How can I help my elderly mother get over the death of her spouse?

5 Comments

Q: How can I help my elderly mother get over the death of her spouse?

A: Grieving over the loss of a spouse is one of the most difficult things we go through in life. It is very individual, and can take a year, or longer, before a grieving elderly person feels a lessening of the sadness and devastation. We don't really get over such a loss, we learn to better cope with and accept reality.

However, we can do things for ourselves that restore a sense of purpose and provide structure and meaning to our lives, creating better mental health, even while the grieving process is going on. Being present for your mother is one of the important things you can do. Invite her to activities, or just spend time together doing things she would normally like to do. Include her in your life to the extent that she is willing. Offer to visit, cook a meal together, see a movie or play cards, for example, if those are things she would usually like. Keep trying. Ask her if she would like to talk.

Sometimes, grieving can lead to depression that doesn't let up. Rule of thumb, if it has been over one year since the death of a spouse without some progress forward, then it is time to consult the doctor. In those instances, encourage her to see her doctor to be evaluated for anti-depressant medication on a temporary basis. This can often help get a person get unstuck. Grieving is not a mental illness, but the sometimes accompanying depression can be very hard to overcome without medication.

Encourage her to see her doctor if she seems to be "lost" in the process, and find out if medication and or counseling can help.


Dr. Mikol Davis is a psychologist specializing in aging issues. He is the author of "Rainbows of Life" and founder of the Aging Parents website. Read his full biography

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5 Comments

Dr. Davis has some good points. To relieve pain, try reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis or It Hurts to Lose a Special Person by Amy Ross Mumford.

The chief thing to remember is that you need to acknowledge it without wallowing in it. When my husband died, my church gave me roughly 2 weeks to "get over it." As Dr. Davis says, that's not nearly enough time.

The best thing you can do for someone who is mourning, is to link them up with a group of people who are also mourning. I know from experience that when you are in such a group, it is much easier to open up; not just about your sadness, but also about your anger; and your feelings of betrayal.

Good luck and God bless.
My husband died Feb. 25, 2011. I did not start grieving until Feb. 2012. I did real well at the beginning because we knew that he was dying. He did not want his family to be truly sad. He would say every one has to die.I knew that. He and myself plan most of the funeral. In one month I was back attending church. And then the grieving started. In 2012 my father-in- law died in June and then a close cousin cousin died . I have not been back to church. I am told I was on depression medicine about 7 years before he died. I have few words to say how I feel to most people. I just don't want to be left alone. I am waiting on God for my answer. I feel bad that I have neglected my church by not worshiping with them ,not working or donating any funds. God Bless.
This is a very sensitive and helpful article. Grieving for a spouse does go on much longer than most people realize. I am surprised myself at how long my grieving is lasting. My husband died 10 months ago and I am only now starting to feel more "normal."

Doing things with friends and family has helped. I have not wanted to spend time with a group of strangers who are also mourning. I'm sure that is helpful for many; I need to do things my own way.