How to Guide Your Parents to Cope With the Loss of Their Spouse

how to deal with the death of a spouse

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When you move into adulthood and start your own family, your parents also transition to a new stage of life where death becomes inevitable and unpredictable.

The passing of your parent can trigger a range of intense emotions in your surviving parent. At the same time, consoling your surviving parent can be as challenging as taking care of the other parent’s final moments.

So how do you comfort and support your grieving parent while also dealing with the loss of your deceased parent? Keep scrolling through to go over our guide of helpful tips to help your parent cope with the loss of their spouse.

MORE TO EXPLORE: Why Is It Important To Maintain Daily Recreational Activities For Elder Family Members?


What They May Feel After Losing Their Spouse

12Oaks-Elderly woman with framed family portrait at home-as-What They May Feel After Losing Their Spouse

Losing attachment to our loved ones can turn our lives upside down. For the most part, we are forced to go through five stages of grief, where we eventually come to terms with “the unacceptable” at the final stage: acceptance.

But for seniors who lost their spouse, it is believed what they may feel afterward goes beyond simply moving on with life as the pain declines in later years. Grief may take a toll on their daily habits. It may cause trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. It may also cause them to withdraw from friends and family. Sometimes, mourning can be too much to handle. They find it challenging to lead a normal life without their spouse, resulting in suicidal thoughts and substance abuse to numb their pain.

After losing a spouse, it is understandable to cry and get devastated by the thought of doing everything themselves. Naturally, your parent may feel the following emotions:

  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Tired
  • Numb
  • Depressed
  • Shocked
  • Disbelief
  • Guilty


How to Support Grieving Parents

12Oaks-Adult Son Talking To Depressed Father At Home-as-How to Support Grieving Parents

When caring for your left-behind parent, remember that all good things take time, patience, sympathy, and compassion. Below are some practical tips to guide them to cope with losing their loving spouse.


Be Present

Showing up and making yourself available is the first thing to assist your surviving parent in regaining balance and returning to their everyday life. After losing their loved one, they definitely need guidance with utmost understanding, love, support, and patience throughout their subsequent life phases.

It is strongly recommended to reassure them that you are always by their side and be present whenever they need you. It could be making occasional phone calls or video calls and sending photos of your daily life to let them know they are still a part of your life.

If you live nearby, come to their house once or twice weekly to help with heavy household duties. Another activity to keep them away from negative thoughts is to take them out for lunch whenever possible.


Accept Changes in Your Bereaved Parent

The loss of a spouse can intensify the surviving partner’s shock. Under such a devastating stage, some people may not be the same as they once were.

In a way, your parent may experience a roller coaster of emotions where they are calm in one minute and subsequently change their mood 180 degrees within minutes. Accepting their changes, though it can be a nuisance to deal with, is another step to keep your parent accompanied amidst the chaos. Furthermore, overcoming grief doesn’t happen overnight, so it is always best to spare them time and space to heal.


Acknowledge Their Loss

Ignoring the pain only makes it worse over time. Essentially, facing it is the first step in helping your parent cope with the loss of their spouse. Encouraging them to vent their feelings or having regular conversations with them is the best way to let them know their grief is validated and accepted. At the same time, talking things out with someone they trust allows them to express sorrow in a positive, healthy way.


Let Family & Friends Step In

Understandably, your surviving parent wants to spend their days alone while going through stages of grief. However, prolonged isolation periods of mourning can adversely affect their mental health and keep them trapped in a never-ending cycle of sadness.

Give them time and space, then seek support from family members and close friends to ensure they have someone to turn to just in case, especially if you can’t find the time between your busy schedules. Aside from friends and family, don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance from senior centers and communities that offer counseling services to help your parents overcome grief.


Show Them Ways to Find Happiness

Seniors going through the loss of loved ones may dwell on the idea that they will never find happiness again. Of course, they can grieve and cry as much as they want, but it is also essential to help them rediscover joy as life continues.

As a caregiver, show your parent multiple leisure activities to engage in, such as painting, gardening, taking a walk, joining a club, going out with friends, and knitting. Not only do these activities reduce stress and anxiety, but they also allow your parent to socialize and make new friends. If possible, you may even provide them with a pet. The companionship of a dog or cat has been proven to help reduce stress and improve overall wellness in seniors living alone.

MORE TO EXPLORE: 9 Mind-Stimulating Activities Great For Seniors


Encourage Self-Care Practices

Sometimes, the grief and sadness can be so enormous that some people forget about themselves and their physical needs, leading to a lack of self-care. In general health, excessive bereavement can have devastating effects on our seniors’ immune systems.

Around this time, please stay connected with your parents to ensure they eat right, get adequate sleep, stay physically active, and practice proper hygiene. Dropping off foods or arranging prepped meal delivery is another excellent way to protect them from malnutrition.


Watch for Changes in Personality

Losing a spouse can change a person and their whole life. After the loss of their spouse, being present also gives you a chance to inspect for any changes they might develop throughout the healing process.

Despite not being long-term, shifts in personality and behaviors, such as forgetfulness and disorganization, can partially affect how they live their lives. Make sure to assist them and intervene if needed.


Don’t Rush Things

Everyone goes through the grief process differently. While some seniors can pick themselves up and return to their lives more quickly, others may need more time to cope with their loss.

In the end, there is no right or wrong way to deal with the passing of someone you love. Therefore, avoid rushing things at all costs. Instead, give them space to mourn, as long as it doesn’t escalate to unhealthy bereavement.


Coping With the Loss of a Spouse With 12 Oaks Communities

12Oaks-Multiracial senior man consoling male friend crying while sitting on sofa in nursing home-as-Coping With the Loss of a Spouse With 12 Oaks Communities

Coping with the loss of a spouse doesn’t have to be a challenging process. At 12 Oaks managed senior living communities, we offer a variety of activities that stimulate your elderly family members’ physical and mental health amidst the grieving process over the loss of their spouse.

Our senior living professionals can check their health conditions to deliver the best care and design the appropriate daily activities to keep them physically active. Our team members work diligently to create a family-like atmosphere where your parents can feel happy and start all over again after losing their spouse.


If you have questions about how to guide your parents to cope with the loss of their spouse or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us. 


Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit.

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