5 Ways to Help Seniors Deal with the Loss of a SpouseThe loss of a spouse is one of the most difficult experiences seniors face. So, it’s natural for family members and loved ones to want to offer comfort and support.
This is absolutely the right idea. It is important, however, to understand that a grieving senior’s needs may be quite different from what family members and loved ones expect. Helping with the grieving process means understanding these needs before reaching out to the senior. Here are five tips to help stay on track:
- Understand that grieving is a process that takes place over time. Typically, the sequence will progress from shock, anger, denial and then a feeling of loss. Sometimes, the senior will feel guilt over activities and relationships the departed spouse is now missing. Acceptance does eventually follow.
- Beware of grief triggers such as first date or wedding anniversaries, holidays and birthdays. Even a minor family crisis can rekindle feelings of loss. Family members should try to anticipate these events and provide support the best they can.
- During the grieving period, a senior can find it challenging to make decisions. Loved ones should avoid putting the senior in a position where questions are asked or major decisions must be made. This can be as simple as not asking what the senior might like for dinner. Just cook something and bring it over. On the other hand, the senior still needs to maintain a position of authority, and not be treated like a helpless child.
- Change can be overwhelming. For loved ones, this means holding off on suggesting changes - particularly major ones, such as moving to a new home - until 6 months to a year has passed. Even natural changes such as giving away the deceased spouse’s belongings can be emotionally difficult.
- While sadness is normal, keep an eye out for signs that grieving has turned to depression. Professional help can be important in this situation. You want to help prevent the grieving spouse from slipping into a “nothing to live for” mentality. There are many signs of depression including:
- Feelings of guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of low self esteem
- A prolonged lack of appetite
- The inability to socialize or engage in meaningful activities.
- Over indulgence in anything – food, alcohol, drugs.
- Unusual obsessive/compulsive behavior.
Grieving Takes Time
Above all, grieving takes time. Each senior needs to grieve at his or her own pace. By recognizing this and allowing the process to unfold, loved ones can help a senior to ultimately accept this loss, find ways to fill the void and move on. For more information about helping seniors deal with grief, visit LivHome.com or, check out more resources at ComfortLife.ca.
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Have you dealt with the loss of a loved one? Share your advice and thoughts in the Comments section below.