A world that may have been constructed over decades, with a spouse in the centre, falls apart when that spouse passes away. As a loved one and caretaker of a senior who has recently lost his or her spouse, you understand it’s a hard time for everyone. You also understand that you will not be walking the exact same path of the widow/er in overcoming his or her deep grief and sorrow over the event. But one can do a lot to ease that widow/er’s transition to singlehood and a new life.
Here are some tips presented by Siskiyou News on what you can do to assuage the pain of the senior’s life during this difficult period.
Emotions to Expect
Because the widow/er’s pain over the loss comes at a time when he or she is in the final stage of life and still has the larger issues of spirituality and upcoming death to grapple with, your loved one will go through a range of emotions.
As he or she mourns, you will observe him or her go through feelings of numbness, shock and fear. Healthline notes that the widow/er may even have “survivor’s guilt”—guilt for being the one who survived the other. At the same time, he or she may be wracked with feelings of regret; for example, perhaps feeling he or she could have done a better job of taking care of the recently deceased in their final days. Even anger over being left behind may be expressed by the widow/er. All such feelings are normal.
As a primary caretaker, understand that there will not be rules as to how to feel during a period of mourning, either for yourself, the widow/er or anyone else in the family. There is no “correct” way to mourn. The Grief Recovery Method suggests embracing this notion first before offering your support.
Symptoms to Look Out For
People who are in grief will cry easily and may exhibit the following symptoms: bad sleep, a thin appetite, concentration problems, and a hard time making decisions. For some seniors, the mourning may last too long, a sure sign that professional treatment is needed. If you observe the sadness staying with the senior for too long to the point where it still affects sleep, appetite and focus months after the loss, talk to the senior’s doctor. Sparrow explains that they may be experiencing a condition known as complicated grief, which should be diagnosed and treated by a professional.
What Can You Do?
Around the time of the funeral, the senior will find him/herself quite busy and taking care of funeral details. Assist the individual as much as you are able, keeping in mind that there will be a time when you will face the same change in your life.
Aid the widow/er in:
· Constant Self-Care: Help the senior exercise, eat right and get enough sleep. Make sure the individual is taking his or her medication in the right doses and at the right times. Watch out for any negative signals, such as excessive alcohol drinking or smoking. Monitor the senior’s health during this period with help from his or her doctor. The stress from the death event exacts a heavy toll on his or her health.
· Remove Stressors From the Home: Now that their spouse is gone, the house will seem quite empty, except for the memories which will fill the living space. Help to remove undue stress by decluttering, tidying up, and bringing in a few houseplants. Environments have a lot to do with one’s mood and outlook, so take measures to make the home as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
· Encourage Social Connecting: Encourage the senior to talk to family and friends during this delicate time. Hearing words of support may incite him or her to open up his or her feelings – a healthy way to process grief.
· Don’t Effect Major Changes: Don’t shift the senior’s life with another significant life change during this time. It’s a good idea to wait till he or she has recovered sufficiently from the death to propose a big move or trip.
· Joining a Grief Support Group: Have the senior join a group of other seniors who are mourning a major loss and looking for group therapy and support. Check with local agencies, religious groups and hospitals to find the right support group for your beloved senior.
· Set up a charity: If your senior loved one would like to set up a charity in honour of their loved one, there are many steps that you’ll need to take to make this happen. This is not a decision to make lightly, however, as running a charity takes a lot of work.
Transitioning to a New Home
For a number of reasons, your senior loved one may need to consider moving into a smaller, more accessible home or senior living community. There are many considerations to make, such as the personal desires of the widow/er and the state of his or her health. How much care does the beloved senior need on a daily basis? Does he or she prefer living alone? Would buying a new apartment be more affordable than assisted living or a retirement home situation? Do they have the income and savings required to purchase a new home?
Keep in mind that they may also need assistance filing a quit claim deed if they are going to be transferring assets such as a home. After completing the form it will need to be filed with your county.
Once a decision has been taken on selling the home of the senior, have specific members of the family help with a certain set of tasks and arrangements. If they have a business, for example, they may need assistance closing or selling it. Because senior citizens often fall prey to conning tactics in general, double checking all stages of the selling process will be extremely helpful to him or her as the widow/er looks to upgrade to a new kind of life.
Only time can take care of all emotional pain attached to grieving a spouse. Some seniors will process it better than others, but as life moves on and the renewed status of singlehood is explored by the widow/er, you may find they like their new single life—the best scenario to be had by all. Simply hope for the best. Your positive energy will invariably help bring about a positive unfolding of the next stage of the senior’s life.