How Seniors Can Prepare for and Get Through the Grief of Losing a Spouse
Grieving for a deceased spouse is a completely normal and healthy part of life. This doesn’t make the process any easier, however. A senior going through the spouse-loss journey is going through one of the hardest moments in their life, and the moment can last for weeks, months, and even years. Here’s what you can do when the time comes.
First things first: make the passing as peaceful as possible
For most seniors, passing at home is the preferred way. You must do what you can to help them create a peaceful environment at home. This may involve home modifications, depending on the type of medical equipment they need for their palliative care. You will need to help your senior loved one set up a space for in-home hospice care. In the end, you want the space to be clean but not sterile. It should be warm and full of the things they know and love.
Seek help in the immediate aftermath
Even when you’re dealing with a prolonged illness, the moment you lose your spouse is a shocking and traumatic event. Unfortunately, you can’t just begin to grieve. There are multitudes of things you must do immediately following the death of your spouse. This includes, but is not limited to, making funeral arrangements, settling governmental accounts, handling life insurance, contacting banks, handling real estate and assets, and reviewing final wills and testaments. It’s a lot. You shouldn’t attempt to do it alone. Seek help among family first and then begin to assemble a team of friends, church members, attorneys, etc. to spread out the tasks.
Focus on your physical health first
When you’re grieving a lost loved one, there are a lot of things that are outside of your control—mainly your emotions. Focus on what you can control. You can make sure you stay well by being mindful of your diet and activity level. Grief can cause some people to comfort eat and others to lose their appetites completely. Try to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day―even if it just means walking around your neighborhood. The combination of good food in and solid energy out will help you cope.
Grief is a personal emotion, but it doesn’t have to be an isolating one. You may not feel like hanging out with friends and family every day after your spouse is gone, and that’s ok. But completely cutting yourself off from social interaction in an attempt to heal yourself is misguided. Being social is a tenant of overall mental well-being.
Not only that, but you are allowed to be happy, and you are allowed to laugh. Science has shown the healing power of laughter in grave situations. Smiling and laughing while reminiscing about your lost loved one is even more important. One research study showed decreased levels of anxiety and depression in widows/widowers who were able to be positive in memory of their spouses.
It’s okay to grieve for whatever amount of time it takes you. Some say you never actually stop grieving the loss of a spouse. What you can’t do is let that grief prevent you from enjoying the rest of your life. If you’re struggling to figure out how to get yourself well following this tragic event, there are online wellness courses available that can help. Beyond that, you should never be wary of asking for help. People love you, and it is not their burden to guide you through this difficult time; it is their privilege.
By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors, AgingWellness.org
Photo by Christian Langballe on Unsplash
Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc.