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'John faced life without his partner'

John was a retired gentleman who had stopped working to be the full-time carer for his wife in her final years, with nearly every day of the week dedicated to her health needs.

After her passing, John faced life without his partner of 50 years and found himself with multiple health concerns of his own. 

For several months John found he spent most of his time at home alone, watching TV, deeply grieving the loss of his wife and occasionally having some drinks with mates at the local pub. The nights were very difficult as he was kept awake by worrying thoughts and shoulder pain. He had to stop golfing due to this pain in his shoulder and felt purposeless without his wife, work, and the things he enjoyed that he was no longer doing. A close friend noticed that John was struggling and suggested he seek some help. It was at this point too that John realised he was not really living as his wife would have wanted him to. He didn’t want to upset his daughters, and felt that his friends had enough to worry about. 

John started seeing a psychologist whilst seeking treatment for his shoulder. During this process, doctors recommended he also make several lifestyle changes that seemed very daunting. John also expressed the fear that while he was feeling better able to cope with his grief each day, he worried he may fall back into the "dark place" he had found himself in. 

Seeing a psychologist with training in health psychology helped John to identify his goals which included weight loss, increasing physical activity, reducing his alcohol intake, improving his sleep, and getting back into activities that provided him with enjoyment and meaning. John spent time reflecting on his values and his motivation to make changes. His psychologist helped him to predict potential barriers and put in place strategies to keep his motivation going. John learnt relaxation techniques, planned for times when he felt his mood was low, and identified ways to stay connected with his wife's memory.

Over time, John noticed that making changes to his daily routine improved his physical and emotional well-being. He felt like he had learnt the skills to carry on with lifestyle changes on his own, and was in a process of rediscovering life.

By Victoria B
APS Psychologist 

#believeinchange

Are you an APS Psychologist? Email your stories to communications@psychology.org.au.