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How to Support a Parent Through the Loss of a Spouse

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It’s never easy to support someone through the loss of a spouse. It’s even harder when the lost spouse is also your parent. Comforting a surviving parent can help you deal with your own loss, but while some conversational topics are helpful, others can be harmful. The trick is knowing how to approach the discussion with a grieving parent. Understanding your parent’s experience is key to providing support.

Importantly, understand that the physical health of your surviving loved one may suffer after losing a spouse. If you’re concerned for their safety, well-being, or overall health, consider introducing a medical alert system into their home. This can provide much-needed support.

Tips for Talking with a Parent About Spousal Loss

Supporting a grieving parent is never easy, especially when you are also experiencing loss. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider any of the following tips to help open up the conversation and better understand their needs.

  • Be patient. People experience grief differently. Some may feel close to “normal” just months after a loss, while others will need years to adjust. Understand that grieving is a process; if your parent is not ready to talk about the loss yet, respect their choice.
  • Share your experience. Losing a spouse and parent is a unique type of shared loss. When talking with a parent, be sure to listen to their experience, but also talk about your own. Voicing your own grief can create a sense of normalcy around tough conversations, which can make it easier for your surviving parent to open up.
  • Avoid focusing solely on “the good.” Celebrating a life can be healing, but you should also create the space necessary to fully grieve. Sometimes, this means acknowledging the deceased’s weaknesses. Understanding the passed parent as a complete, complex human can help contextualize grief.
  • Offer assistance. Provide tangible support whenever you can. If your parent has a to-do list, ask how you can help. This can be anything from going grocery shopping and walking the dog to doing yard work and taking out the garbage.
  • Suggest a visit to the doctor. Grief can have physical manifestations, including impairing the immune system. It is not uncommon for a grieving elder to begin experiencing colds or flare-ups of existing conditions. Suggest that your grieving parent visit a doctor to assess their physical health. In some cases, this may lead to needing a medical alert system to ensure safety.

Use This as an Opportunity to Discuss Physical Health

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The death of a spouse is a traumatic experience. For many, it can bring to light a variety of personal health issues. Talking to a parent about aging and diminishing health is never easy, but this can be a good opportunity to introduce new safety devices into their home. Our medical alert systems are a great option. If you want your parent to feel safe in their home and on the go, a medical alert system is the tool they may need to feel connected to others. When an emergency happens, they can simply press the button for help. While we recommend approaching this subject delicately, the peace of mind that comes with a medical alert system may help ease the burden of living alone or without a partner. 

Additional Resources for Supporting a Parent

Many organizations that support seniors and elderly care have useful guides for supporting a parent through the loss of a spouse. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for in this guide, consider any of the following options.