Losing a Loved One: Dealing with Grief

Death is a natural part of living that everyone faces at some point in their lives.  As we get older, it comes more often.  For seniors, they may face it on a regular basis as they lose friends their age and family members.  The toughest loss can be the death of a spouse.

Going Through the Stages

When researching this subject, you will find different models on the different stages of grief. These stages are often broken down into five to seven stages and some of them may overlap.  Here is a basic list of the stages and what can be expected when seniors experience them.

Stage One: Shock and Denial

This stage is the first one a senior has to go through and it is when they have a hard time accepting the loss of their friend or loved one.  While they know the person is gone, at some level they may deny it.  This can be seen by them changing the subject when the person is mentioned, refusing to plan the funeral, or not contributing to the conversation when others mention the death.

Stage Two: Pain and Guilt

When seniors are in this stage, they feel guilty because they are still alive when the other person is gone.  They may think because they are old, it should have been them that died first.  This is even truer when they lose their spouse, especially if the other person was in better health.

Stage Three: Anger 

It is not uncommon for the senior to feel anger at some point in the grief process.  They may be angry at the person who died for leaving them alone or at life in general for them still being alive and going through the situation.

Stage Four: Depression 

Depression is also often felt during this time, and with seniors it can be even more severe as they realize they are getting closer to death themselves.  Their bodies may be failing them or they may have a serious condition that could result in death.  Experiencing the death of someone close to them makes this truth even more real to them, and it can cause them to fear death and become depressed.

Stage Five: Acceptance

The final stage when they have completed the cycle is acceptance where they begin to enjoy life again.  They do not forget about the person they lost, but they move on.

Helping a Senior to Deal with Grief

As a family caregiver, it is not easy to deal with your senior loved one’s grief, especially if you are grieving for that person, too.  If your parent has lost a spouse, you have also lost a parent.  While shared grief can draw people together, people can drift apart when it is not shared.

You can do several things to help your senior deal with their loss, but first you have to be dealing with it, too.  If you feel that you are handling things well, you can be a source of strength for your senior loved one.

Ways you can help:

  • Spend time with your loved one.  You don’t have to talk; just sit with them so they don’t feel alone.
  • Talk about the person who passed away.  You will have to gauge the senior’s reaction to see if they are ready for this, but it is a good way to get them to open up.
  • Take them out for dinner or cook for them.  Seniors often lose their appetite and quit eating when they are grieving.
  • Involve them in activities like visiting friends or helping out a charity or friend in need.  This shows them they are still useful and that they have a life to live.
  • Encourage them to seek counseling if they cannot move through the stages of grief or seem to be stuck in one for too long.  While everyone moves through the stages at their own pace, signs that they aren’t moving can be a cry for help.

Sometimes seniors can respond better to outside intervention than with their family.  Even if they haven’t needed homecare services in the past, you may want to consider using them during this period.  They can help with household chores if the person doesn’t feel up to it, and they can fix meals to provide nutrition when they don’t feel like cooking themselves.

We at Carefect Homecare Services understand the issues that seniors face when they lose someone they care about.  Our caregivers are trained to deal with these stages of grief and to interact with the senior to help them through their grief.  We provide personal care and housekeeping services or just respite if your loved one needs interaction with others.  Our caregivers can take them for a walk and involve them in other activities and monitor them to assist them through this difficult time.