5 Quick Tips to Help Seniors Cope with Loss
Loss can come in many different forms. Whether it’s the heartbreaking passing of a spouse or loved one, saying goodbye to a longtime friend who is moving away, or even moving on from a beloved family home or pet, losing something near and dear to us is one of the hardest parts of life. While learning how to pick up the pieces and carry on might seem hard, even overwhelming, at first, learning how to help someone you care about (or even yourself) cope with their grief is vitally important for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
So, what can you do to help someone you know and love cope with grief and loss without overstepping your boundaries? First off, it’s important to remember that grieving takes time and patience. After that, here are five quick tips on what you should (and shouldn’t) do to lend a compassionate hand:
- Don’t make it about you. When someone is faced with a difficult situation, it is natural to sympathize by sharing how we’ve faced similar challenges of our own. In these moments, we usually mean well, but forget that what they are going through is unique to them. As such, listen to what they have to say and avoid phrases like, “I know how you feel,” or, “Something similar happened to me.” What a hurting loved one needs is someone to support them, love them, and even grieve with them.
- Acknowledge the sadness. It is easy for us to sidestep the painful emotions, thinking if we don’t acknowledge them, they’ll go away. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy — and avoiding the sadness of a loss may only make the pain even worse. The best step is learning to face it. You might even suggest keeping a daily thought journal to record feelings and memories, writing a letter to the lost loved one as a way of sharing (or resolving) feelings, or simply talking through their feelings out loud.
- Let them share stories and memories. One of the best ways to let someone grieve, as well as show your support, is to let them share stories about the person (or thing) they miss. Not is remembering the happy moments is a great way to hold on to the memory of a loved one, but actively sharing these memories has a cathartic way of helping someone work through their own grief. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get the stories flowing.
- Lend support, not advice. Perhaps one of the most important tips to remember is that you are here to lend comfort and support, not advice and instructions. Let the professionals do that job (if professional help is needed). Instead, continue to play the role of friend and loved one by simply being there for them.
- Find ways to be happy. In the thick of grieving, it’s normal for many people to feel they may never be happy again. While this sentiment isn’t true, sometimes a little help finding those happy feelings again (when they’re ready for it) is needed. The best way to do this is to gently remind a grieving loved one of the many activities, hobbies, and passions they enjoy and encourage involvement in them again. Some people also find comfort and companionship in a service animal.
Helping your senior family member or close friend cope with loss is a process, and it may take time and more than five quick tips before they can heal. But offering your unconditional love and support during their difficult time is among the best things you can do for them.
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