Helping A Parent Survive the Loss of the Other Parent

Losing a parent is incredibly difficult.  In addition to managing your own grief you may be faced with helping your children and your surviving parent cope with theirs.  Seeing your parent in pain as they try to navigate their way through the mourning process is heart-wrenching.  Perhaps now more than ever they will need you to be there for them.  This is especially true after the initial burst of support from other family and friends falls away.
While your parent my appear to be holding things together well initially it’s important to remember it can take some time for the reality of things to set in.  It may not be until everyone returns to their separate, normal lives that your parent truly gets a sense of how quiet the house is without their partner.  The mundane tasks of day to day life may begin to emphasize how different and lonely life is without their loved one.  Making yourself a continual presence in your parent’s life can help.  Try cooking together, sharing dinner, going for walks, or even just sitting together.  Sometimes just being there can mean more than words ever could.  Reminiscing about old times and going through pictures together can also be helpful once you’re both ready.
It’s also important to remember that losing a spouse initially can be a very frightening time.  Your parent may be wondering how they can survive without their spouse especially if they were very dependent on them.  This may be the time to develop some very practical solutions.  Maybe that means teaching your parent how to balance a checkbook, cook, or grocery shop.  It may mean figuring out transportation arrangements for doctor’s appointments, etc. if your surviving parent cannot drive on his or her own. Whatever the case sit down with your parent and develop a plan.
This is also the time to keep an eye out for depression or illness.  Pay attention to changes in eating habits, behavior, or medication management.  If it seems your parent is really having a hard time grieving encourage them to seek support through other family and friends, counselors, or spiritual leaders.  Let them know they are not alone.

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