Unfortunately, death is a part of life. We all have either dealt with losing a loved one or will experience this as we age.
For an elderly spouse, who has spent nearly a lifetime with the same person, the grieving process can be especially challenging. But there are several ways to cope and deal with life after the death of a loved one.
Lean on Family and Friends
When a spouse dies, there can be several things to take care of. These affairs are typically left to the spouse, who already may be overwhelmed. During this time, it’s critical to seek the support of family and friends. What things can they take off your to-do list? Can they help make arrangements, cook, clean or take care of bill-paying? For seniors who face health ailments, can this support network take over some of the duties that your spouse used to be responsible for, like transporting you to doctor’s appointments? If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Chances are your loved ones want to assist you in any way they can.
Join a Grief Support Group
In addition to talking to family and friends, grief support groups can be an effective outlet for you to share your feelings. These groups include other people who understand your experience because they’ve been through something similar. Psychology Today has a list of local grief support groups on its site, which you can find by typing in your zip code.
Take it Slow
Mourning is a process, and making big decisions about the future of your life too quickly can make this process even more grueling. Don’t make any major life changes right away. After a death, a spouse may be concerned about where he or she will live. Questions may arise, such as whether you should stay in your home or move in with your adult children or whether you should move into a senior living or assisted living community, depending on your health needs. When you’re ready, talk to your family about your fears and concerns. They can help you make the right decision. Remember, these are all big decisions that take time to figure out, so don’t rush it.
Talk to a Professional
Periods of loneliness and depression are common after a loved one passes away, and the grieving process can last several months or even years. However, if you have withdrawn from social contact, still haven’t accepted the loss or are experiencing health issues as a result, it may be time to seek professional help. There is no shame in talking to a mental health counselor or therapist and he or she can teach you ways to better manage your stress and the grieving process.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
Social isolation can be common for some people who are grieving. They may feel guilty about carrying on life as usual or enjoying themselves without their lifelong partner. However, when you’re grieving, it’s important to surround yourself with people and activities that lift your spirits. Go for a walk with a friend, spent time with grandchildren and participate in activities they enjoy, volunteer in your community or get more actively involved with your local church, temple or other religious institution. Some people also find comfort in trying new activities or learning something new. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has a list of senior centers by county, which offer many types of recreational activities such as bridge, board and card games, bingo, field trips and also health and wellness programs. Doing these things can help to restore a sense of normalcy to your life.
If you’d like more information about grief support resources in the Orlando area, contact Hospice of the Comforter for more information: http://www.hospiceofthecomforter.org/services-grief-support