Losing a loved one has got to be the most difficult time that anyone can go through. The loss of a child or a spouse can devastate the strongest of people. If you’re caring for that grieving family member, it can be a struggle to know what to do, especially since you’re probably grieving yourself.
Here Are Some Helpful Things You Can Do To Help Your Grieving Parent:
1. Be there – It’s important to know that you can’t fix this. Looking for the words to make it better or at least understandable is not the most important thing. Being there to listen and offering physical help gives your parent the opportunity to share their feelings and for you to acknowledge their pain. 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 departed loved one.
2. Comfort, not judgment – Many of us feel like our grief is a private matter, and dread breaking down in front of others. If you loved one feels this way, they might feel ashamed of showing their tears and grief. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Anger, denial, and even hostility are just some of the behaviors that grieving people have trouble controlling during this time. Give them a safe forum to express whatever they’re feeling. Don’t hang on to hurtful words but let them roll off of you. This is the time to depend on your faith, to offer grace and forgiveness. If they need to cry, don’t try to stop them. The human touch may be the only language they need during these times. But they may need to talk about how the death occurred; this is often necessary for them to eventually let it go.
3. There Is No timetable on grieving – The grieving process can take a long time. 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.
4. Include all your family members – 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.
5. Special Days – Beware! – 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.
6. The Time to Worry and Get Help! – 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.
7. Avoid the cliché’s – Sometimes we try to fix things by saying something profound. “He/she’s better off now,” “Count your blessings,” “It’s time to get on with your life,” or “I know just how you feel.” Try to avoid sentences such as these. They can hurt.
8. Encourage them to not make drastic changes – Sometimes an elder is quick to change their living arrangements or make other lifestyle changes that cannot be reversed. Do your best to encourage them to wait before making long term changes that they might soon regret. Unless there is a desperate need for these changes, strongly advise that they wait.
9. Take care of the caregiver – You! – You can only do so much before you become overwhelmed and ultimately ineffective as a caregiver. It is vital you take care of yourself and give yourself time off. Let all your loved ones and even your surviving parent’s friends know about needs. They’ve probably been waiting and wanting to help. Your parent’s neighbors often will be glad to lend a hand. Just remember to tell them how much they are appreciated.
10. Talking it out – Make sure you also have someone safe to turn to. You need to express your grief and work through your own sorrow. Watch out for your own mental health needs. Death of a loved one is traumatic and you might need professional help to get through.
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About The Author: Karen Everett Watson is a Gerontologist and has over 10 years experience as a Journalist. Karen has spent 4 years in the senior community interviewing retirement community residents.
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- What To Do When Your Loved One Dies
- Planning A Funeral For Your Spouse
- Mourning The Death of A Spouse
- Coping With Grief and Loss
- Five Stages of Grief
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