Rebecca Rushing, BSN, RN via Wavebreak Media LTD.
When a loved one’s partner passes away, it can be difficult for them to deal with the ensuing grief. As a family caregiver, you might feel powerless to help, especially when processing the loss of the loved one yourself. But there are some things you can do to help ease the burden and support the survivor.
As a family caregiver, the grieving process can be different for you, too. Having both lost someone close to you, it may help to reminisce about old times, or find ways to celebrate their partner’s life, as you both grieve and heal together. In addition, here are five ways to help your loved one deal with grief and loss:
1. Talk About Grief Counseling and Professional Assistance
For older adults, the grieving process can be a difficult one. Family caregivers may find that their loved ones grieve differently than they do, and will often be more severely impacted, especially if their relationship lasted for decades. For these individuals, losing such a large presence in their lives can make it difficult to find a new normal, and finding ways to process their changed state can be a struggle.
Family caregivers should talk openly and honestly with their grieving loved ones about the possibility of grief counseling and therapy, and provide assistance in finding quality counseling services. This can provide care recipients with the opportunity to find the help they need in processing their deep emotional pain.
2. Offer Your Own Support and Time
After the death of a loved one, older adults can be filled with profound loneliness and fear. For the family caregiver, this time can be difficult, and may leave them feeling unable to help or provide the emotional care that their loved one needs. In many cases, sharing time, energy and compassion can go a long way to helping loved ones feel more secure in themselves and their lives.
However, dealing with the needs of another may also make processing your own grief more challenging. If you feel like you’re struggling to meet their emotional needs or failing to take care of your own, it is okay to ask for space. You might consider working with your other family members and loved ones to offload some of your responsibilities, giving you time to rest your body and mind. Caregiving is a difficult task, especially after the death of someone close, and it is important to remember to take care of yourself too.
3. Provide Opportunities to Be with Others
To help their loved ones avoid isolation in such an emotionally difficult time, family caregivers should provide them with the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, including children and grandchildren, whenever possible. Take care not to overwhelm them, but work to build a culture of care and support if you can.
4. Help Them Become More Independent
In some relationships, loss of a partner can also mean the loss of certain life skills, like cooking. Understanding which household responsibilities a partner was in charge of, and taking those on, can be a struggle for many older adults.
After some time has passed, consider talking to your loved one about taking a cooking class, or learning some of the tasks that their partner left behind. As a caregiver, it can also be helpful to step in and take some of these on yourself, or delegate them to other members of the family so nothing gets left behind.
5. Be Open with your Loved Ones
Finally, it’s important for family caregivers to give loved ones time and space to process that grief. Make sure to ask about what they want and need, and what would help them carry on in light of their grief. Focus on providing access to the things they believe can help in the grieving process, from assistance with daily living tasks to access to more in-depth care if necessary.
Losing a partner, especially after so many years, can have impacts that ripple throughout every part of your loved one’s life. As a caregiver, your priorities should be to help them reach the emotional healing that they need and to give them the opportunity to feel like they have control in their lives.
Family Caregivers Can Provide the Strength to Carry On
As a family caregiver, you can provide the stability that your loved one needs to adapt in the face of their tragedy. By spending a little more time with them when they need it, helping them find external support, keeping them from feeling isolated and being a comforting presence, caregivers can help their loved ones make it through these trying times.