Systematic review of the emotional state and self-management of widows

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The death of a partner in later life is generally experienced as the most stressful normative life event. This study reviewed evidence about the emotional state of widows. Both qualitative and quantitative studies were included in the review. A systematic search was made of the OVID Medline, PubMed, ProQuest, and EBSCOhost/Academic Search Premier databases using the following search words: “depression”, “elderly”/“older”, “emotional state”, “mood”, “self-management”, “widows”, and “women” for the period January 2000 to December 2010. Thirteen articles met the inclusion criteria, and a qualitative content analysis was used to review them. The findings revealed one main theme: “A struggle to perceive meaning in the meaningless”, which was based on three themes: “Numbing the pain and struggling to control feelings”, “Feeling sad, yet trying to maintain close emotional relationships and meaningful activities”, and “The process of change and self-management dominated by resilience”. The widows seemed overwhelmed by the need to overcome an unbearable emotional state. The resilience process was experienced as a struggle, and they required time to improve their well-being and self-management. To achieve self-management, nurses should strengthen widows' optimism, control, well-being, and the pathways that lead to recovery.

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