Dealing With Grief When a Senior Spouse Passes On
If an elderly loved one in your life has recently lost their spouse, trying to find the right words to comfort them can be an overwhelming responsibility. Symptoms of grief can mimic those of clinical depression, and there have been studies saying that grief actually weakens the immune system, especially in the elderly.
With this in mind, watching a loved one mourn can be worrisome and stressful, and it is important to do your best in supporting that person throughout this difficult time.
Everyone grieves in a different way, and every person copes with the loss of a dear person according to their own timeline. Therefore, if one of these suggestions isn’t the right one for the moment, move on and try another. And remember, it is valuable just to be present when helping a senior loved one to deal with the grief associated with the loss of a spouse.
Be Patient When a Spouse Has Passed Away
Grief lasts longer than the time we spend at the funeral. For some, it can be easy to put on a brave face when surrounded by loved ones at the funeral or organizing arrangements. But once the phone has stopped ringing, and a senior settles into their new routine, this is often when reality hits.
They may not be ready to sit and talk about their loss, or they may continue to deny that they are really grieving. But, it is important to remain conscious of their feelings, to be available, and to be patient. Especially if they don’t seem to be making improvements quickly.
Offer Options for Support
Some people benefit from sharing their feelings of loss with others. If your elderly loved one expresses a desire to talk, the best thing you can do is listen. Create an atmosphere where you are clearly open to whatever your loved one needs, whether it be discussing feelings of loneliness or fondly reminiscing on brighter days.
If your loved one seems hesitant to speak with you, or feels that you can’t possibly fathom their loss, guide them to other available resources. Grief support groups can be invaluable to those who need to talk with someone who has experienced the same devastation. For those not comfortable in a group setting, individual counseling may benefit them instead. If this is the case, these links can help you find a grief support group near you or find a grief therapist.
Be Available for Your Senior Loved One
It can be instinctual to seclude oneself after a loss so enormous. Many seniors say that loneliness is the most prevalent feeling they experience after the loss of a spouse. Because of this, open-ended offers like, “let me know if you need something,” may often be ineffective.
At a time of severe mourning, they need everything. Suggest that the two of you go for a walk or join them for a meal – start a weekly tradition so there is something to look forward to each week. Your loved one may not reach out for help, but you must try to be accessible in their life. The goal isn’t always to discuss the loss, just to be present.
Try to Discourage Major Changes
Devastating loss can trigger impulsive decision-making in many people. They may decide to get rid of their lost one’s things, move into a different home, or act outside their normal characteristics.
One should try not to make any major changes in the time immediately after a loss. Instead, tell them you understand why they may feel that way, offer to discuss the options, and help with further research, but perhaps the changes they are considering will be better suited for a later time.
There is no way to predict how an elderly loved one will cope with losing a spouse. Since every relationship is unique, each healing process will be unique as well.
Many widows and widowers are struck with feelings of guilt about surviving, or of healing and being happy once more. But, the lost one wouldn’t want their spouse to sit and be miserable for the rest of their days. Remind them that it is okay to grieve, and it is also okay to be happy again when they are ready.