Losing Loved Ones

There are so many positive aspects about growing older. One negative that’s impossible to over look is the older we get, the more people we lose.


Losing Loved Ones

My mother’s youngest brother passed away on Sunday. He was the youngest of 14 children. There are only six of the siblings left. Through my mother’s tears she said, “We’re falling like flies. I just can’t believe my baby brother’s gone.”  

My best friend lost both of her parents last year. Her parents were the same ages as mine. Talk about a wake-up call. I’ve always cherished my parents, but now I’m more aware that our time together is limited.


So, how can we help those we love who are grieving? I think the most important thing is to be there to listen. My friend, Linda, went through many stages of grieving. Sometimes she was very angry that her parents had died.


Anger is normal – She was mad at them. “I’m an orphan,” she said. “I know I’m old, but it still feels like I’ve been abandoned.” Other times she would talk about all the great times they had together. Both of these extremes are normal, and good for the process. It’s very important never to judge those who are grieving. The last thing they need is more guilt piled upon the grief.


Giving is sharing – If it’s a relative your family has lost, it’s easy to get caught up in your own feelings. After all, you’re hurting too. But, this is not a contest about who is suffering the worse. It’s about sharing the load of grief and remembering the wonderful times with your loved one. There will most likely be tears, and they should come. It’s a part of the process.


In their own time – There’s no time limit on how long it may take to get through the grieving process. Experts say it usually lasts between 18 months to 2 years. But we all know that some elders never get over the loss of a spouse. Try your best to remain open to their feelings and allow them to always share. The more you acknowledge their pain, the more comfort the will feel from you.


We’re all different. Some people seem to go on like nothing has really happened. They’re the ones that might need us the most. It will eventually hit them. Be prepared, it might be very hard for the ones who’ve put off grieving.


Kind words, a loving touch and a listening ear are the combinations to comfort a grieving person. Sometimes we all just need a shoulder to cry on and someone who’s willing to let us vent.


Rely on the Foundations of your life – If you are person of faith, now is the time to be a prayer warrior. If your elder has faith, make sure they get to attend services at their place of worship. There can’t be too many people to help you through this time of sadness.


Sticking together – This is a time to come together as a family, if at all possible. Each member of the family has important contributions and their own strengths that can help through these difficult times. Let each person know that they are needed and appreciated. Share the physical tasks that might be needed by your parent such as shopping, meals, home care, financial paperwork and transportation. This will keep all of you from experiencing caregiver burn-out.


The really sad thing is that if we live long enough, we too will be grieving over the passing of loved ones. Being there for our parents means our children will see what we will need in the future.


Beyond normal grieving – Be aware that clinical depression might be a problem for your parent. Watch for these problems that might develop months after the passing: Neglect of personal hygiene, thoughts of their own impending death, reclusiveness, alcohol or drug abuse, difficulty in performing tasks of daily life, feelings of hopelessness. Always take talk about suicide seriously and get them help with or without their consent.


Being there to remember – Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be especially painful for your parent. Keep your family members aware of these special days so you all can be helpful. Perhaps a phone call or an outing may be just the ticket to helping your parent through these times.

By Karen Everett Watson – Gerontologist


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