How Can You Help Your Elderly Parent Deal With the Loss Of Their Spouse? 

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It is never easy to console a person after their loved one has passed away. It is even more difficult when dealing with an elderly couple because these people have spent the majority of their life together in a relationship, sometimes even more than 60 years together.  The task can be extremely challenging if the deceased is one of your parents, because coming to terms with the death of a spouse can be really hard for the surviving parent. This is made even more difficult because you are dealing with your own grief for the loss of your parent.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to fill the void but you can help your parent in the following ways:

  • Attending to their physical needs.
  • Listening to them talk about their deceased spouse and encouraging them to think about the happy memories.
  • Making sure that they have everything they might need.
  • Being patient if your parent grieves for too long.
  • Remembering the important days like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Many grief counselors suggest creating some type of memorial project such as a memory board, photo album or online website that describes the story of the deceased persons life and outlines the nature of their personality.  This type of project gives the grieving spouse a project that they can work on that helps them manage their grief in a productive way.  There are online tools that provide easy and powerful tools to build online memorials.

Different Stages Of Grieving 

You need to understand the stages of grieving so that you can help your parent. Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has listed the five stages of death and grief as:

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

It is important to note that grief is a process and that you must pass through each stage in order for the to achieve acceptance and for the grieving to stop.  It is also important to note that everybody deals with these phases in their own way and at their own pace.  You will see your parent’s transition from one phase to another and hopefully this can provide your encouragement that they are making progress. Along with these stages of grief your parent may suffer from forgetfulness, preoccupation with the loss of the spouse, disorganization, and a lack of interest or motivation.

What You Are Supposed To Do


  • Help With Their Physical Health  – You may feel that your parent is not taking care of themselves after the funeral. It is important that you make sure that they eat properly, do regular exercise, and sleep well. If they have trouble sleeping, you can contact a doctor or grief counsellor and discuss this problem.
  • Help With Their Emotional Health – You may feel that you parent is continually in a bad mood and they may even lash out at you. Be patient and try to understand that your parent is not upset at you but at the fact that their spouse is no more and that they are alone. Try and find a support group for them so that they can share their experience with other people who have lost their spouses.
  • Respect The Mourning Period  – The mourning period is different for everyone. It depends on your parent’s personality and how close they were to their spouse. Remember that their grief will resurface on memorable occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, so make sure that you are with them during those times.
  • Take Care of Yourself As Well  – It is important to remember to deal with your own grief of the loss of your parent.  In some ways it may help you to deal with your own grief to help your surviving parent deal with their grief.
  • Manage the Logistics  – In general, unless your surviving parent insists on doing it themselves you will be expected to step up and deal with all the logistics of the death of your parent including paperwork such as filing for the death certificate and making the funeral arrangements.  This resource area has many types of articles that can help you research all topics concerning the loss of a loved one.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and let your family and friends know if you need anything.

Remember that you can express your anger and frustration to those close to you. However, if you feel that you are too overwhelmed with emotions then talk to a doctor or therapist.

Dealing with death is never easy. You will feel that you will never be happy again, but keep in mind that your parent is going through a harder time and that you need to be with them to help them deal with their grief and in the process you will help yourself deal with your own grief.

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