the death of the other spouse months later. 

The bond between spouses can be quite strong and a level of co-dependency and companionship forms between the pair. Relieving on another individual for support and love can physically impact one’s health. Therefore, the loss of a spouse can often lead their counterpart to struggle with the physical implications of the widowhood effect. 

Click here to learn more about what to expect in the first year of grief and how to cope.

Who Can Be Affected By The Widowhood Effect?

This phenomenon does not impact every single couple in which one of the spouses has passed away. So you might be wondering who can be affected by the widowhood effect. What is most challenging about widowhood? Because this is a medical phenomenon that is surprising to many medical professionals, there is some uncertainty as to whom this may affect. 

The widowhood effect can impact both men and women, so it is not solely associated with one gender. It is relatively uncommon for younger people to experience the widowhood effect and usually people over the age of 50 are more likely to experience it.

Studies suggest that men have a harder time dealing with the sudden loss of a spouse. This is usually because men rely heavily on their spouses to offer social support and interaction. Women rely less on their spouses for these social interactions. This typically means that it is more common for older men to experience being widowed in their lifetime than their women counterparts. The sudden loss means that men cannot prepare for the life that will come following the passing of their spouse. This can heavily impact their mental and physical health, sometimes leading to the widowhood effect. 

Women tend to face more serious impacts from the loss of their spouse after a prolonged battle with an illness or health complication. It is more common for older women to begin to develop anxiety after the loss of their spouse to a lengthy illness. The stressful health battle that their spouse faces can impact their ability to live on their own and feel comfortable in the world around them. Therefore, it is clear to see that both men and women can feel the impacts of the widowhood effect, however, the triggers for the health battle can differ between the genders. 

What Health Implications Does The Widowhood Effect Have?

Now that you have a better understanding of the widowhood effect and whom it impacts, you may be wondering how it impacts the overall health and wellness of the surviving spouse. What are the psychological effects of widowhood? Well, here are some widowhood statistics: 

It is common to think of the physical health implications that come from the loss of a spouse, however, there are also a plethora of mental health implications that can also impact the remaining spouse’s well-being and overall health. 


Severe weight fluctuations, most often weight loss, can sometimes indicate the onset of the widowhood effect after one has lost their spouse.  The loss of a spouse can greatly impact the lifestyle and habits of the partner left behind. It is common for the remaining spouse to struggle to find the will to eat. After years of companionable dining, the prospect of eating meals alone can deter the grieving individual from eating at all.

The task of cooking and cleaning dishes can also seem daunting to those that were used to partnership and companionship from their spouse. The memories of past meals can also become painful, causing the remaining spouse to dread mealtime of eating.

The depression and grief that comes from the loss of a spouse can truly impact one’s ability to feed themselves and be able to take care of their health and wellness. Other weight fluctuations, such as weight gain, as much less common but can still signal the mental and physical struggles of one that has lost their spouse. 


The loss of a spouse can often cause those who are left behind to feel alone and depressed. Depression is often associated with a decrease in energy and willingness to participate in activities focused on health and wellness. Grief can make it extremely difficult to get out of bed and work towards caring for your physical and mental well-being. These tasks can seem monumental and impossible following the loss of a spouse.  Click here to learn How To Overcome Health Anxiety After Losing Someone.

Many activities are associated with a spouse and their absence can make those same activities seem unappealing or daunting. For example, it is common for married couples to take walks together. This companionable activity can be wonderful for both your physical and mental health.

The loss of your spouse can make walking seem lonely and unenjoyable. Strong associations between a deceased spouse and particular activities may impede one’s desire to care for their mental and physical health. The lack of health and wellness-focused routines can have negative impacts on overall wellness and may contribute to an early onset of the widowhood effect.

Surviving spouses may stop paying attention to their health and wellness altogether. The habits of exercising, eating regularly, and taking their medications can all seem like impossible tasks. Oftentimes these small daily habits are associated with their spouse and the loss can make it very challenging to complete these important tasks. Forgetting or refusing to eat healthy meals and take their proper medications can impact the remaining spouse’s immune system and mental health. This makes them more likely to suffer from sicknesses and diseases that are difficult to fight off. 


