|Adults/Seniors and Grief|
While all people experience some aspect of the grieving stages, each person's experience is unique to them. Thus the length of time, the intensity, and the manner in which they manifest their grieving must be respected. In supporting them it is important to remember the following:
Support Services for Seniors
Local Senior Centers
AARP, including their support programs for:
- Grandparents raising Grandchildren
- Widows and Widowers
Local Hospice Programs
Local County Office of Aging
There is also an important local 2-1-1 free service. Just dial 2-1-1 from any cell or land-line phone for immediate Health and Human Service assistance in the county in which you call. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with 'live' Resource Specialists to assist you.
Each person will experience a grieving stage in their own manner and time.
It is not possible or desirable to dictate their processing time line.
Provide understanding, empathy and good listening to the person at each point in their grieving.
Support the mourning rituals and behavior that brings them comfort, as long as it is not harmful to themselves or others.
If behavior becomes harmful, guide them to finding other behaviors and to seek appropriate professional help.
Be patient with their need to remember and share their story.
Be alert to changes in grieving stages, emotional needs, and behaviors.
Be sensitive to grieving styles so that the person's actions are not misunderstood.
Assist others in understanding the person's needs impacting their behaviors, so that the appropriate support and adjustments may be provided.
Ways to Help Yourself When You Are Grieving
Ultimately the grieving process is one that each of us experiences in our own way and in our own time. Here are some suggestions from others who have traveled this path. We hope that they will be helpful to you.
Identify Supportive People and Accept Their Assistance. We all need support while experiencing grief. Seek out supportive people, places and activities. Ask for help. The right people will come forward.
Accept Your Need to Grieve. The grief process takes energy and work. Time alone will not bring you to acceptance and peace. Grieving is a natural process. Allow yourself the time, space and support you need.
Find Role Models. We all need to know that others have survived this type of pain. Seek others who have experienced a similar loss. Support groups and books may help you.
Educate Yourself about the Grieving Process. Understanding what you are experiencing will help assure you that this is normal It will bring a sense of acceptance with the process.
Share Your Grief. Find the right people who will support your need to share your grief. This sharing is an important part of the grieving process.
Learn to Accept Your Feelings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor a right or wrong timetable. Accept your needs and feelings. Give yourself the time you need.
Slow Down. Grieving takes our energy. Balance your activities with slower times to reflect, regroup and mourn. Remember to implement good nutritional habits and get regular exercise and adequate sleep.
Maintain Regular Schedules and Routines. Keeping the most normal schedule of activities, whether leisure or work, will provide order and structure during a chaotic time.
Allow Yourself Pleasurable Activities. Laughter reduces stress and brings a release to tension. Find people and activities that you enjoy. Allow yourself guilt-free fun.
Seek Hope. Faith is not the lack of fear but the ability to move forward when fear and pain drive our lives. Seek out those who offer you solace and hope through this process.
Understanding Normal Grief Reactions
Everyone who experiences a loss will have emotional and behavioral changes as part of their grieving process. People may wonder: Is there a “right” way to grieve? Why do I feel out of control?
-I feel as if it isn’t real/didn’t happen
-I feel a tightness in my throat/heaviness in my chest
-My mood changes quickly, often over the smallest thing
-I wonder what I have left to live for
-I feel anger, sometimes
-I cry at unexpected times and often have trouble stopping
-I don’t want to be around others when I feel sad
-I have trouble concentrating or staying “on task”
-I can “feel” my loved one’s presence through sound, smell, touch
-I feel that my mind is going constantly and I cannot stop
-I have trouble going to sleep and/or staying asleep
-I don’t feel like eating or cooking
-I find myself eating often and randomly
-I miss my loved one’s touch
-I feel so lonely even when others are around
-I feel guilty about things I did or didn’t do
-I have regrets over my relationship with my loved one
-I feel like I should have done something else for my loved one
All of the grief reactions listed are normal and natural.
