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Author: Ms. Waters is a mother of four boys, and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site Hyper-Tidy.com.
Losing your husband or wife is a traumatic experience at any age. Since you built your life around that person for decades or more, losing a spouse as a senior becomes devastating. There really are no words to convey your grief and pain.
Although your pain is real, you can get through this. It may take some time, but your grieving process will run its course and eventually end. You can help by understanding what’s healthy and what’s not. You also have to watch for substance abuse problems, as many seniors become addicted while grieving.
Sadness & Anger Are Normal For A Senior
Research has identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, the AARP shows how a senior can fluctuate between those stages. It’s entirely normal to feel sadness, anger, and even happiness as you process your grief. Don’t feel like any negative emotions have to be changed. You have the right to feel whatever emotions come up.
Caring.com also explains how your grief is unusually strong as a senior. You can start feeling worried about the future, not just how you will get through this mourning, but how you’ll live your life without your spouse. Being suddenly alone like this is traumatic and even frightening at times. Again, all of that is normal. You will get through this.
When A Senior’s Grief Turns Bad
If sadness, anger, and the like are normal, when should you worry about how you’re grieving? It’s when grieving turns into chronic depression. That’s not due to any fault of your own. It’s natural to fall into depression after losing a spouse. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you.
How can you tell the difference between grieving and depression? Look at the intensity and duration. With healthy grieving, you tend to have bad days but good ones. You also tend to return to being social and generally happier in the months that follow the death. But with depression, negative feelings are very strong and do not go away over time.
The Josh Rojas Foundation lists some unhealthy ways to grieve:
- Pretending that your life now is normal or “just fine.”
- Trying to get over your grief quickly.
- Telling yourself to “grow up” and handle it like an adult.
In other words, you cannot rush the grieving process. But if your depression becomes intense or doesn’t get any better, you may need some help. That’s when you need to talk to someone you trust or a professional like a therapist. That may feel embarrassing for some seniors, but it’s important to get help when you need it.
Watch For Substance Abuse
When those negative emotions get intense, many seniors turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope. While it’s often fine to have a drink to calm your nerves, you have to be careful. Using these as crutches can quickly turn into substance abuse. Even if you don’t have a history of addiction, you can still have a problem.
When this happens, a treatment center is often the best option for seniors. Recovery.org has excellent advice on finding the right one for you. Any such program should have case management services, a strong social network, and treatment services specifically designed for seniors.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
Losing a spouse at any age is traumatic, but losing a spouse as a senior is worse. That’s why your grief is so intense. That’s not just expected, it’s also healthy as long as your negative emotions don’t become a persistent part of your life. You also have to make sure you don’t start abusing drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.
Your grieving process won’t end quickly, but it will end. Until then, accept your feelings and let them happen.