The loss of a spouse later in life can also impact the mental health of the spouse left behind. These mental health challenges may begin to show themselves if the grieving individual loses interest in previous hobbies or favorite activities.

Grief and loss often cause people to feel less connected to the things that previously brought them joy. The remaining spouse may begin to feel as though activities that once brought them joy are now too challenging to participate in.

The lack of joy brought on by these activities may impact the mental health of the remaining spouse in a way that can correlate with physical health struggles as well. Make sure to encourage those that have lost a spouse to still participate in activities and hobbies that may bring them joy. This can help them to feel less alone and gain additional peace of mind. 

20 Tips For Helping You Regain Motivation After Suffering A Loss. Click here to read more.

Ways You Can Cope With The Death Of A Spouse

Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, and losing a spouse can be even more challenging due to the bond that is formed through marriage. The difficulty of losing a spouse does not subsist even for the elderly losing a spouse. Losing a spouse can lead to widowhood mortality for some. Several stages of widowhood can lead some to adopt widowhood psychology.

Even following widowhood after 2 years, widowers still feel the pain of losing a loved one after becoming a widow. Spouses rely on each other constantly and the loss of that partnership can have lasting health implications for the one left behind. However, there are a variety of ways to deal with grief and loss to promote health and healing. 


One of the best ways to cope with the death of a spouse is to seek out professional help from a therapist or grief counselor. Counselors and therapists are professionally trained to help those dealing with the trauma and grief associated with the loss of a loved one. Taking time to speak with a therapist and attend therapy sessions can help you to feel less alone and depressed.

Oftentimes, therapists can help you to create a personalized coping strategy so that you can feel empowered and more in control of your own life. The loss of a spouse can often cause feelings of anxiety or worry regarding stability and structure within your life. Seeking a therapist to help you deal with these feelings can help you to heal and feel better prepared for life after the death of your spouse.

Learn how mindfulness therapy can help you cope with the pain of loss. Click here to learn more.


Another great way to manage the grief and loss that accompanies the loss of a spouse is to focus on self-care. The loss of a spouse can often derail your typical daily habits. The loss of years of companionship and routine can leave you feeling lost and anxious.

This stress often impedes one’s ability to care properly for themselves. This means that focusing dedicated time and energy on self-care practices is extremely important. For example, you can focus on moving your body a little bit every day to prioritize both your mental and physical health. You can also take time to journal about your emotions or take time to get out in nature.

The outdoors can be a wonderful place to focus on self-healing and personal wellness. Taking time to walk outside or go for a hike can help you to prioritize your well-being after the loss of a spouse. It is also important that mourning the death of a spouse is not overlooked. 


The loss of a spouse can make you feel extremely lonely. Their absence can feel like a void, and it can be very challenging to form a new routine without their presence. This lack of companionship can create bouts of depression and sadness. To minimize these feelings of depression, make sure to try to stay busy following the loss of a spouse.

Filling your schedule with activities can help you to avoid sinking into a depression where you stay in your house for days on end. Even scheduling simple activities like going for a walk outside or going to grab a simple cup of coffee can create structure and routine that makes life seem less lonely. 

After a while, you may begin to notice that you need less structured time in your life to manage your grief and loss. Rather, you will begin to want to go out because you desire the experiences that come from exploring your surroundings and engaging with the world. 


It is always important to remember that you are not alone when you are dealing with the loss of your spouse. Grief can feel isolating at times, but it is important to reach out for help when you need it. Following the loss of your spouse, it can be helpful to rely on family and friends for support. Shifting into a new routine without your life partner can be a very difficult adjustment.

Asking for help from family and friends can help you cope with the loss of your spouse. Family and friends can spend time with you during the days and months following the death of your spouse so that you feel less alone. Your family and friends can also help you to go through your spouse’s items.

Seeking Emotional Support While Grieving? Explore our blog for valuable insight.

