Grieving over the loss of a spouse is an overwhelming emotional experience. Seniors tend to cherish memories and the past more because they are of advanced age and face the reality of limited life in the future. When a spouse dies after a long and happy marriage, the surviving partner must cope with sudden loneliness, uncertainty, and grief. It’s a difficult process but Seniors Helping Seniors is here to provide a guiding light through this dark time.
The Immediate Effects of Loss
The loss of a spouse can bring about depression, loss of appetite, isolation, mental confusion, and denial of reality. Some even suffer from broken heart syndrome, in which crushing grief weakens the immune system and heart, causing seniors to pass away soon after losing a spouse.
There is a lot of paperwork as well, including itemizing and processing that must be dealt with after the loss of a spouse. Tasks and challenges include:
- Handling final arrangements, like funeral or cremation and burial site decisions. (Bear in mind that only 44 percent of people take the time to arrange a will before death.)
- Life, health, work, home, and property insurance payouts must be finalized and settled.
- Death certificates have to be applied for and notarized.
- Property and items must be sorted to keep or give away.
- Family and relatives may have conflicts over how to care for surviving elderly parents.
- If the surviving elderly widow has Alzheimer’s disease or other mental conditions, someone must make important legal and medical decisions about care.
There is a lot to consider, and it’s important to seek support and help from loved ones during this difficult time.
Embrace Pain and Mourning
No one gets over spousal loss easily or in a pre-set time period. Everyone deals with pain differently and in their own way. It is also important to take care of yourself or make sure someone is looking after your care. Seniors can become so lost in grief, and sometimes even desperate to join their spouse in death, that they will lose interest in taking care of their own health.
Before you can help a person with Alzheimer’s cope with the loss of a loved one, it’s important to understand how the grieving process works and the various stages of grief individuals typically experience. The stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Some experts believe there are no grief stages, only a blur of emotional mood swings. It’s vital for a grieving senior with Alzheimer’s to stay in close contact with their doctor immediately following the loss, and they may even benefit from grief counseling.
Taking Care of Final Arrangements
One of the cruel realities of life is that paperwork and bureaucracy is a necessary evil after the loss of a spouse. There are many things that must be taken care of to make sure that bills are paid, family is taken care of, and life continues moving forward.
- Arrange for a death certificate to be issued. You will need multiple copies to transfer bank accounts, start insurance payments for beneficiaries, transfer property, start pension payments, and so on. You may need a dozen copies or more for such purposes.
- Have remains picked up. The local hospital or coroner will take the body. Afterward, you or a funeral home can arrange for it to be transferred for burial services. Note that you may be responsible for partial payment depending on your insurance coverage.
- Update living wills that reflect inherited assets following the death. A will states how a person wants their money, property, and family’s standard of living to be handled after death. If there is no will, a court, lawyers, or strangers may decide the fate of a deceased spouse’s property and how their family will live.
- Take care of bills, utilities, and payments. Stop Social Security, life insurance payments, pension payments, and so on. Such payments must be turned into survivor or beneficiary payments. Mistaken Social Security payments must be returned and can be a long, complicated process, for example.
- Choose someone to have power of attorney. If the senior has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar mental disability, a family member or lawyer can be appointed to make all legal and medical decisions.
- Take advantage of veteran’s benefits. If the deceased or surviving partner is a military veteran, they are eligible for discounted savings, services, and opportunities in many areas of life.
It’s never easy to move on after the loss of a spouse but life continues, and it’s important that survivors find a way to keep going. Getting more involved with family is one option; another is getting more involved with the community (perhaps a church group or volunteer organization). But another great idea (and one that’s often overlooked) involves getting back in touch with old friends. Grief makes us more aware of our own impermanence, but it can also make us more appreciative of those who are dear to us. That’s why this could be the perfect time to reconnect with faces from our past.
So many things must be taken care of in the aftermath of a death. Grieving is certainly part of the process, but it’s important to handle the logistics to avoid creating even more stress. Once the practicalities are taken care of, the family can come together to help each other say goodbye, cope with their pain, and move forward.
Seniors Helping Seniors brightens the lives of seniors who can benefit from a helping hand and a friendly smile. Our caregivers, who are seniors themselves, make your life easier by providing compassionate care in the comfort of your home. Call or text us at 312-526-3666.
Article contributed by Annabelle Harris from Elber.Centers