Helping your elderly parent cope with the death of their spouse can be daunting because at the same time you are grieving the loss of your mother or father. We discussed in part one the importance of the funeral process in allowing natural grieving to begin. We also mentioned how the first days and weeks after the loss can bring a deeper grief as everyone returns to their daily routine. As life goes on, the absence of the loved one is more deeply felt.
Is grieving selfish?
Another thing about grief is that it is selfish. While we put a noble face on it and say we are grieving for the lost one, the truth is the grief is really for the one who remains because it is he or she who has to learn to go through life’s routines without their spouse. If you as their surviving adult child can be present during his or her first mealtimes and during those small moments of the day when they most feel the loss of their spouse, you can help talk through the memories that will come to mind.
There will be a lot of rebuilding during those first months of being alone. So you as caregiver can help that transition by not letting the times of loneliness be so long between visits. Obviously, your parent will eventually have to learn to get through the rituals of life alone. But be there for him or her so that transition is not so jarring.
A time to grieve
But even if your parent was stoic at the funeral and only showed a positive face to the grandkids, there will come a time when he or she has to cry. Be there for them. Don’t try to come up with any special comforting words. Just being present, maybe doing the dishes or sharing a cup of tea or coffee can be the biggest comfort you can provide.
A time to laugh and to cry
Finally talk about the dearly departed. Ministers know the value of talking about the fun, interesting and wonderful things about the dearly departed. It is a way of reminding ourselves that he didn’t really go away. The memory of him will be here forever in your hearts. So take some evenings and sit down with that box of family photos and go through them with the widowed parent and laugh about the different events of your family history when you were just a little squirt and mom and dad were young and good looking kids themselves.
A time to share
The joy of these times will be tremendously healing for the grieving senior citizen and for you too. But by going through grief, healing, closure and moving on together, you bond with your parent and lay the groundwork for the important care giving challenges you and he or she will face together in the months and years to come. But you will face them and you will conquer them because you are going to do it together.