When your parent is grieving because their partner has died, how can you help? Below are some things you can do during a major bereavement in their lives.
Their Physical Health
Make sure they are safe in their home, and their physical needs are being met. Grief exhausts physically, and is stressful. This stress can exacerbate any illnesses they already have by impairing their immune system. Make sure your parent’s doctor knows about their loss if they have an appointment.
Call your parent often, and reassure them that they can call you. During this time, they may rely on you for companionship. That’s ok! Help them to learn something new, rather than taking care of it yourself. For example, you may need to help them learn to do laundry or to pay bills. Most would value feeling independent instead of coddled.
Talk About Them
Don’t avoid talking about your deceased parent. Bringing up their name often helps in healing both of you. You can remember stories together, sing songs, and look at pictures, finding ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive.
Wait on Big Decisions
If possible, encourage a delay for major life decisions, such as selling the home or other big financial decisions. They need at least a year after the death to process and grieve, and those emotional decisions may not be in their best interest during that time. Even smaller decisions may be difficult, such as removal of their spouse’s clothing and personal items. Some parents may not be ready to do this right away, while others may want to do it immediately. Let your parent decide when and how they would like to do this.
Be Educated on Financials
Your parent may have not been the one to handle the finances. It is better that they not do anything drastic with finances until he or she gets a full grasp of their financial situation. Unfortunately, it may be likely that family members or friends would ask for a loan at this time. Help your parent to resist until everything is fully understood, especially with the help of a financial planner. There will be a lot of paperwork and legalities to maneuver through during this time.
Discuss Family Traditions
Allow for family traditions to change. Some things will hurt too much to try to continue without the deceased, and shouldn’t be forced. Other traditions may begin in order to honor their memory. Your family has been altered irrevocably, and you should talk about ways to continue old traditions and think about what may inspire new ones.
Support Your Parents “New Normal”
Support your parent in new activities and making new friends. Be open and accept them as they may begin to change to build a new life for themselves. This is the best thing you can hope for, because we all want our parents to be happy. In some cases, they may have been taking care of an ill partner full-time for years, and this newfound time on their hands can allow them to blossom in a new direction.
Many articles discuss going through different stages of mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but there are no “rules” to grieving. There is no set order in a timeline that you can “plan” on, and it can be difficult and overwhelming for you both. Sometimes it is helpful to have practical steps to follow to begin navigating through this painful time.
This article was inspired by the website www.beremembered.com, a unique website that allows people to archive their memories and plan their end-of-life celebrations.
ACS, FLMI, Member Programs Assistant
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.