This process can be challenging to navigate if you feel alone, but family and friends are often happy to help out when you need it the most. Your family and friends can also help cook meals and handle household chores until you feel more able to carry out daily tasks and habits. 


Another important thing to remember when coping with the loss of a spouse is that everyone grieves in different ways and at different paces. Relationships are unique and therefore the healing journey after the loss of your spouse will be different from anyone else’s.

It is important to never compare your grieving journey to anyone else. Placing too much pressure on yourself to heal quickly or manage your typical tasks all by yourself can be overwhelming and difficult. Rather, take your time throughout the healing process and give yourself the necessary space and time to work through your emotions following the loss of your spouse. 

There are many stages to the grieving process and losing your spouse is an extremely difficult ordeal. Marriage is a special bond that creates a strong companionship between spouses. Life routines and physical spaces are shared in these partnerships and the loss of that bond can be devastating. Therefore, give yourself the time and space needed to heal. There is no specific timeline that needs to be met when navigating the grief process after the loss of a spouse. Ask for help from family and friends and make sure to be gentle with yourself during this time. 

Click here to Discover 15 Essential Tips for Coping with Grief During the Spring and Summer Months.


There is also no right or wrong way to navigate through the grief process after losing a spouse. Many people doubt their emotions or feel as though they are failing at living without their spouse after death. It is important to remember that there is no correct or incorrect way in which to deal with the loss of a spouse.

There are times you might feel like yelling or screaming after the passing of your spouse and that is normal. You might feel angry that your spouse passed before you, and you might be upset with the loneliness that has come from their passing. All of those emotions are ok and valid. There is nothing wrong with fully experiencing the anger and sadness that come from the loss of a loved one.

The process may take a long time and the coping mechanisms you develop to live your life may be different from the coping mechanisms others use. Making sure to take care of yourself and not harm others during the grieving process is the most important. As long as you and those around you are safe, there is no proper way to manage your grief after the loss of a spouse. 


 Another great way to manage your grief after the loss of a spouse is to spend time volunteering at some charities that were important to them. Taking the time to volunteer at organizations that were most important to your spouse can help you maintain a connection with them even after their passing.

This emotional tie can help you cope with the sadness you experienced after the loss of your partner. If you feel worried to go by yourself, you can always ask family members or friends to go with you to have additional support throughout the process. 

If there are no physical organizations that you would like to volunteer at within your community, you can also consider donating to or supporting other organizations that were important to your spouse before their passing. These actions can help you honor their memory and feel as though you are maintaining a close relationship with them even after their passing. 

Other Unique Ways To Honor And Remember A Deceased Spouse

In addition to the coping mechanisms listed above, there are a variety of other unique ways of honoring your spouse and memorializing a deceased spouse. Losing such an integral part of your life can create worry and anxiety for those left behind. Those left behind often fear the loss of special memories featuring their beloved spouse. This section will cover the best ways to minimize this fear and honor your loved one that has passed.


After spending a lifetime together, it is likely that you have accumulated countless photos of your spouse and loved ones. Creating a keepsake book or memorial scrapbook filled with pictures and other items such as newspaper clippings or small trinkets can help you to maintain a close connection with your lost spouse. Important pictures such as wedding photos or children’s birth pictures can be included to help document your shared life together. These memories can help you to always feel a close connection with your deceased spouse. 

These books can serve as perfect reminders of your relationship with your spouse. At times when you are feeling lonely, you can pull out these books to remind yourself of the love and companionship that came from your marriage.

These books can also be crafted with your family members and this activity can serve as a wonderful reminder of your beloved spouse. These books can then be passed down throughout various generations of your family as a physical reminder of your loved one and your special relationship. 

Read more about how to Create Your Own Memorial Guest Book.


When you are ready, you can also create new jewelry pieces crafted from old remembrance jewelry that once belonged to your spouse. It may take some time for you to be comfortable with this suggestion, but crafting new pieces from your spouse’s old pieces can help you to feel a constant connection with them even after their passing.

Items such as old cuff links or tie clips can be crafted into items such as earrings or necklaces, and these new pieces can allow you to remember your loved one that has passed away. 


