Grief and loss are realities of life. At some point in our lives, we are bound to experience grief and loss, or have someone close to us facing grief and loss. Consequently, it follows that older people might have experienced more instances of grief and loss, on average, than the younger population.
For older adults and the elderly, one might expect that handling grief becomes easier the more times it happens. However, some might feel the opposite, as the sense of loss of losing their loved ones and peers will accumulate and make them feel increasingly lonely. To some people, there is also the sense of increasing nearness of death, as one inches deeper into old age.
Thus, it is important to know how to comfort and support elder parents or relatives who are deep in grief. Coming to terms with loss is not easy, but here are some ways to make it better.
Keep them company
While most people need some alone time to process grief, having too much time in isolation can also lead one’s thoughts to spiral out of control. For the elderly, the sense of loss they feel when their spouse, siblings, or peers depart can make them feel especially lonely. Thus, this is a time that giving them company is crucial.
Since they may have lost their closest pillars of support, you have to step up and assure them with your presence. Make it a point to have meals with them, visit them, or call them daily. For them, your presence makes them feel remembered, and gives them something to look forward to. Through spending more time together, you can also understand more about their feelings and needs, so you can better help them in other ways.
Let them express grief
In more conservative and hierarchical cultures like the Chinese culture, it could be seen as strange or ‘weak’ for the elderly to show their vulnerable side. As a result, many older adults tend to keep their feelings to themselves, and suppress their expressions of grief.
However, it could be very uncomfortable to keep these feelings in indefinitely. Bottling up one’s thoughts can also make one feel like they are not understood. Hence, what you could do is to provide a safe space to let your elderly parent or relative express their grief. Let them know that they, too, can shed tears. If they need someone to talk to, be their listening ear. You don’t have to say much – just listening without judgment can make them feel much better.
Connect with them on a personal level
Oftentimes, we may grow up thinking of our elders as just our ‘parents’, ‘aunt’, or ‘uncle’. But they are also individuals with their own feelings, wishes, and personality. When they might feel like they have lost their closest comrades in life, during this time, you can make them feel valued by connecting with them on a more personal level.
Get to know their favourite foods, favourite pastimes, or their favourite songs. You can gift them things they like, or take them out to do activities they enjoy. This will make them feel more secure and loved, at a time when they need it the most.
Older adults are equally vulnerable to grief and loss as anyone else. Rather than leaving them to deal with it themselves, the younger ones can also step up and provide them with support.
In the Chinese belief, it is usually also the younger ones who are in charge of funeral planning, as it is seen as an act of filial piety. If you need to support the funeral proceedings of a loved one, let 1Stop Buddhist Funeral Services be your one-stop guide.