“My partner has died; my children are grown and gone. Now what?”

That question reflects the deep void and accompanying loneliness that many people face as they age.

However, actions can be taken to ensure that anyone can live a meaningful, purposeful life after the death of a partner and after the children are grown and gone.

Here are 10 suggestions.


1. Invite people for dinner. This will get you busy planning, shopping, and preparing and will bring energy and vitality into your home.

Food is something we all have in common. Everyone must eat, and most people find food pleasurable. Entertaining over a meal provides you a great opportunity to work with new recipes.


2. Nurture the habit of reading. Follow your interests: read fiction, nonfiction, self-help, biography, etc. This will keep your mind active and your spirit expansive.

Alan Bennet notes: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”


3. Go to school. One 67-year-old widow enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. After graduating, she began offering the first yoga classes in her community.

Going to school doesn’t necessarily mean attending a building on a campus. There are many other options, including online education, vocational trainings, and certifications in areas such as Pilates, personal training, nutrition, etc.


4. Develop a hobby. Consider something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time — photography, coding, art, writing, golf.

The opportunities are endless, as author Nicolas Sparks observes: “It can be coins or sports or politics or horses or music or faith ... the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing to make it last.”


5. Contribute to social welfare. Volunteer at a temple, school, or hospital. Become a mentor to a young person.

Writers at the Mayo Clinic Health Letter cite the following as health benefits of volunteering: decreasing risk of depression, gaining a sense of purpose, learning new skills, remaining physically and mentally active, living a longer life, meeting others, and developing new relationships.


6. Cultivate your spiritual side. This may be the best time in your life to attend a spiritual retreat or seek spiritual direction from a teacher.

Take your spiritual life to a higher level by joining a spiritual group, which could be a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, meditation center, yoga class, or a local group that meets to focus on spiritual issues. There you will gain the additional benefit of social support.

Also, having a spiritual community to turn to for fellowship and guidance can provide a sense of belonging and support.


7. Simplify your life. Become a minimalist. How many pairs of socks do you really need? How much furniture is really necessary? Do you really have to have all that “stuff” in your home? Clear up the clutter, and keep your life as simple as possible.

“We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties,” is the insight offered by writer Anna C. Brackett.


8. Downsize your house. Living alone in a large house that comes with serious property management may not be desirable at this point in your life. Consider downsizing. This will take careful research, planning, and creativity on your part.


9. Offer to foster cats or dogs. There is an enormous need for places where unwanted and abandoned animals can live safely while waiting for a permanent family. Sharing your home with a four-legged companion brings both happiness and companionship.


10. Join a gym or health center. You will not only tap into a wide array of group classes and exercise opportunities, but you will also make some new friends.


Victor M. Parachin, M.Div., is a grief counselor, bereavement educator, and author of several books, including Healing Grief.

Have questions?

We are just a click away!