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The Parent Trap, Part 5: The Biggest Loss 11.26.2013

Spousal loss . . . perhaps the hardest topic we’ve covered in our series. Despite the difficulty that comes with the issue of losing a spouse, it is important to discuss what the process looks like. Chances are one of your parents will pass away before the other one, leaving the living partner alone. So here is a look at what your parent will be dealing with during this time, and what you can do to help them through it.

Their struggle. Losing a life partner is painful – plain and simple. Your parent will not only be dealing with emotional grief, but physical repercussions as well.

The stages of grief are denial (shock), bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. However, they don’t always appear in this order. Everyone experiences grief differently, and certain stages can be harder for different people. Your parent might even seem to relapse into a stage that they thought they had already worked through. This is not an easy process but it is healthy for them to work through these emotions.

Furthermore, the emotional side of grief can have negative physical effects on your parent as well. They can suffer from insomnia, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, and an inability to make decisions. Be aware of these things. If you notice these behaviors, don’t chastise them for not taking care of themselves. Realize that it is part of their grieving process and offer support.

Taking the right steps. The most important thing your parent can do in dealing with the loss of their spouse is make sure they’re taking care of themselves, even amidst the sadness. Remember that emotional grief can take a physical toll, so take extra care in helping them keep up healthy routines. Eating regular, nutritious meals and getting lots of rest are key. Also, keeping up on any medication they are taking and maintaining habitual trips to see their doctor are important.

Moreover, it might not be wise for your parent to make any big life changes in the midst of their grieving process. These changes should wait until they have successfully adjusted to life without their spouse.

Another helpful step for your parent to take is making sure they have an outlet for communicating their grief. They might not be ready to talk about it right away. In fact, your parent may be the type of person who never wants to talk about it. But eventually it will be beneficial to them to be able to let some of the emotional tension out. When you think they are ready, you might take time from your own schedule to have talks with them. Or you could recommend local grief counseling groups. Either way, communication is important.

Planning out their social activities with them can also be a beneficial step. Likely their social life will change with the loss of their spouse. But this doesn’t mean that it should cease entirely. Help them adjust their meetings and visits with people so that they are doing things they are comfortable with in the absence of their spouse. Plan ahead for certain events and holidays that you know will be hard for them to go through without their partner. Make sure they have things to do with other loved ones on those especially hard days.

Lastly, when they feel well enough, assist them in reorganizing their affairs. Meet with them and a lawyer about adjusting their will. Visit their accountant and other money professionals to take a look at their finances and life insurance policy.

All in all, it’s going to be a hard road for everyone. But these are some things to be aware of that will hopefully make the transition a little easier.

Coming next week: The Parent Trap, Part 6: The Senior Prom