Losing a spouse is a devastating event, and everyone copes with the grief differently. For some, the mourning process may take months or even years, and many people experience a loss that never fully goes away. For seniors, that loss can be especially hard to deal with and can mean big, irreversible changes on the horizon, such as moving into an assisted living facility.
If you have a loved one who has recently lost a spouse or partner, it’s important to remember that there are ways you can help, even if you feel powerless. Coming to terms with such a loss can mean huge emotional changes, such as depression and mood swings, and they may not know how to handle it. You can help your loved one cope by being there to listen, getting them out of the house, and keeping their mind off of stressful things.
Here are the best ways you can help your loved one after a major loss.
Hire some help
No matter how much you want to help and be by your loved one’s side, keep in mind that you can’t do everything. Heaping lots of work on your plate can be exhausting, and when the work is so emotionally draining, it can lead to burnout. Hiring some help will ensure that your loved one isn’t alone and will have someone around to assist with daily chores and care. Remember to involve her in all the decision making and the interview process, if possible, especially if you’ll be hiring a caregiver.
Expect big changes
Your loved one will likely run the gamut of emotions, from crying unexpectedly to experiencing violent outbursts. This is normal, so it will help if you’re prepared for these changes rather than being caught off guard. Instead of saying something like, “Don’t cry”, let her express her emotions and simply be there for her should she need comfort. Don’t take it personally if your loved one directs anger or aggression at you; remember, grief often comes in different forms, and sometimes we don’t even realize that what we’re feeling is sadness rather than anger.
Keep a schedule
It’s helpful if you try and help your loved one keep to the same schedule she had before her loss. Sit down with her and write down her appointments, and work out how she’ll get there if she doesn’t drive. Offer to give her rides, bring her groceries, and help her keep up with medications and other necessities that she might forget about in her grief. Keeping a daily schedule can help keep an individual from declining into depression.
Keep her social
The weight of sadness can make us reluctant to be social, even with our own loved ones, so help her get out of the house now and then. Being around people can be a great way to battle grief, especially if it’s in a comfortable environment such as church or in their own home.
Keep changes to a minimum
It’s never a good idea to introduce a big change right after such a loss, so keep things on as even a track as possible. It may eventually be necessary for your loved one to sell her home, but for now, it’s a good idea not to initiate any big changes right away.
Don’t forget to ask your loved one what would help her feel better. For some, it’s spending time with family. For others, a vacation or time alone can help the healing process. Find out what’s best for her and let her know you’re there to help.
Read more from the author, Jackie Waters, on her website Hyper Tidy.