Guest Post: Helping A Senior Loved One Cope With the Grief of Losing a Spouse

By Marie Villeza, elderimpact.org

Losing someone is devastating, especially for seniors, who are more vulnerable to illnesses and psychological symptoms which can impact their lives. Helping them deal with complicated emotions, such as grief, is one of the best gifts of love a person can give. Here are some ways to maintain the quality of life and nurture the emotional well-being of your loved one.

Offer Support

When it comes to undergoing strong emotions from a harrowing experience, there’s no such thing as too much support. According to Family Doctor, grief is entirely normal and is how the body responds to a tragic incident or sudden loss. People go through various stages of grief, which can change from shock to anger to feeling lonely and confused. As uncomfortable as these feelings may be, these are natural and will benefit your loved one in working through their emotions and healing.

As a support system, offer assistance verbally and non-verbally. Avoid cliche´ or trite comments such as, “It was just their time to go” because it’s never helpful and you can’t imagine exactly how that person is feeling. Instead, be there to listen to them, share happy and sad moments, write a letter to your loved one, or offer to help them with daily chores – anything that makes life easier on them as they cope. Acknowledge the loss and allow that person to grieve in their own way for however long is needed.

Watch For Signs of Depression

Like other chronic illnesses, addiction can flare up at any moment, leading to a relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This doesn’t mean that the person will necessarily go down the path of addiction again, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Sometimes a loved one may experience an emotion that even they don’t understand. Sorrow may inspire feelings of isolation, shutting down and hopelessness, but will also slow down healing for those who have suffered addiction before if they begin to drink or use harmful substances again. As a precautionary measure, watch out for a sudden longing for using a drug or if your loved one starts to hang out with users from his or her addictive days. Additionally, those who are about to relapse will also display defensiveness or changes in attitude or behavior, such as spending less time with friends and family.

Be upfront if you suspect your loved one will potentially use again and how it affects you emotionally. You may even try going to a rehabilitation program or grief counseling together, which will be very beneficial in getting your loved one to open up.

Cultivate Self Care

 Though depression is less common in older adults than their younger counterparts, it’s still a serious issue. Due to lack of mobility, decreased friendships and adult children who and up and moved away, an older adult with depression may feel isolated, unmotivated. However, there are still ways to maintain a more joyous quality of life, even in the midst of grief.

Regular exercise will undoubtedly help fight melancholic symptoms, but will also stabilize mood and encourage any remaining feelings and thoughts to come to the surface, which leads an expedient healing process, according to the Huffington Post. Serotonin and dopamine will also stimulate your brain to focus, releasing any lingering fog. In fact, exercise is proven to be one of the best ways to beat depression.

Since stress takes so much out of you, consuming a nutrient-rich diet is also necessary to offset some potential illnesses so that your loved one can be at their best. However, this isn’t a quick fix for emotional healing, but avoiding too much sugar and salt-laden snacks, in place of more nutritious, comforting meals will help your loved one feel more at ease and boost their overall well-being.

Grieving is a natural human process. Though recovery time may take a while, it is necessary to honor the deceased person and the love that once was. Keep these tips in mind to help your loved one move forward and heal from a loss.

Author Note: Marie Villeza was inspired to start her site elderimpact.org after she watched her son teach her father how to play Angry Birds (TM) on his smartphone. It then dawned on her: we need to bring the generations together so they can usher each other into the future, breaking down the walls of fear and time. Image via Pixabay

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