If your parent or other loved one recently lost their spouse, you are probably wondering what you can do to help them deal with the situation. Especially if you are also grieving, you may find it difficult to give Mom or Dad the support they need. But there are simple things you can do to help your parent through the grief process, perhaps even helping yourself along the way.
Tips for Helping an Elders Grieving the Loss of their Spouse
Grieving the Loss of a Spouse – Help them remember.
Memories can be our best solace during times of loss. Help Mom put together a photo album of vacations she and Dad took together, or create a collage of the two of them enjoying their grandkids. Don’t be afraid to talk about old memories when you are together; sometimes we think we are protecting someone by not bringing up sad topics, but in fact the opposite is often true. Spending time recalling fond memories of a loved one is healing, and over time will spark more laughter than tears.
Grieving the Loss of a Spouse – Make sure they stay active.
While Dad may feel like moping around the house after Mom passes, he will likely feel better if he gets out and about on a regular basis. Encourage him to call a friend, to continue involvement with any groups or communities they were both involved in, or just to come over for dinner every Monday night. Having things to look forward to can make getting through a string of difficult days easier.
Grieving the Loss of a Spouse – Do something new.
If going out is not an option, due to health or other concerns, there are still plenty of ways to maintain an active, interesting life. Brainstorm a list of new things to try with your parent. Bring over a new recipe to share, introduce Mom to her grandson’s favorite television show, or bring a board game to learn and play together.
Grieving the Loss of a Spouse – Get them support.
If your loved one is the social type, try to find a grief support group for them to join. Talking to others going through the same thing is often the very best medicine and will help your parent to see that they are not alone in their experience. And don‘t be afraid to grieve with them; you may feel like you have to hide your own feelings, but nobody likes to grieve alone. Don’t forget to inform your doctor of your parent’s loss; they can be a valuable second set of eyes and ears to oversee your loved one’s grieving process. If you notice signs of depression, such as loss of interest in usual activities, difficulty concentrating, or increased forgetfulness, encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor.
Grieving the Loss of a Spouse – Help them adjust to new roles.
Over the years, many couples fall into a pattern of splitting up daily duties. While this was probably more efficient in a two-person household, it may make things difficult now. Perhaps Dad always did all the cooking, so now Mom isn’t eating well. She may benefit from a meal delivery service, help with keeping her fridge stocked with easy to prepare meals, or even moving into a community where meal preparation is part of the deal. Maybe Dad never cleaned a day in his life and clutter is taking over his rambling house. He may need to hire help, or downsize to a smaller home or other living arrangement.
Sometimes a small fix, like having a neighbor mow the grass once a week, is enough. Other times the loss of a spouse calls into question your parent’s whole living situation, and whether they are comfortable (or safe) living on their own. While there are no hard and fast rules, after the initial grieving period has passed, talk to your parent to see how they feel about their living situation and if they might like a change.