Another wonderful way to honor the memory of your lost spouse is to start a fundraiser in their memory. You can also create a charity in their memory as well. This philanthropic action can allow you to raise money for a good cause and can also memorialize the life of your spouse.

You can pick a particular topic or issue that was important to your spouse before creating a fundraiser or charity in their memory. This action not only helps you navigate the grieving process, but it can also help others that are in need within your community.

For example, if your spouse loved nature, you could organize a yearly fundraiser in which the community raises money to create more green spaces within your town or city. Picking a cause that was close to your spouse’s heart can allow you to honor their memory in a very unique way. 


A variety of companies and towns sell brick pavers that can be personalized with initials, names, or special quotes. You can look into purchasing a paver at a specific park or location that was important to your spouse before having it engraved with their name or initials. This action can allow you to remember your spouse whenever you pass through the area where their memorialized brick paver is placed.

These brick pavers can be positioned in one of your spouse’s favorite places so that a permanent marker can be laid to best honor their memory. These personalized pavers can also be wonderful for other family members to visit if they would like to honor the memory of the passed loved one. 


Another wonderful way to honor the memory of a lost spouse is to dedicate a community bench to their memory. Similarly to the personalized brick pavers, a personalized bench placed in your spouse’s favorite park or along their favorite nature trail can act as a wonderful way to memorialize them even after they have passed away.

These benches can also be a wonderful personal connection to your lost spouse. When you are missing them or feeling lonely, you can always make a trek out to their dedicated bench in order to sit and feel a closer connection with them. These benches can also be wonderful gifts to the community as they offer seating and a resting place for those that are outside enjoying green spaces.

You can contact your local parks and recreation board or committee in order to inquire about dedicating a bench to your deceased spouse. These benches can also be personalized with additional quotes or dates in order to memorialize your lost loved one.


Everlasting Memories is a wonderful company that also creates beautiful memorial urns for those that have passed away. A special way to honor your deceased spouse is to purchase a memorial urn in their memory. Everlasting Memories has an expansive website with a variety of style options to choose from. Discover the Best Way to Honor a Loved One with an Urn Display: Read More Here.

These cremation urns for ashes can be personalized in any manner that you would like in order to best honor your deceased spouse. These cremation urns, couples urns, keepsake urns, or companion urns can be buried in the ground or can be displayed in your home in order to memorialize your lost loved one. These urns can help you feel a closer connection to your lost spouse.

You can also purchase a couple’s urn which can hold your spouse’s ashes but also has a space for your ashes after you pass. This type of urn can allow you to feel as though you will always have a constant connection with your spouse even after your own passing.

10 Things You Need To Know Before Purchasing A Cremation Urn. Click here to learn more.


Another unique way to honor your lost spouse is to purchase a piece of cremation jewelry in order to honor your loved one. You can also purchase photo engraved jewelry, picture jewelry, fingerprint jewelry, or fingerprint rings to memorialize the memory of your spouse. If your spouse was cremated after their passing, you could consider turning ashes into jewelry by purchasing a piece of jewelry that holds ash, jewelry that holds cremains, jewelry made from ashes, rings made from ashes, or jewelry for remembrance from Everlasting Memories in order to memorialize them.

Everlasting Memories’ website offers a wide range of styles and options for memorial jewelry. You can select pieces with multiple different metal finishes such as stainless steel or sterling silver. Everlasting Memories crafts beautiful and durable photo-engraved jewelry necklaces that can serve as wonderful photo engraved jewelry for women to remember loved ones that have been lost.

Everlasting Memories website has a variety of helpful articles that can assist you in selecting the perfect photo engraved jewelry or cremation jewelry if you are struggling with the loss of a spouse. Items such as necklaces made with ashes and cremation keychains or cremation rings can be carried with the families and friends of loved ones that have passed. You are sure to find something that suits your style and will perfectly memorialize your lost loved one. The Everlasting Memories website also offers an article on commonly asked questions for cremation jewelry pieces.


