How to Help When a Loved One Loses a Spouse

This post was written by Hazel Bridges of agingwellness.org

Falling in love is one of life’s greatest experiences. What can match the joys that come from two people sharing a lifetime together? These blessings are what make the inevitable parting from a spouse so painful. Nothing you do can take away the pain your loved one feels during this trying time, but you can help her to survive this dark period of mourning with her sanity intact if you encourage her to seek the support of others, give voice to her feelings, and take care of herself. Let’s take a look at these three suggestions in greater detail.

Asking for Help

It’s more than common for people to feel like they have to shoulder their burdens alone, and many hesitate to ask for assistance. But having others in our lives is essential for even the simplest aspects of staying alive, not to mention having a life worth living. So encourage your love to lean on those who care about her.Perhaps you want to give them all the love and support you can, but work or other obligations limit your available time. If so, then it’s important to reach out to your community support network for help. Here are ways to do so:

  • Encourage your loved one to contact leaders in her spiritual community. Even if she hasn’t practiced her belief system for many years, she may still find people who are glad to help in any way they can.
  • Encourage her to join a support group. People who have suffered a loss in their own lives can empathize with those enduring similar hardships
  • Ask your local clinic or social services office to direct your loved one to helpful resources in her area.

Speaking Out

Expressing feelings is essential during a time of sorrow. Trying to deny or ignore painful emotions will only delay the healing process. So, by all means, encourage your loved one to say what’s on her mind. But, of course, she may hold back out of fear of hurting your feelings. If so, then suggest she try one of these approaches for expressing how she feels:

  • Keeping a journal. People can say whatever they like within the privacy of the written page. Putting their thoughts down in writing will also help them understand what’s going on in their minds, helping them make it through the grieving process.
  • Writing a letter to the lost loved one. This allows her to tell her beloved things she never got a chance to say before death separated the two of them. In addition, it can help her to heal by giving her a sense of resolution she may never gain otherwise.
  • Finding a professional counselor, social worker, or clergy person who is removed from the situation. These professionals expect to hear grieving parties say all sorts of things while processing their sense of loss. This gives them much-needed objectivity about the situation.

Practicing Good Self-Care

Those in mourning must take care of themselves if they’re to experience long-term recovery. This includes eating nutritious meals, engaging in regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. The pain of losing a spouse can disrupt these important routines. It’s also ideal for your loved one to keep her home orderly and uncluttered, and to let in as much natural light as possible. This encourages positivity and healing, and helps avoid patterns of destructive behavior.

Destructive behaviors become especially acute when older people turn to alcohol or drugs to find solace. It’s important for you to know and stay alert for the signs of substance abuse in those you love and get them help. These can include:

  • A sudden change in an emotional state. Of course, we all want those for whom we care to feel better after a period of grieving. But, when a mood change is sudden or unexpected, substance abuse is a likely suspect.
  • Aversion or hostility to questions. Seniors often feel ashamed to admit using drugs or alcohol to cope with unpleasant emotions. Instead, they try to change the topic or discourage loved ones from probing into their personal habits.
  • Dizziness, blackouts, or slurred speech. Substance abuse can cause these issues in people of all ages.

Loving a person means being there for her when she needs your help. Following the tips in this post can help you help those in mourning make it through the tough times ahead.

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