By: Jackie Walters
depression and anxiety that can set in after the loss of a spouse can be
devastating, and most of us don’t know quite how to deal with those feelings,
especially when they hang around for weeks or even months. Losing a spouse is
difficult for everyone, but for seniors the experience is a little different,
as they are entering a stage of life that makes leaning on a lifelong companion
a comfort. Because everyone copes with grief differently, there’s no one way to
handle it; knowing what works best for you is important for you to be able to
important to understand that grief and sadness take a while to come to terms
with. Many people still feel an acute sense of loss 18 months after losing a
loved one, although those feelings tend to abate soon after that. The key is to
remember that you will begin to feel
better after some time has passed, and that those feelings won’t last forever.
some of the best ways to cope with grief and sadness.
Be kind to yourself
important not to place any expectations on yourself during this time. Everyone
grieves differently, and although there are typically five stages of grief that most people experience – denial, anger,
bargaining, depression, and acceptance – you may feel a completely different
range of emotions, or they may come in a different order. Whatever you’re
feeling, it’s normal after the loss of someone who was close to you. You may
feel angry at your spouse for leaving you, or wish it was you instead of them.
Allow yourself to have those feelings and try not to place limits on yourself.
Grief is unique to each and every person.
Don’t keep it inside
Find ways to
express your feelings. Keeping your emotions bottled up, either because it’s
painful to talk about your loss or because you don’t want to burden anyone with
your grief, can make the process worse. If you don’t feel comfortable talking
to a friend or family member, consider seeking a counselor or therapist who
specializes in grief, or join a grief support group. Or, if that’s not right
for you, keep a journal and write in it daily. Being able to get your thoughts
out onto paper can be extremely helpful.
Stick to your routine
seem difficult or impossible, but sticking to your normal routine can help you
cope with your feelings a little better. Try to do something productive every
day; make a piece of art, clean a room in the house, or go for a long walk with
the dog. In fact, spending time with animals can be very helpful during this
time, as they can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can be hard to stick to
your routine if your spouse was the one who kept things in order by cleaning
the house, staying on top of bills, or keeping up the yard. Don’t shy away from
hiring help to get your life back to normal whether that is hiring a housekeeper or caregiver. You might ask a trusted family
member to help with the financials and ensure you don’t miss a payment.
Take care of yourself
sadness can make you feel like all you want to do is sleep, or you might feel
like you never want to sleep again. Your eating habits will change, your stress
levels will fluctuate, and your moods might make you feel like you don’t even
know yourself. This is all normal, but everyone copes with these things
differently, and it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with them. Turning
to alcohol to “numb the pain” might seem like a good idea at the time, but
alcohol only makes things worse when the effects wear off. Instead, turn to
exercise or volunteer at a local charitable organization. Use this difficult
period in your life to grow closer to your children and grandchildren - who
will be sure to put a smile on your face; or seek the solace of friends. This
too shall pass, but you must take of yourself while it does.
Being present for the peaceful death of a loved one can be a blessing, albeit a difficult one to accept. There is nothing that can prepare you for the emotions you will face as you sit bedside for a loved one’s final moments, yet your presence there can be healing and therapeutic. It can give you new insight into your own capacity for care, rekindle the joy in your relationships, and provide closure on old wounds.
There are also some practical considerations to make, however. Whether you’re literally sitting bedside during those final moments or you receive a call in the wee hours of the morning, it’s important for you to know the next steps to take.
The specific steps will depend on the environment in which your loved one dies. If it’s in a hospital or care facility, the staff there will likely help you through the preliminary steps, such as getting in touch with the funeral home. They can also help arrange an autopsy, if needed.
It will likely fall to you to contact friends and loved ones. The easiest way to do this is to make a few calls and ask each relative to call a couple more people—ensuring that you don’t have the burden of contacting every single person with this unwelcome news. Ideally, you’ll have a friend with you to offer support as you make these tough calls.
If you don’t have someone to call the funeral home for you—including if the death takes place at home—you’ll want to make that a top priority. A licensed funeral home director will be able to assist you with the logistics of transporting the body, acquiring a death certificate, selecting a casket or urn, preparing an obituary, planning the memorial service, and more.
A final call you’ll need to make, if your loved one was working, is to his or her employer. Simply let the employer know about the death, and at a later date you can call back to ensure that all owed income and benefits are paid out.
With any additional questions you have, don’t hesitate to ask your licensed funeral director, who can be an invaluable guide during this process.
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