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Grief and Depression in Elderly Adults – How to Handle Emotions When a Spouse is Gone

Grief and depression can be overwhelming for elderly adults. The mental pressure increases when it comes to the loss of a spouse.

Aging is a natural part of life, and death is a natural part of aging. We all know the time will come when we pass away, but what happens to those we leave behind? If you are one of those seniors dealing with the pain and grief of losing a spouse, often leading to depression in elderly individuals, there are ways to help yourself through the process and over time start to feel better again.


The Grieving Process


The grieving process is not just random; it is well known to have a series of stages:

  • Denial and Shock
  • Bargaining
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These stages do not necessarily occur in this order, and it is quite common to move back and forth between different stages several times as you grieve. Working through your grief and dealing with the strong emotions that result from losing a spouse takes time; the amount of time necessary will be different for each person.

The most important thing to remember about the grieving process is that it is perfectly normal and actually good for you to work through each stage. Even if you find yourself back experiencing a stage you thought was long gone, remember that is perfectly normal as well.


Dealing with Your Grief and Emotions


There is no single right way to deal with your grief and emotions. What works for someone else might not work for you, or just the opposite might be the case, so don’t judge yourself or your own progress against the experiences or progress of someone else. Let’s take a closer look at the most common emotions and strategies for dealing with them:

Pain – The pain you feel after losing a spouse is very real. It is both emotional and physical, so relieving it is not as simple as taking a pill. As unpleasant as it is, pain is a vital part of the grieving and healing process. Let yourself feel and don’t try to block or dull the pain with alcohol, food, cigarettes, or other over indulgences. The more you let it flow, the faster it will be relieved.

Depression in elderly loved ones is often experienced, so talk to your doctor about what is happening with you.

Tears – Along with great pain comes tears, sometimes a huge amount of tears. Many people are taught that shedding tears is a sign of weakness and that fighting them back is a sign of strength, so they will put a lot of effort into avoiding or minimizing crying. Shedding tears is actually very healthy because it helps remove toxins from your body and also produces a natural pain reliever for the brain called leucine-enkephalin, so don’t hold back; go ahead and shed plenty of tears!

Other People – As you grieve you’ll have all sorts of experiences with other people; some of them will be helpful and some of them will not be helpful. In most cases, those people with whom you have unhelpful experiences simply do not know how to deal with death or how to best interact with you, so try to be patient with them. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be afraid to lean on those people whose efforts are helpful to you. Ask for support and encouragement when you need it and the grieving process will proceed more smoothly. If you notice depression in elderly friends or loved ones who have lost a spouse, reach out to them knowing you can make a difference.

Time – It sounds cliche but it really is true; when it comes to dealing with grief and emotions there is absolutely no substitute for time. As time passes and you get farther away from the death of your spouse, you’ll slowly start to feel better. There will be good days and bad days, and there will be extra pangs of emotion on special days like holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. Take care of yourself and be patient with yourself, because time really does heal even the deepest of wounds.


You Are in Control of Your Grieving Process


Many times, well meaning friends and family will try to be helpful but end up leaving you feeling manipulated or forced into something you don’t really want to do. They are trying to assist you, but the reality is you are the only person who knows what you need and the things you are comfortable doing. In other words, you are in control of your grieving process so listen to your own instincts and do what you need to do to help yourself along.

Depression is serious at any age, but depression in elderly individuals, especially after the loss of a loved one can be particularly dangerous. We’ve found 3 great websites that can assist with grieving and depression in elderly adults. Some of the symptoms of depression in elderly adults are unique and these sites can help you find a geriatric psychiatrist, find support groups, show you how to find the right kind of treatment and how you can pay for it, and ways to prevent elderly suicide.

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation This is a great site to be able to search for geriatric psychiatrists by name and/or location who can assist with depression in elderly adults. There is a nice article on depression in late life.

Help Guide We like this site because it give a good overview of the difference between depression in elderly and elderly grief. It discusses the causes, symptoms and treatment types available for depression in elderly adults.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Regardless of the myths, depression in elderly adults in NOT a normal part of the aging process. This site gives comprehensive lists of what to look for in a suicidal senior. There are some great dips here to combat depression in elderly loved ones and keep it from progressing to suicide.

Applewood Our House has four residential assisted living homes for those with memory care needs.

Applewood Our House has a Better Business Bureau A+ Rating.

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