Losing a parent can be one of the most life-altering events you can experience. While you’re dealing with the grief, though, there’s someone else you should keep in mind. The death of a spouse is such a horrible experience that a good number of people simply die as a result of it. It’s called the widowhood effect, and a study at Harvard University found that 30 percent of men and 15 percent of women will fall victim to it. One crucial factor in avoiding this is to develop an interest in the outside world, and not focus an entire life on the loss. When you’ve lost a mom or dad, often the best thing you can do for yourself is to help your surviving parent cope with the loss. Finding other interests for them to focus on is a solid first start.
It helps to talk about your problems with people who are going through the same thing, at least for the first few months after a loss. Help your parent find a local group for seniors who have lost a spouse. They’re often offered at local hospitals, by research foundations connected to certain fatal diseases, and even through local community centers. Dealing with the grief with a group of people who’ve gone through it themselves can help to speed the healing process.
While experts agree that you shouldn’t make major life changes immediately after a loss, your parent may eventually need to downsize from a large family home into something more manageable. Help your parent transform a basic apartment into a warm and welcoming home. You should also help with the difficult task of going through personal and financial documents, including life insurance policies. While it can be challenging, it’s necessary. Unfortunately, even a deceased person is at risk for identity theft or fraud. Make sure documents are secure and all information is accounted for.
If your parent spent most of the time being involved in the family, he or she may feel useless and at odds after the loss of the family unit. Help them find other ways to occupy the days besides caring for someone else. What are his or her interests? Does she love to read? Find a book group or two for her. Is he into trains? Connect him with a railroader’s club. Search your local community to find a list of activities to fill your parent’s day, and help through the application process.
No, dating isn’t on your grieving parent’s mind, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t do with a little companionship. After the first couple of months is a great time for your parent to think about adopting a pet. Having another creature in you parent’s life to care for will offer a sense of structure, as well as allow your parent to receive unconditional affection. Seniors often do well with so-called “senior dogs,” those dogs past puppyhood and well into the adult life. They’re already trained, past the chewing and accidents that puppies do, and are often much calmer than younger dogs. Shelters are especially happy to see senior dogs adopted out, as they are often the most difficult ones to place.