By Peter G. Tamburro, Boomerang staff writer
We were sitting in the restaurant, critiquing our pasta dinners, when my friend Marta began crying. The fresh basil leaf on her plate reminded her of her late husband who had passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks ago. He used to inhale basil as if it were a gardenia and then wear it behind his ear. I thought that going out to dinner would get her out of the house and give her a reason to get dressed up and remember what it's like to do something social, even fun. The evening was a rollercoaster of tears and laughter as we roasted and toasted Joe with our wine glasses.
Loss is a part of life - whether it's the loss of a job, pet, friend or relative - and can grow more significant as we age. In the first days following a loss, grief is natural and most of us have support from family and friends to cope with the emotional effects. Generally, we grieve, and then we cope and start to return to normal routines. However, grief is a very personal process and is different for everyone.
If you have a parent or older family member or friend who is struggling with a loss, you will be their best ally by accepting and supporting where they presently are in their grief. The days do start to get better and eventually, don't seem as overwhelming. To the degree that she will let you, you can help her cope with her loss. Senior Journal offers several tips for someone who has experienced loss and is struggling with grief.
- Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise and get enough rest. Avoid too much alcohol or smoking. Get a check-up and take your medicines as prescribed.
- Get a check-up. See your doctor if you're having trouble taking care of your everyday activities, like getting dressed, fixing meals or focusing on other tasks.
- Talk about it. Talk about your feelings and your memories with family and friends. A grief support group or counselor can also help deal with the loss.
o Keep structure in your day. It may be difficult, but tending to the things you normally do can help with grief, whether it's exercise, worship, reading, a part-time job, volunteer work or meeting friends for lunch.
- Clean up and get organized. Look around the house and think about how your living environment can better work for you. Rearrange furniture and repurpose household items to meet your needs. Decide what you want to keep or pass along to someone else who may need it or wait and decide later.
- Tend to legal or financial matters. You may need to rethink certain legal matters if you made decisions prior to your loss. It might be time to rewrite your will or revise your durable power of attorney and a power of attorney. If you had joint assets (e.g., health, life, car and homeowner's insurance), they should be updated into your name.
The American Journal of Public Health found that people who have lost partners, stay healthier physically and mentally when they remain socially involved and engaged. Meet up with friends for coffee or find a walking buddy. Join a local chorus, community theater or bridge group. Get involved in activities where you will interact with others who enjoy doing what you do.
Though the evening was difficult and awkward at times, Marta thanked me for taking her out of the house that evening. She admitted it wasn't easy, but it wasn't as difficult as she thought it was going to be, either. Remember, starting over without someone is easiest one small step at a time.
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