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Helping Seniors In Mourning: A Guide For The Friends Of The Family

by Mary Shanahan

Sometimes family extends beyond the names you can find on the family tree. Oftentimes that tree is rooted in the relationships that support the family during difficult times and help them grow. These deeply connected support systems are the family friends.

Many families have that special someone or a few exceptionally close friends that remain with them over the years. If you can identify with such a special place in a family, then you understand how important that friendship is. You remain beside each other through thick and thin, trials and celebrations, joyful times and sorrowful seasons. Through it all, you grow deeper in connection with these loved ones, as if they are your very own family.

With all of the challenges life brings, we need these types of relationships. During tough times, a family friend is close enough to the family to have a clear understanding of how they can help. And no other time is this relationship needed more than during a time of grieving a loss, especially if a senior is mourning the loss of their lifelong partner. Loss is difficult at any age, but there are a few specific challenges involved in the mourning process for the elderly. If your special family is facing a difficult time like this, here are a few ways in which you can provide your love and support.

Foster Connection

One of the most important things you can do for someone in mourning is provide them with human connections. In addition to yourself, one resource you may look into is having them reconnect with former classmates. Spending time with old high school friends can be a great way to help someone dealing with grief.

Provide Meals

During the initial grieving stage, the family may appreciate having meals prepared for them. With visitors traveling long distances and with the difficult task of making arrangements, it would be helpful for them to have food already on their table. If you are not able to personally provide the meal, you could coordinate a plan for other friends to bring meals throughout the days ahead. You could even use tools like the website Meal Train to smoothly plan the next week of meals.

A senior in mourning will also need meals during the weeks that follow, long after everyone has gone home. For a senior, cooking a full meal by themselves can be a wearing task that requires stamina that they might not have. If the senior is aging in place alone, they could easily miss meals by lacking the strength or desire to complete the work just for one meal. Since physical wellness can be directly correlated to diet, every healthy meal provided will help them adjust to their new life.

Organize Donations

Some families choose to set-up a donation fund instead of receiving gifts or flowers during the bereavement period. This could help lighten the financial challenges associated with making arrangements on a fixed income. However, in the midst of the overwhelming process of making the arrangements, the senior could quickly become confused. They might appreciate help in managing the donations. Websites like GoFundMe are a perfect resource for organizing donations, allowing long-distance family and friends to share their support. Every form of relief provided to the senior has a great impact on their health.

Give Your Time

Time is the most precious resource we have, and it is also the most valuable gift to offer to a senior mourning loss. A listening ear, a friendly conversation, or an afternoon spent cleaning the house may seem insignificant, but actually provides more assistance than you may realize. While time and conversation strengthens the friendship, these tasks also give you the opportunity to check on how they are doing emotionally. The senior might not verbally express their pain, but they might reveal it in their activities.

While you are spending quality time with the senior, watch for any changes in their physical health. Try to notice subtle mood swings and medication usage. After loss, seniors may be more susceptible to develop symptoms of depression, which can become a serious issue. Poor mental health is linked to suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. The effects of either of these could create a rapid decline in your loved one’s health. The more time you can spend with the senior, the better you will be able to prevent the possibility of these struggles for the senior in mourning.

Loss is not an easy circumstance to face. That’s why it is so vital that we stay connected to those we love. Because of the love and support of family and friends, no senior has to mourn alone.

This article was brought to you by Profiles in Catholicism, where our mission is to interview people of faith to learn more about the spiritual, societal, and health issues that are important to them, promote evangelization and religious vocations, provide financial support to people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, those living in extreme poverty, and the organizations that help them, and provide news updates. Contact us for more information.

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