Experiencing the loss of a loved one at any age is an incredibly impactful experience that can be difficult to overcome. Since there is often a relationship between aging and an increase in probability of illness, injury, and death, older adults may experience loss more frequently and repeatedly than younger adults as their significant others, siblings, and friends age with them. Experiencing repeated loss can leave a person feeling sad, lonely, hopeless and fearful. However, there are ways of coping with these emotions and processing the loss that allow a person to live a fulfilling life.
Finding a New Sense of Purpose
Often as our loved ones age with us, we become their caretakers. When a loved one is sick or injured, we may bear the responsibility of caring for them for a prolonged period of time. When they die, we can be left feeling purposeless, useless, and confused regarding how to spend our time. Volunteering for an organization can help fulfill the need for a sense of purpose as we age. Also, since we are no longer responsible for caring for our loved one, we can begin to turn some attention towards ourselves by engaging in hobbies that we may not have had time for when we were caring for our loved one.
Maintaining Your Own Health
As the people around us pass away, we can be left with the fear of being next. Living with this fear is not healthy or productive. In order to ease these fears, it is important to make sure we take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You can do so by keeping up with regular checkups at the doctor’s office and following through with referrals to specialists. Also remember to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Speak openly with your support system regarding how you are feeling and consider seeing a therapist to address ongoing mental health issues. If you have a sense of spirituality, use it to process your loved one’s death and manage your fears surrounding your own mortality.
Joining a support group can help us cope with feelings of sadness while lessening feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. They allow us to form new and meaningful connections with people who can relate to our experiences. There are many general bereavement support groups that can be found by searching on the internet, contacting a local hospice, or speaking with one’s local spiritual or religious organizations. Other forms of support include meeting with a mental health professional for therapy and connecting with one’s friends and family members to express one’s feelings towards the losses experienced.
Experiencing repetitive loss is a challenging part of aging. In order to navigate this phase of life and the complicated emotions experienced during this time, it is important to maintain a sense of purpose, take care of oneself, and seek support from others. Doing so will lessen feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and fear, and will allow a person to be able to continue to experience happiness and fulfillment in their life despite the losses they have experienced.
If you are grieving after the loss of a loved one, it may help to talk to a therapist. Contact The Light Program to set up an appointment with a trained counselor.
Article written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC