The Pursuit of Happiness

As widowed men, each of us has experienced a significant wound. This wound like any other will take time to heal. The time it takes for this wound to heal is unique to each one of us. Many of us will however at some point experience the healing of this wound to the point where we have both the strength and the desire to move forward with our lives. This pursuit can for some be a very complex undertaking. In our unique way, each of us will need to receive some measure of help in reaching this eventuality. In this article, I would like to share some thoughts on the pursuit of happiness after experience grief and loss.

In 2005 the movie The Pursuit of Happiness was depicted by Will Smith based on the life story of Chris Gardner. Though Mr. Gardner did not experience the death of his spouse, he did experience separation, divorce, unemployment, and homelessness. As many of us reflect on our experience, several of us endured losses in divergent areas of our lives when our spouses/partners passed away. Some experienced diminished social interactions, many realized some measure of financial loss, while for others the effects were minimal. However, in some way, most of us could use a little help in some manner. Let me expand on this point by introducing the acronym H-E-A-L.

The H will stand for heal. As mentioned earlier, the death of a spouse/partner presents us with an emotional wound. As the wound heals, we will have to give some attention to nurturing the injury. In surviving the trauma of loss, we may find the need to make ourselves more of a priority. Often we may see ourselves very much alone. However, for countless of us, we may still have familial and other responsibilities to tend to as well. Despite these additional responsibilities, we are well served to carve out some time for self-care. This self-care may include paying attention to our emotional and physical health. This leads to the next letter in our acronym E.

The E in help stands for evaluate. As we enter the genuine pursuit of happiness, we must take the time to evaluate our life. There are four thoughts in this area I would like to share with you.

1) We must evaluate the direction you wish to pursue in life. Based on your individual circumstances, you may find yourself with time to accomplish essential facets of your life. Many activities that you may have shared with your loved one has been altered in a significant manner.

2) How has your life been affected financially? While the potential impact of the financial loss is discussed often, an alarming number of individuals are not prepared when faced with this issue.

3) The change in the survivor’s priorities. In most cases, there is a shift in what is important in your life. Does work hold the same importance that it had previously? What changes should I be prepared to make in my life may be worth some consideration?

4) With the death of a loved one, many individuals find the need to evaluate relationships. Will the family dynamics change? Was our love one the catalyst in our social interactions? Can I count on previous support systems now that our loved one has passed away? This and countless other examples are all part of the evaluation process.

Learning represents the L in our acronym. If this is the first time you have experienced the loss of a spouse/partner, you will at some point need to review what you have learned through the experience. For many people, the thought of pursuing relationships of any kind can be a daunting idea. The subtle nuance of reflection, regret, and many other thoughts and feelings make the task of addressing key learning a significant undertaking. You may find it beneficial to undergo this process with a trusted friend, family member or professional in realizing the most significant benefit from this pursuit.

The final letter in the acronym is the P. The P stands for proceed. The time may come when you are ready to move forward. You have taken the steps necessary to continue with a new purpose. Part of this process will be to make sure you remain flexible and manage your options. Everything we pursue will not meet with success on the first try. Don’t give up! It takes courage to delve into new pursuits. However, in many cases, we experience some delightful surprises along the way. As your circumstances allow, find the courage to take some bold steps in your life. In doing so, you may find a new-found purpose for your life.

The pursuit of happiness can be complicated. But we often owe it to ourselves to try to glean some measure of joy in the time we have left. As heart-breaking as losing a person you love is, we must remain mindful of the fact that our loved one died, we did not. So, for those who are in the midst of discovering your pursuit of happiness, I congratulate you. For those who are contemplating it, I encourage you. For those who have found your pursuit, I salute you.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this article and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you in the future.


Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of  The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss.  Terrell can be reached at [email protected], LinkedIn @terrellwhitener, Instagram @ or through the Widow Support Network.

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