Supporting Seniors Through Grief

It’s National Grief Awareness Day, and the best thing we can do is acknowledge it, talk about it, and know we are not alone. We all experience grief in one way or another throughout our lives. According to author on grief and grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Over the years we may experience loss in many forms. As we age, we naturally lose endurance, independence, youth, our home, and sometimes, purpose. Additionally, we may have a dwindling roster of family and friends and other social contacts and support.

Whatever loss we experience, the stages of grief are still the same: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although we may experience these emotions in a different order, feeling these emotions is natural and even necessary.

With older adults, the likelihood of becoming physically ill after a loss increases. It will be important to maintain contact with your healthcare provider. Seniors often lack the support systems they had in their younger years and would benefit from the company of others. Talk about the loss and encourage them to share memories. Because there can be multiple losses, encourage them to talk about each loss separately so they may feel less overwhelmed and better able to cope with the strong feelings of grief.

If you find yourself experiencing any three of the following seven symptoms below, with a severity that interferes with daily functioning, you may be experiencing complicated grief, which the Mayo Clinic identifies as an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing:

1.      Unwelcome memories related to the lost relationship

2.      Severe emotion

3.      Strong yearnings that the deceased were there

4.      Feelings of being far too alone or personally empty

5.      Excessively staying away from people

6.      Unusual levels of sleep interference

7.      Loss of interest in work, social activities or recreational activities to a maladaptive degree

There won’t be anything that can eliminate your grief entirely, and that wouldn’t be what any expert recommends (nor humanly possible), but there are numerous ways you can grow, cope, and heal from your grief. At Givens Gerber Park, your Resident Service Coordinators are there to support you. Not only are they a listening ear, but they are a resource to connect you to various services in our area to help you age peacefully. Some of their recommendations may include:

1.      Four Seasons, a nationally recognized Hospice Honors Organization. Team members from Four Seasons lead grief support groups on our campus, and our RSCs can refer residents to their services.

2.      Reach out to Michael Faulkner, LCSW is owner of Engaged Behavioral Health, PLLC and partner at Givens Gerber Park to schedule 1:1 counseling sessions in the comfort of your own home.

3.      Research houses of worship in our area for more information on their grief support groups and their efforts in the community.

4.      MountainCare Adult Care Services, Care Giver Support Groups

5.      Talking with friends and neighbors in your community about what you’re going through. Feel empowered to start support groups that are resident-run. Stay consistent with a time and a place to build community and accountability.

We encourage anyone experiencing grief to take care of yourself throughout the process. Know that in time, things will get easier, especially as you seek the support and comfort you need.