15 Tips for coping with the loss of a soulmate

Last month we published a piece by musician and film maker David Gledhill on coping with the loss of a soulmate. Its honesty and raw emotion struck a chord across the world

David and his partner Tracey blissfully happy at a friend's party (circa 2004)
David and his partner Tracey happy at a friend’s party, circa 2004. She died in 2012
My name is David Gledhill. I’m a 41 year old musician (one half of the band Skint & Demoralized), film-maker – and widower.

Last month I wrote about my experience of loss for the first time on this site. Why? Well it was through the Kentishtowner that miraculously I started dating again.

You can read more about that in the original piece. But the huge response from readers in London and beyond was incredibly heartening.

So much so in fact that now I thought I’d offer some words of advice to anyone else unlucky enough to find themselves in my situation. Hope they help.


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1. Don’t try and start a new relationship in the first year. You are just trying to find a quick fix for the pain. And invariably, it will not work out.

2. Don’t move house in the first twelve months. You are in no fit state to be making such a huge decision.

3. Consider going to see a counsellor. It will help you to not unload all your woes on families and friends. It allows you a safe place to go and dump your feelings every week.

4. Face the pain. If you loved your late partner, then I am afraid there is no getting round this one. Don’t try to suppress the loss. It will only keep creeping up on you anyway.

5. Do some kind of physical exercise. I started going for one long walk, everyday. This helped me keep my mind clear and also got me out of the house.

6. Try not to become a hermit. It’s easy to hide away from everybody. Try and socialise, but in healthy moderation. Remember, alcohol/drugs etc will not take the pain away.

7. Make an effort with your appearance. Taking pride in this is important. It keeps you from drifting too far from society.

“Try not to feel guilty when you have happy thoughts or moments.”
8. You will feel like you have a disease sometimes, but you don’t. Don’t assume that everyone is looking at you and thinking you are completely broken. Time is all that you need to feel more human again.

9. Don’t be too hasty in going through your loved one’s possessions. They are not going anywhere, and just getting rid of things doesn’t always help. You will instinctively know when it is time to do it.

10. Try and be around animals. Cats, and particular dogs, are so nice when you are in pain and need some good old fashioned unconditional love.

11. It’s healthy to talk about your late partner with people, but there is also a fine balance. They were your world, nobody else’s (see point No. 3).

12. Listen to music. This sounds an odd one to say for a professional composer. But I haven’t listened to as much music in my life since Tracey died. And I have never truly realised its real power before. Particularly stuff that Tracey and I both loved.

13. Try and do the very thing that you fear the most. For me, it was returning to my house. It was the very last thing in the world I wanted to do. And yes, the first few days were simply unbearable, but it soon gets better. And facing up to my fears has been one my key coping mechanisms through my bereavement. These things will only get worse if you try and run away from them.

14. Try not to feel guilty when you have happy thoughts or moments. This is not something I am particularly good at. But it’s important to say. Your late partner would surely want you to be happy, so try not to fight it when it comes along. Nobody loves a martyr.

15.And finally, your choices and decisions should feel like moving towards something, rather than trying to get away from something. It’s a very subtle difference, but highly significant I think.

Read David’s original piece on coping with the loss of a soulmate here. A film inspired by his experience, We’re Here For A Good Time Not A Long Time is released in January 2014.

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