How to Help Your Senior Loved One Who’s Grieving the Loss of a Spouse
Today we have another guest article from our good friends at elderaction.org. Enjoy
Losing a spouse is traumatic and life altering. It can impact the widow or widower’s mental and physical health and may cause potential financial issues. The surviving spouse may face major social adjustments as he or she adapts to a new, single life. Losing a spouse as a senior can be especially difficult because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. Additionally, seniors are more likely to deal with the death of other close friends while grieving their spouse, which only exacerbates feelings of loneliness.
Grieving and Mourning
After a spouse passes, the widow or widower will mourn and grieve. “Mourning is the natural process you go through to accept a major loss,” states Mental Health America. It can include religious or cultural traditions or simply gathering with friends and family to share the loss. Mourning is a personal experience that can last for days, months, or years.
Grieving is the outward expression of a loss. Most people experience and express grief emotionally, psychologically, and physically. It’s very important that your loved one allows himself or herself to express grief and is encouraged to do so. Avoiding or suppressing feelings of grief can lead to physical or psychological illness.
The loss of a spouse brings about a wide range of emotions, regardless of whether the death was anticipated or unexpected. Many people feel numb when the death first occurs, but there are no real stages or patterns to the grieving process. Some emotions your loved one may feel include sadness, shock, denial, confusion, despair, guilt, and anger. Each person will experience the emotions in varying intensities and durations. Emotional symptoms can include anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Physical symptoms can include loss of appetite, upset stomach, sleep disturbances, and loss of energy. Mourning and grief can weaken one’s immune system, leading to the worsening of existing illnesses or the development of new conditions. Grief and mourning have also been associated with substance abuse, regardless of whether or not the widow or widower had previous issues with addiction. Be aware of the signs of substance abuse and reach out for help as soon as possible.
Supporting Your Loved One
Grief is often accompanied by feelings of loneliness or isolation. Your loved one may have difficulty feeling connected to other people and the world. He or she may need encouragement to seek out support from other family and friends. Joining a support group with others who are experiencing similar losses is beneficial for many people in grieving. Seeking out a counselor or other mental health professional can help your loved one learn to better cope with grief.
Experts stress that self-care is important. A grieving individual needs to properly care for his or her mental and physical health. Sometimes even remembering simple things, like eating well and drinking water, can be difficult, but are important to your loved one’s quality of life. Ensure your loved one is maintaining a proper diet, attaining physical activity, and getting plenty of rest. Even getting outside for 20 minutes a day can improve your loved one’s mood.
To support your loved one, allow and encourage him or her to talk about feelings of loss and to share memories of the deceased spouse. Avoid offering false comfort by saying clichés like “it was for the best” or “time heals all wounds.” Instead, simply communicate your sorrow and take the time to listen. Be patient with your loved one, as he or she may need a long time to recover. Offer help instead of waiting to be asked. Choose practical help like cooking, grocery shopping, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn.
Losing a spouse will impact your loved one’s life in a multitude of ways. His or her financial, social, and personal life will be transformed. Mourning and grief will affect your loved one’s physical and psychological health. Your loved one may feel lost, and your support will help him or her to absorb the loss and move forward. They will never stop missing the deceased spouse, but with support and time, the pain will ease, and he or she will find joy in life again.
Photo Credit: MadMax22, Pixabay.
We are very pleased to share this information with you all today. Obviously, dealing with the loss of a spouse or close family member can be a difficult thing for anyone, not just for the aging community. We hope that the information shared here may provide some advice with coping with such a loss. A word of thanks is due to the good people at ElderAction for assisting with this.
Jim Vogel, along with his wife, Carolyn, are the founders of ElderAction. Through ElderAction, they work to promote senior health and safety; while sharing valuable information with seniors and their caregivers. Find out more about their good work by visiting them at elderaction.org.
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Holistically Devoted Assisted Living Facility (HDAL) is the premier assisted living facility in Prince George's County, Maryland. At HDAL, we deliver holistic health care to our residents - by meeting all their personal needs while allowing them the dignity of being freethinking and independent adults; and we provide devoted service - by being ever-present as servants in the lives of our residents as we assist them with performing their activities of daily living.