Dealing With Loss and Grief

Nov 10th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women

We senior women are still living longer than our husbands—at least statistically speaking, women live on average about five years longer than men. That means we have experiences of grief over the loss of life-long companions and our social life can end up in shambles.

We are also bright enough to know friendships and our social life in general contribute positively to quality of life in our senior years. So it stands to reason that rebuilding our social life after losing a partner can prevent stress and help us get through the grieving process, which includes coping with the loss as well as re-defining our lives as singles.

Studies in several countries over the past decade reveal widowed people with a social life and friendship support system cope with their grief more effectively. Trusted friends with whom you can talk provide a much-needed support system. They can help

• Deal with the daily realities of living such as paying bills, reviewing legal/insurance/medical documents, tasks once assumed by the deceased;
• Provide social activity that includes relief from intense grief, which no one can handle effectively 24/7;
• Grieve with you, lending an understanding spirit for your loss;
• If needed, provide assistance getting to and from appointments, grocery shopping, medical appointments and necessary errands;
• Be a sounding board for issues you face and feelings resulting from those issues;
• Demonstrate unconditional love and support when you need it most.

So what is important to consider about re-building your social life? Here are several suggestions; not all of them will apply to your situation, but some of them will, and we hope you find them helpful:

1. Take an inventory of what you love to do, activities you have really enjoyed (and perhaps pushed to the back burner when your partner was alive), groups/organizations you find enjoyable;
2. Determine which one(s) of those items on the inventory you want to try first; don’t attack the entire list at once; just take one activity at a time;
3. Life After Loss groups are active in most communities now; find a group and join it, if only for a few sessions to be assured of how normal your response to grief is. Such groups provide both emotional as well as social support for grieving people. It’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone.
4. Don’t make any big decisions for at least a year, unless a plan was laid prior to the loss of your partner. For example, don’t decide to move across the country unless you and your deceased partner already had a home there, and you decided you would rather live there than in your present domicile. Big decisions include new relationships, remarrying, where to live, large purchases/investments. Your emotions are a little fragile and such decisions need sound judgment, not emotionally-based reactions.

Bereavement is part of life’s journey for most of us. We can handle it more effectively with help from trusted friends and family.



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