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Loss of a Spouse: Helping Your Parent Cope

Death is inevitable, but dealing with death is a process that can take months or sometimes years to complete. When a parent dies, they leave behind a lot. You, their earthly possessions, memories, and sometimes, their spouse. For couples who have been together for so many year, even daily tasks like loading the dishwasher can seem overwhelming and lonely. Luckily, there are ways you can help your surviving parent cope with the loss of their spouse.

Talk Through Your Own Grief

Your surviving parent may feel isolated and lonely, and expressing your own grief to them may provide a sense of normalcy. Although you may start out feeling like you are upsetting them, bringing up memories and things that make you think of your late parent can bring comfort and healing to your surviving parent. It can be something as simple as a pair of boots sitting by the door or a whiff of a scent they used to wear. Grief can be lonely, and helping someone feel just a little less lonely makes a huge difference.

At the same time, don’t force your parent to talk if they aren’t ready. People grieve at different paces, and just because they like to hear memories, doesn’t mean they’re ready to share their own.

Plan Ahead for the Holidays

As holidays approach, plan ahead and see if your parent has plans or needs help getting everything set up. Maybe your parents always hosted Thanksgiving and Dad always carved the turkey, but since this is the first one without him, you decide to host it at your home to take some burden off of your mom. On the other hand, your Mom may want to continue having holidays at her home simply to keep a sense of normalcy. Don't push for her, or any surviving parent, to leave their comfort. Try your hardest to plan around them if you can, especially during the holidays when loneliness is especially prevalent.

Oftentimes, those grieving will hope that someone brings up fond memories of their loved one, and they are disappointed when everyone avoids talking about them. Try to plan something that memorializes your deceased loved one, whether it be a poem, candle, or simply sharing memories together.

Show Up for Them

They may not ask you to stop by, but they will always want you to. For many, especially those in the older generation, this is the first time they’ve ever lived alone. They went straight from their parents homes to the home they shared with their spouse, and it may be the same home they're currently in.

After the news of their spouses passing spread, they were probably overwhelmed with condolences, casseroles, and flower arrangements, but people go back to their normal lives fairly quickly. Once those casseroles are gone and the flowers have wilted, the grief doesn’t just go away. Dropping in for dinner or a quick chat can make the days seem not so lonely.

Need Additional Support?

Grief doesn’t always show itself in the same way, and it’s important to educate yourself on the types of grief and telltale signs your surviving parent may be struggling. Many of our residents come to us after the passing of their spouse for a sense of community, scheduled activities, and to take the burden of housework off of them. Whatever route you decide to take, make sure your parent knows you’re there in any way they need you, and that you will do what you can to help them through their grief.

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