Dealing with loss is a difficult circumstance for a person of any age. However, seniors have the unfortunate experience of being faced with multiple losses in a short period of time. The magnitude of a series of losses can be devastating for a senior.
When we think about seniors and grieving, oftentimes we focus on the loss of a spouse. This life-changing event changes what was once a partnership and makes the remainder of life a solo venture. In many cases, death isn’t the only challenging part of the actual loss. Seniors who lose their spouse may also lose financial stability, a best friend and even social acquaintances.
Loss is also a natural part of aging. As a person grows old they may lose their physical strength and cognitive abilities. These characteristics affect independence, self-confidence and the overall feeling of knowing their place in life. While death is inevitable, it’s the cumulative effect of multiple loses over a short time frame that can really hit seniors hard.
Grieving is a challenging process that each individual handles uniquely. It can be a very slow and gradual process that naturally unfolds on its own schedule. Before a person can begin to regain balance in their life following a loss or series of losses, they must progress through four steps:
- Acknowledge that the loss occurred and accept it as part of a new reality.
- Endure the pain and emotion that comes along with the grieving process.
- Adjust to the changes, whether it’s living alone, being less secure financially, or finding new social groups.
- Gradually remove the emotional energy put into handling the loss and devote it to new people, activities and/or passions.
If a loved one is grieving it’s important to know how to help and support them through what can be a very slow process. The first thing to remember is to be patient and give them time. Visit them regularly, especially if they are now living alone. Talk about the loss, and share memories. Take notice of changes in attitude, and point them out to the person. It’s likely they are unaware of how the loss is affecting their behaviors. If over an acceptable amount of time there are little signs of improvement, encourage the person to talk with their doctor.