The loss of your spouse can be one of the hardest things you will experience and clearing through some of their clothes and personal items can feel very painful and stressful. If you are struggling to part with some of their clothes, you could consider creating a t-shirt quilt or jeans quilt out of some of their old clothes.

These handmade blankets constructed from your loved one’s clothes can help you to feel closer to your lost spouse and allow you to keep a hold of some of their beloved items. These quilts are easier to store than typical clothes and you will be able to hold on to a piece of your spouse even after their passing.

Crafting one of these quilts can also help you to clean through some of your spouse’s other items. Seeing the clothes and other personal items of your lost spouse can bring up painful memories after their passing. Taking the time to clean through some of their items can help you to heal and feel more independent after their death. Crafting one of these blankets can make the process seem less daunting.

Read more about How to Reconnect With The Memories Of Your Loved One.


Another wonderful way to memorialize your lost spouse is to create or purchase a garden stone engraved with your spouse’s name or favorite quote. If you have outdoor space such as a garden or lawn, placing a memorial garden stone can help you to feel a close connection to your spouse within your home.

These memorial stones are especially meaningful if your spouse had a close connection with the outdoors. Placing these memorial stones next to a chair or bench can also allow you to sit and enjoy the fresh air whilst feeling a special connection with your lost loved one. These stones can also be personalized with your spouse’s favorite quote or their birthday if you would like to create a memorial stone without their name. 

Widowhood Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common symptoms of the widowhood effect?

The widowhood effect has a variety of symptoms, however, there are a few that are more common than others. If you have lost your spouse after the age of 50, you may begin to notice serious weight fluctuations, most commonly weight loss. The effect of widowhood can cause a lack of appetite and loneliness that comes from the loss of your spouse. You might also begin to notice a lack of energy or desire to participate in activities that once brought you joy. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, reach out to a healthcare professional to manage these symptoms.

Is the widowhood effect more common in men or women?

The widowhood effect can impact both men and women. However, the onset of the effect can vary between genders. Men are most commonly affected by the widowhood effect after the sudden loss of their spouse. The lack of social and emotional support can cause downward spiraling that can also impact their health and well-being. Women are most commonly affected by the widowhood effect after losing their spouse to a lengthy illness or health complications. The loss can damage their feelings of security and support.

Does losing your spouse shorten your life?

Losing your spouse does not necessarily shorten your life, however, it can have impacts on your mental and physical health. The widowhood effect is most commonly experienced by people over the age of fifty, so younger widows and widowers are not as likely to pass away as their older counterparts. However, the loss of a spouse at any age can impact your overall health and well-being. It is important to prioritize self-care and seek professional help after the loss of a spouse. These coping mechanisms can allow you to properly care for yourself and your health. Having a positive support system can help you to remember to move your body and take medications on time. 

What causes the widowhood effect?

The widowhood effect is caused by the loss of your spouse. The widowhood effect is most often experienced by individuals that have lost their spouse after the age of fifty. It is also most common in couples that have been married for a significant amount of time. The sudden death of a spouse can also play a large role in the widowhood effect.

What is the most difficult part of being a widow?

Every person experiences grief and loss in different ways. This means that each couple will be very different when it comes to determining the most difficult part of being a widow. Oftentimes, the biggest challenge for widows or widowers is adjusting to widowhood and life in a home without their spouse. For couples that have shared their entire lives, waking up alone or eating meals without their partner can seem very alarming or distressing. This feeling of loneliness can have serious impacts on the mental and physical well-being of those left behind.

Moving On From Widowhood

The loss of a spouse can greatly impact the remaining spouse’s life and well-being. If you are above fifty and have lost your life partner, you may be susceptible to experiencing the widowhood effect. To minimize your chances of experiencing this medical phenomenon, there are a variety of ways to cope with your grief and avoid any health complications. The loss of your spouse may lead you to feel depressed and alone, however, remember that there are a variety of options available to you in order to manage these emotions.

Make sure to give yourself compassion as you walk through this difficult time. There is no right or wrong way to heal, but caring for your mental and physical health will allow you to navigate through this difficult time.

April 28, 2023 by Frances Kay