Lexington Health Network

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Tips for dealing with grief as we age

Even in old age, when people become used to their friends and family members passing on, it can be hard to deal with grief. In fact, as deaths mount, it may become even more difficult to let go of the loved ones who are ones left. You can help your aging parents and older relatives deal with grief using the following strategies, and put them in your pocket to use as well.

Talk to Someone About It

Counseling and therapy are excellent ways to deal with grief. However, older generations often don’t have the same comfort with expressing themselves that younger people have been taught, so it may take a little coaxing to get your loved one in to see someone.

Get Physical Exercise

Exercise can work wonders. While it can’t make the loss go away, it does raise endorphin levels and help us deal with grief more effectively. Routine physical exercise can make loss feel less painful, give us safe space in which to experience memories and sadness, and ensure we stay physically sound while healing. Help your loved ones by encouraging them to remain active even amidst grief.

 Join a Support Group

Being around people going through the same experience can help when you’re dealing with loss at any age. If your relative lives in a senior community, you’ll have an easy time finding a group to join. Going consistently is the best way to experience results.

Express Feelings Creatively

Art, music, journaling and other creative means of expression can all help process grief and eventually put it to rest. Especially for people who were creative when they were younger, this can be an effective means of both dealing with loss and engaging in enjoyable activities.

Know the Difference Between Grief and Depression

Some grief-related depression is normal, and it may take a while to move on after a loss. However, if your loved one does not seem to be coping with the loss, falls silent or loses interest in activities that formerly filled them with joy, seems unable to deal with normal life, or mentions desires to harm or kill themselves, these are all serious signs of depression. Depression warrants counseling and, in severe cases, possibly medication. Do not ignore it.

Prepare for Emotional Holidays

Holidays are when family traditionally gathers and celebrates just being together, and a new loss can feel especially raw at such times. Know that the holidays may be hard, but stress the importance of just enjoying one another’s company anyway. Other important events, including anniversaries and birthdays, can also be very sad. Try to help your loved one find new ways of celebrating, like paying a visit to a grave or throwing a remembrance party.

Just Feel

Oftentimes, especially with the older set, there is an expectation that we will harbor our feelings inside or move past them immediately. While this might have been an emotional necessity in the Great Depression, it’s not necessary today. Express willingness to listen to feelings, and support for just experiencing them, to your parent or relative. And if the person they’re grieving was close to both of you, then know that it’s okay to follow these rules yourself too.

Dealing with grief isn’t easy, but it is possible. While the above tips won’t bring immediate relief, they will help.