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In Grieving: How To Help A Senior Handle The Loss Of A Loved One
(contributed by Marie Villeza)
Losing a spouse is a terribly difficult thing to go through at any age, but for seniors, the loss may hit particularly hard. Going through decades together builds a strong bond that many of us can only hope for in our own relationships, and a sudden loss can bring about grief, depression, anger, and physical issues such as loss of appetite and sleep.
If you have a loved one who has recently lost a spouse, it’s important to try and understand how difficult this time is for them, and that there is no set mourning period for everyone. Grief has to run its course, and you may feel helpless at times, but there are many things you can do to help your loved one get through the grieving.
Here are some of the best ways you can help.
Grief can express itself in many different ways, and often the individual won’t even understand why they’re feeling the way they do. It can involve anger, violent outbursts, emotional breakdowns, and behavioral changes such as sleeping too much or too little. Try to be patient with your loved one and give him some space when he needs it. He may not be able to come out and ask for it, but there are times when it’s appropriate to let him be alone with his grief.
Get him some help
It might be tempting to visit your loved one as often as possible and help as much as you can, but remember that you can’t do everything yourself; this will lead to burnout, and you can’t be helpful if you’re exhausted. Instead, help your loved one find a housekeeper or helper that can come in a few times a week and assist with chores or daily needs. Keep in mind that your loved one may have a budget, and always involve him in decision-making.
Try to keep your loved one on a schedule
Daily exercise, planned meals, and social gatherings can all be beneficial to your loved one during the grieving period, even when they feel tired or begin to withdraw. Do your best to keep him on a schedule; offer to come over and go for a walk with him, invite him over for dinner (and pick him up/bring him home if need be), or take up a new hobby that you can do together.
Find a support group
Your loved one may be able to find comfort in a support group or group therapy, so help him research local options and let him know that you’ll help him along the way. If he’s involved with a church, find out if there might be someone there that he can talk to.
Don’t make major changes right away
After a spouse dies, many things change. You or your family members may feel that your loved one needs to think about selling the house, downsizing, or moving in with someone so that he’s not alone, but now is not the time. The grieving process can be a long and tedious one, and major changes can upset that process even more. Hang back and let your loved one get his bearings before bringing up big ideas.
Make sure they aren’t abusing alcohol or drugs
Especially if they have a history of drinking, make sure your loved one isn’t trying to deal with their feelings by drinking or using drugs. The use of drugs or alcohol can increase their chances of falling or otherwise injuring themselves and can, of course, lead to addiction. If you suspect that they may be abusing drugs or alcohol, voice your concerns and help them get assistance from a substance abuse or grief counselor.
Remember that emotions are running high after the loss of a spouse, and your loved one may be feeling intensely for a while. Those emotions almost always come from grief itself and not from a place where he’s upset with you. Try to stay patient, listen, and help him get to a healthy place when he’s ready.