Published On: Tue, Feb 7th, 2017

How bereavement can affect the elderly

Bereavement is difficult at any stage of life, but it can hit elderly people particularly hard. Older people who lose their long-term spouse or partner can find it tough to cope with the grief. After the death of a loved one who has been a part of their life for such a long time, they may need to find a way through the grief, and this often takes a considerable amount of time.

The grieving process

The first stage of grief is shock and denial. Your initial reaction will be shock, even though the person who has passed may have been ill for a long time. Denial usually follows quickly to help you to protect yourself from being overwhelmed by your loss.

The next stage is intense concern, where you can become preoccupied by your loss and find it difficult to think about anything else, and this is followed by despair and depression. It is painful to come to terms with the reality of the loss, and you are likely to suffer a range of negative feelings and emotions.

Finally comes the recovery. You still feel the pain, but you are moving through it and are able to take a new interest in normal living and daily activities.

photo by Moto Films courtesy of Fathom Events

Reactions to grief

Not everyone reacts in the same way, but research has shown that some 10 to 15 percent of people suffer severe reactions, and these reactions happen mainly in those who have been depressed prior to the loss. The Mental Health Clinical Research team has suggested that complicated grief symptoms in the elderly bereaved may be similar to post-traumatic stress.

However one reacts, there is always going to be heartache for those left behind.

Emotional effects of grief

Even if a death has been expected, you may think that you ought to be able to cope with a bereavement, even if you can’t at the time. Apart from the emotional effects – such as feelings of depression and emptiness, sadness, and anger – there are many practical things that you will have to consider. Among these are the fear of being lonely and how to address that in the future. After all, your world has been turned upside down, and nobody knows how they will cope until it actually happens.

You may also have mixed feelings, especially if the person who has gone was sick and in pain. Relief at the end to suffering could be what you feel, but that is unlikely to take away the sadness. Guilt is also a natural feeling following a bereavement, perhaps wondering if there was more that you could have done to help or something that you wished you had – or hadn’t – said to them when they were still with you.

Dealing with the practicalities

The first thing that you have to do after a death has been officially certified is to make arrangements for a funeral. According to the Cremation Association of North America, statistics have shown a growing number of people choosing cremation rather than burial. In 2015, the cremation rate in the US was 48 percent and is projected to rise to 53.4 percent by 2020.

Funeral services offered include cremation with a service to follow, and many people also want to honor a life or scatter ashes at sea or in a place dear to the heart of the deceased, such as a forest or mountainside.

You can get support from your family and professionals to arrange the funeral to help you concentrate on remembering your loved one the best way that you can. You may need to consider how to manage if you have a smaller income, so asking for support and input into your budgeting can be an important source of assistance. There will always be financial matters to deal with, so it is important that legal documents are located and made ready so that the administration and disposal of the estate can be dealt with more quickly.

You should also think about asking for help with specific household tasks to start with as you gradually move through the stage of grief and become better able to cope on your own. Simple things such as a neighbor or other friend helping to get in a weekly shop or just popping by to see how you’re doing can be of real emotional benefit and support.

Working to move on

It takes time, and you will never forget your bereavement, but you can move through the emotional stages, especially if you ask for help if you are suffering from depression or other negative feelings.

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About the Author

- Adam Lee is a financial writer who has insightful knowledge in dealing with different financial issues. He tries to help people to get out of difficult financial situations by contributing financial write ups to websites and blogs such as Moneyforlunch.com and Moneynewsnow.com

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