Helping Senior Citizens Cope With Grief

A painful crossroad

The loss of a loved one, spouse, or friend is a reality of the human experience. But it does not make it any easier when someone close passes away. Think about it. Death is a painful thing for anyone to endure. But for an older adult it can be especially painful as loved ones can only live so long. 

The loss of a loved one can have a profound impact on the physical health of a senior citizen. Grief and often the accompanying loneliness can impair an immune system and thus pose the risk of additional health problems. 

 “When an older adult suffers over the loss of a friend or loved one, it’s important to recognize their grief and understand how to support them.” said San Antonio Pride PHC Vice President, Andy Cruz.  

How grieving works

Grieving is a process with multiple stages. It can be different for each person. There are some signs of how a senior is grieving that you can see. 

You may observe more anger than usual or denial. You may even see mild depression manifesting itself as sadness or regret in dealing with a devastating loss. 

The anguish of loss can certainly be for hard for a senior citizen. But it’s critically important to understand the difference between grief and true depression. 

Grief can often look like sadness and despair. An older adult may experience loss of appetite or have low energy when they are dealing with grief. Depression can manifest itself with thoughts of helplessness, or even exaggerated fatigue. It’s important to understand the difference between grief and depression.  Another sign of concern is if your loved one’s grief does not diminish over time. This may be the time to consult their doctor. 

 Perhaps their grief is getting in the way of their normal daily routine and even the smallest of tasks becomes overwhelming as the weeks and month’s pass. 

A little girl saves a grief stricken man forever

Dan Peterson was experiencing heart-breaking personal grief. Dan’s wife passed away in 2016 and he was very depressed. In fact, his own brother said, Dan himself was ready to die as he endured the painful loss of his wife, Mary. Until something remarkable happened. A little girl spotted Dan in a supermarket one day. She just approached him and asked him for a hug. That moment changed Dan Peterson for the remainder of his life. It was that connection and the close friendship that developed which helped Dan emerge from his depression. He found renewed purpose thanks to his new friend named Norah.  

When an older adult grieves, it is important for them to know they are still connected to others and their presence matters as is the remarkable story of Dan Peterson and the chance encounter that changed the course of two lives forever.  

Even the tough need tenderness and help.

Hollywood legend Bette Davis is often credited with the phrase “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”  While many senior citizens remain strong and emerge from their grief, being there to support them is critical. It’s important to have empathy and acknowledge their pain. 

Let your grieving loved one know you are there to listen, and that you’re thinking of them. You can’t possibly make the sorrow vanish, but you can allow them to talk about their loss.

 “We’ve all suffered loss at one point of another. When you become a place for a senior to express their feelings about what they are going though, you’re providing a form of healing.” said Cruz. 

Pride PHC makes a difference

The team at Pride PHC understands that loss of a friend or loved one will begin to happen more often for a senior and can be very painful. 

Helen Keller once said “We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in the world—the company of those who have known suffering.”

 “We know loss can be hard, expected or not.  Our team knows how to be there for our seniors, so they don’t have to endure the pain alone.” said Cruz.

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