Mourning the Death of a Spouse

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Published: 27th October 2009
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Many senior citizens experience the death of a spouse. There is no right or wrong way to mourn a loved ones passing, although you may be confused about different emotions that arise during the experience. You may feel shocked, numb, guilty, regretful, or even angry. Grieving is painful for anyone, both emotionally and physically. Grieving individuals may feel that they cry more easily, have trouble sleeping, have little or no appetite, have problems concentrating, or have a harder time making decisions.

There is no formula for grief in terms of how long it lasts or how severe it is. People who grieve the loss of a loved one are dealing with pain from the separation as well as other emotions that result from looking at one's own life during these times of change and adjustment. Although grieving is different for everyone, it is normal. Grieving only becomes abnormal when it interferes with daily functioning for very long periods of time as in the development of psychiatric disorders like depression or anxiety.

Grieving is difficult because it involves loss and change. Immediately after the loss of a loved one, keeping busy and spending time with friends and loved ones may help. But, it is also important to have a plan for adjustment to life without your lost loved one. Some common considerations are listed below:

* Taking care of yourself. Although you may lose the motivation to eat right or stay healthy, it is important to continue to get proper nutrition and avoid unhealthy habits like excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

* Talk to caring friends. By seeking social interaction with people you care about and letting them know how or when you want to talk about your grief can be very helpful in recovering from loss.

* Join a support group. Talking with people who have also experienced grief can be very helpful and satisfying.

* Try not to make major changes in your life right away. Minimizing stress during grief is important for staying mentally and emotionally stable during these challenging times.

* See your doctor. Talking to a doctor about how you are feeling and how it may be affecting your health is another way to get assistance in the grieving process.

* Do not think you have to handle your grief alone. There is nothing wrong with seeking short term assistance from mental health professionals who can offer more support.

* Remember your children are grieving too. Relationships and emotions can change after a loved one has passed, but remember that everyone is adjusting.

* Remember - mourning takes time. Some people experience these changes in themselves and in family for varying amounts of time after the loss, but it is normal and expected.

Adjusting to Living Alone

Some men and women grieve the loss of a spouse differently because of roles they may have had when the spouse was still living. After the spouse has passed, some men and women may be simultaneously grieving, adjusting, and dealing with the stress of taking on these roles. Men may find they are at a loss for how to go about housework. Women may feel less safe or unsure of how to pay bills and manage finances. Having the support and patience from friends and loved ones can help in this process of learning to adjust to this new way of life so that you can function in day-to-day life.

Both men and women may struggle with living alone. Here are some tips for adjusting to this kind of lifestyle:

* Taking walks with friends and getting out of the house

* Going to the library to check out books that interest you

* Volunteering at a local school as a tutor or playground aide

* Joining a community exercise group

* Joining a chorus

* Meeting old friends

* Signing up for bingo or bridge at recreation centers

* Considering a part-time job

* Joining a bowling league or sewing group

* Babysitting

* Consider adopting a pet

Eating may become harder for people who cannot share a meal time with others or who have lost their appetite. It may help to eat with friends either at a senior citizen center or local cafeteria. Some people find that turning on a radio or TV during a meal at home helps.

Other Obligations

After the loss of a spouse, there are other obligations that are important to think about once you feel that you are able to handle more responsibility. These include:

* Writing a new will

* Looking into a durable power of attorney for legal matter and healthcare in case you are unable to make a medical decision in the future

* Putting joint assets in your name

* Checking health, car, and life insurance policies

* Signing up for Medicare by your 65th birthday

* Paying state and federal taxes

You may also need to eventually go through belongings of a loved one that has passed away. If you do not feel ready, do not give away all of these items at once. Be sensitive to your own feelings and set aside items that you wish you give away, keep, or share with children and grandchildren.

Social Adjustments

Making social adjustments after the grieving process can be quite difficult when it involves going out or dating. Here are some tips for making a shift to single life:

* Go slowly and try to stay in touch with your emotions in order to know what is comfortable for you.

* Remember that it is okay to make the first move when making plans with others

* Try group activities like pot lucks or outings with a group of friends

* With friends who are couples, try to plan more casual events that do not remind you of the past

* Remember that friendship can come in many forms

The most important thing to remember when you are grieving is to take care of yourself and seek help if you are having too much trouble adjusting. It is normal to find death overwhelming, and seeking assistance is perfectly normal. Do not feel guilty to continue to love yourself, laugh at a joke, or enjoy aspects of life that you used to.

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