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Monday, 27 February 2017 02:00

Helping the elderly to deal with grief

It is particularly hard for the elderly to deal with the loss of a loved one, especially a long-term spouse or a grandchild. A husband or wife who suddenly becomes widowed will have difficulty navigating life as an individual person again with their constant companion no longer there. The grandparent who loses a grandchild grieves twice – for the loss of the grandchild and the pain and sorrow their own child has to deal with.

Here are some useful suggestions for supporting your elderly loved one whilst they grieve:

  • Acknowledge: use the deceased person’s name and don’t hesitate to talk about them. Reminisce about the good times and laugh and cry together.
  • Be understanding: everyone grieves differently – accept that. There is no time limit on mourning; allow your elderly loved one the time they need to adjust to their new life.
  • Offer practical help: don’t wait to be asked for help. Offer assistance that is part of your daily routine; “I’m popping to the shops, can I bring you anything?”
  • Be attentive: take your cues from your grieving loved one. They may want to talk about their loss, or they may just want to sit in silence. Spend time with them without intruding, and be especially supportive on days like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
  • Create a memorial: it might be helpful to create a memorial to celebrate the life of the loved one who has died. This could take the shape of a photo album, a small remembrance garden or even a letter written to the person who has died.

The elderly grieve differently to other adults. They are no longer necessarily looking to the future, but are instead recollecting times gone by and focusing on their own mortality. For these reasons it is imperative for the children and carers of the senior dealing with grief to be as compassionate, understanding and supportive as they possibly can, even while possibly dealing with their own grief.

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