How can one comfort an widowed elder?
1. A child must deal with his/her own grief but prioritize helping his widowed parent deal with the loss.
2. The widowed must be helped in doing daily tasks that his/her partner used to do.
3. Children must be wary and see if the widowed is hiding any grief.
4. Their loved ones must be prepared for relapses.
5. Loved ones must help with all the legal arrangements for the funeral, inheritance, and medical expenses.
6. Signs of prolonged grief must be consistently be observed.
7. The widowed must be helped in dealing with depression, retirement plan changes, and dependency.
When a spouse dies, the surviving person from the pair loses an everyday companion. It is common for him/her to have survivor’s guilt along with grief, sorrow, isolation, and loneliness. This is especially true amongst the elders.
A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Publics Health showed a widowed spouse over 50 years of age has a 66% chance of dying within the first three months of the partner’s death. For this reason, giving the right care of widowed elders is absolutely essential. While caregiver services in Chicago have been trained to handle these situations, it is important to know the roles of friends, children, and family in the healing process.
What are the roles of children, family, and friends?
Although, it is important for the child to handle their own grief properly, they must also understand that losing a mate is much more devastating. Because of this, priority should be given to comforting the widowed while still giving time for oneself to grieve.
It is also important to note that widows deal with the loss differently and some will wish to talk about the death while others will not. Children must be wary and take their cues from the reaction of their widowed parent.
Many other family members and friends will be willing to help but hesitate to do so because of the intimate nature of the event. But once they are with the family, they can provide additional hands in preparing meals, helping with daily tasks, and/or consoling the living spouse.
Even when the widow has healed, the grief may resurface on special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc. When this happens, it is important to acknowledge it.
What are the responsibilities after the death?
There are multiple responsibilities following the death of a loved one and the widowed parent may not be fit to handle them. It will be up to the children and/or trusted relatives and friends to take care of these so that the widowed may properly deal with the recent loss. These responsibilities are:
- Notifying proper authorities such as a physician, medical examiner, and/or coroner may be required to declare or investigate the death.
- Funeral arrangements need to be accommodate the wishes of the deceased and surviving partners as close as possible without any bias. An emotional spouse may be taken advantage of by funeral directors in order to sell a more expensive casket, flower arrangement, etc.
- Legal, financial, and government authorities must also be notified so that the proper steps can be taken in the matters of life insurance and ownership (bank accounts, property, etc.)
- Medical bills may be inaccurate due to faulty IT systems in some medical institutes. An emotional spouse may pay a medical bill immediately due to stress. Delaying the payment for 3 months will allow the proper amounts to be discovered.
What are the signs of prolonged grief?
One must be wary if a recently widowed parent shows that he/she has healed too quickly. This usually means that he/she is grieving secretly and this could encourage depression. According to the American Hospice Foundation, these are the signs that one is secretly grieving:
- Forgetfulness: A sign that the widow’s mind is bothered.
- Disorganization: Failure to keep up with schedules in one’s life is a common symptom in grieving adults.
- Lack of concentration: Grief could cause the mind to wander.
- Declined motivation: A widow may lose his sense of purpose and usefulness when his/her partner is gone.
- Fascination with death: Could be a sign of depression due to the loss and eventual suicidal action.
If these signs are present in a widow, then a loved one must reach out to him/her.
What are the specific problems widows may encounter?
There are specific problems that a widow is likely to encounter in the healing process. These could hinder or slow down the recovery. The children must be wary and be able to immediately recognize these to minimize their effects:
- Loss of Independence: Surviving spouses may be physically fragile. This is especially because life partners help one another to deal with the troubles of a deteriorating body. It may be difficult for one to deal with sudden physical incapability and the development of age related disease on his/her own. Yet, if a widow insists on being alone, then home improvement and monitoring must be considered.
- Assuming Responsibilities: Naturally, the responsibilities of the deceased will fall onto the living. This can prove to be overwhelming for a husband/wife, especially if the deceased wore many hats. Signing up for community courses or turning to technology can help them to learn how to take up these new responsibilities.
- Finances: Problems such as pension and retirement plans being changed come with the death of one spouse, especially if the deceased spouse was responsible for managing the retirement portfolio. Crooked salesmen also prey often on widows, who inherit all of their spouses and con them into giving them money. Legal assistance must be sought out if a widow experiences these problems.
- Loneliness and Depression: Professionals use a term called complicated grieving to refer to loneliness and depression that does not improve over time. If a widow shows the signs of this, then psychological help must be sought out. The signs are:
- Denial of death
- Frequent nightmares
- Social withdrawal
- Consistent yearning for the deceased spouse
With this information, family members can better equip themselves with the empathy needed to help the widow cope with the loss. They must remind their loved ones that they do not lose their purpose after their spouse has passed on. It is the responsibility of the widow’s friends and family to help him realize that.