It is important to identify a few people with whom you can share your feelings
and with whom you can talk about and remember your loved one. Crying is an
appropriate response to this very sad situation. Please allow yourself this and other expressions of grief.
Grieving takes time and energy. Please be gentle and kind with yourself. Move at the pace which is appropriate for you. Engage in the activities which bring you comfort and solace.
Supportive Steps During the First Year
A variety of issues will arise as persons and families struggle with the components of grief and mourning. These outlined steps and topics for “checking in” are meant as a guide. They are based on the more common issues with which people struggle. People will process these issues at different times and in different ways.
Sleeping patterns (too much, not enough, location)
Eating patterns (regular, balanced, adequate, cooking, eating alone)
Personal hygiene (bathing, laundry, changing clothing)
Environment (cleaning house, dishes, care of pets, children, yard)
Regular routine (work, school, errands, church attendance, other involvement)
filing of required paperwork
funeral follow through (burial, scattering of ashes, head stone)
Connection with/about person who died
Communication with deceased (dreams, memories, journaling, prayer, talking with)
Cleaning out personal effects (clothing. possessions, personal space)
Pain of missing the person and manifestations of that pain
Sharing about the deceased (story telling, activities, memorial events)
Routines and schedules
eating, sleeping patterns, personal hygiene
work, school, activities
environment; home, car, yard
Follow up filing (Social security, insurances policies, taxes)
Medical bills, funeral bills
Thank you notes
Deceased personal effects
organization of clothing, personal items
arrangement of personal space (room, apartment, office,)
closure for personal accounts, (credit cards, subscriptions, memberships, ownerships)
Grieving Support measures
Seeking counseling (spiritual/other)
Communication with the deceased
Categories for review/check in
Grief processing methods/activities
Links to community resources
Identification of ongoing “circle of support”
Activities that bring comfort/peace
Activities that bring enjoyment
At Twelfth month
Identify challenges of second year
Identify resource/support options
Discussion of coping skills
Reinforcement of “circle of support”
Common Life Loss Experiences for Adults/Seniors
death of a spouse/partner
death of a child
death of a sibling
death of a close friend
death of a pet
children leave home/area
senior moves from familiar area/home
down-sizing requires giving items away
inability to use cherished items
inability to wear special jewelry/clothing
moving requires leaving garden, plants
unable to keep pet
unable to drive/maintain vehicle
loss of body part/use
loss of body organ/use
loss of identity
loss of role (parent/spouse/employee)
loss of dream/goal/future
loss of past relationships/memories
loss of sexual ability/relationship
loss of home (accident/illness)
move from home/neighborhood/town
children move from home/area
spouse/partner leaves (death, divorce, illness)
self-help skills (dressing, toilet)
change in food/alcohol consumption
change in smoking ability
change in daily routine/activities
Suggested Reading Materials
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana
Praying Through Grief by Maureeyn O'Brien
(resources for prayer services for those grieving a loss)
What Can I Say? by Kelly Osmour
In Times of Illness by Robert Hamma
Through Good Times and Bad by Robert Hamma and Kahtyn Schneider
Simply Surrender by John Kirvan
Peace of Heart by John Kirvan
You Shall Not Want by Richard Chilson
Befriend the Darkness, Welcome the Light by Joyce Rupp
In Times of Caregiving by Robert Hamma
The Circle of Life byJoyce Rupp
Take Five by Joseph Champlin
Riding the Dragon by Robert Wicks
Walking With Those Who Hurt by Joyce Rupp
May I Walk You Home by Joyce Rupp
Praying Our Goodbyes by Joyce Rupp
Centering Corporation, Omaha, Nebraska
(Older Parent's Death)
Recovering from the Loss of a Parent by Katharine Fair Donnelly
Not Just Another Day by Missy Lowery
One Holiday at a Time
Cowbells and Courage by Pat Paige
Does Anyone Hurt This Bad and Live by Eneroth
A Look in the Mirror
Waterbugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney
St. Anthony's Messenger Press
Toward Peace: Prayers for the Widowed by Beverley S. Gordon