In addition to processing their grief from losing their husbands, they must also sort out their social lives, finances and everyday routines.
Gwen Romagnoli and her late husband, Franco, wrote Italy, The Romagnoli Way together. She lost him a little more than a year ago, and has had a difficult time adjusting to her new status.
"I just seem to be inundated by these forms," she tells NPR's Neal Conan, forms related to her new roles as the executor of the estate, the one doing taxes, the one filling out the Census questionaire. "Somehow, seeing the box widow just didn't sound right to me, it just didn't seem to fit," she says. And each form reminds her of her husband's death.
Anne Roiphe, author of Epilogue, empathizes with Romagnoli's distress. Her husband, Herman, died from a heart attack. "It's just so difficult for everyone, and for everyone in a different way. All these little reminders, you know, the name on an envelope, the shirt in a closet — everybody has to come to some kind of willingness to let go, in their own time, in their own way."
Even four and a half years after Herman's death, she still has moments when she's "struck through the heart" by a reminder of him. Though Roiphe wishes there was, there's no formula for getting over a spouse's death. "This is something none of us know what to do," she offers, reassuringly, "and everybody fumbles."