Few children, even adult children, are ever prepared enough to help their parent deal with the loss of a spouse. In addition to coping with their own loss of a parent, many adults must find a way to help a parent who just lost the love of their life.
While it is never easy helping a parent in such a situation, there are ways to help a parent cope with such a significant loss.
• Be mindful of your parent’s health. Sadly, a common side effect of losing a spouse is showing less interest in your own health. Kids must make sure their parent continues to eat regularly. This can be done in a number of ways. Invite your parent over for dinner a couple of nights a week, and go over to your parent’s home for dinner a couple of additional nights. If you have siblings, share this responsibility. Also, you can cook for your parent just like he or she used to cook for you.
While physical health is important, be sure your parent maintains his or her mental health as well. Depression is common among those who have lost a loved one, so ask them about their feelings and if they’re getting enough sleep. If adult children have their own kids, bring the grandkids over whenever possible. Nothing puts a bigger smile on a grandparent’s face than the sight of his or her grandchildren.
• Allow them some space to be themselves. While you might want to stay as close as possible to your parent, you also need to give them some space to be themselves. Your parent just lost his or her spouse, and it’s perfectly natural for him or her to want some time alone. Afford them this opportunity, but be mindful to check in with them regularly and not allow them to spend too much time alone.
• Engage your parent as much as possible. When both your parents were still alive, you might not have invited them along to the movies or when taking your own kids to a sporting event. However, engage them in such activities now, as they might not get a chance to do such things otherwise.
Another way to engage parents is to talk to them about current events or even books you have been reading. Doing so will help them stay mentally sharp, and you will no doubt benefit as well from their point of view.
• Take a trip with your parent. Initially, your parent might be reluctant to travel, especially of he or she had travel plans or dreams with his or her spouse. However, over time your parent will no doubt enjoy the prospect of traveling with the family, and it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.