So when a senior loses their husband or wife, they’re facing an immense change. Even if they can magically get past the grief associated with the death of a spouse, they are facing one of the biggest changes in their lives. Now, they have to move on alone.
Thankfully, there are ways to help seniors emerge from this huge change successfully. Yes, it is possible to move on after a spouse has died.
One thing to remember about grieving over the death is that this is a process, not an event. That means dealing with this loss will take time and cannot be instantly cured by a better event. It also means that everybody will deal with this on their own pace; there’s no set time that a senior will suddenly be over things.
Also, you need to know that men and women sometimes react differently to that new gap in their life. Both are in pain and need support, of course. But some men will be at a loss for household chores normally done by their wife, whereas some women can worry about feeling safe at home with the loss of their husband.
How can you help a senior coping with the loss of their spouse? Rather than trying to fix them or create the one thing that makes it all better, start by focusing on the senior’s daily life.
For example, look into having essential things delivered to their home. Most seniors take medicine of some kind, so having them dropped off can make sure the widow remembers to take them. Hiring a housekeeper can be a huge help, especially if the spouse who passed on did most of the cleaning. Just knowing that a housekeeper will come by to wash some dishes and vacuum the rugs can help with their mood.
You can also look into technologies that help seniors live alone at home. A tablet or smartphone with a strong camera can lead to video chats that help reduce loneliness, while a Fitbit can help seniors (and you) keep an eye on fitness and health.
Because this is a process that takes time, there isn’t any panacea or cure-all for the depression that follows the loss of a loved one. However, there are a few things most everyone can do to take control of that grief.
At first, moving on might seem impossible. There are just too many things to think about. However, by understanding how the grief process works, the senior can get a handle on it. Then by making a few improvements to their daily life and gaining control over grief, that senior can emerge from this huge change soon enough.
A child's ability to understand death varies according to his or her age.
Infants and Toddlers feel a loss through the absence of a loved one, interruption in their regular routine, and through the grief and stress they sense in their parents or other family members. Make sure to spend extra time holding and cuddling the child, and try to keep them on a regular schedule as much as possible.
Younger children might have trouble understanding the permanence of death or differentiating between fantasy and reality. They also might believe the death of a loved one is a form of punishment for something the child did. When you talk to young children about death, make sure to use concrete language, avoid euphemisms, and reassure the child that the death is not a consequence of something he or she did.
Older children are beginning to understand the permanence of death, and might associate it with old age or personify it in terms of frightening images or a cartoonish boogeyman. They often know more about how the body works, and have more specific questions. It's important to answer their questions to the best of your ability, and provide as much specific, factual information as possible. Try to keep them to regular routines, and give them opportunities for the constructive venting of feelings and grief.
Teenagers process grief more like adults, experiencing anger and sadness as they begin to cope. Don't feel disappointed if it seems that they may want to talk more to their friends than to parents, this is normal and can help them to share their feelings and heal. Because their grief is similar to that of an adult, a teenager may take longer to recover from a loss than a younger child. Questions may come up about mortality and vulnerability, and your role is to empathize with them, listen to their concerns, and remind them that their feelings are normal and things will get better with time.
The following links provide more detailed information on a variety of topics related to helping children and teens cope with loss.
This guide was created by Sesame Workshop, the educational organization behind Sesame Street. It explores children's understanding of death and offers information about communicating, ideas for coping together, and ways to move forward with your children after a loss.
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This list from Allina Health recommends children’s books that deal with death and grief. There are suggestions for children of all ages, from preschool to age 12. They also have books for different types of losses, such as the loss of a parent, sibling, grandparent, friend, or pet. With these books, you can start a meaningful conversation with your child and help them understand their feelings
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Here you'll find a Huffington Post article by Judith Acosta containing advice and guidance from her book Verbal First Aid, which counsels parents on ways to help kids heal from fear and pain in a variety of situations, including the death of a loved one. If you find the advice in the article helpful, you may want to read her book for even more insight.
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