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Archived Questions

How can I support my friend who is grieving?

When  a friend, a family member, or a co-worker is grieving, we often have anxiety over what to say or do to ease their pain.  We want to say the right thing, and provide comfort, but wonder if we are doing too much or not enough.  We may be uncomfortable with the raw emotions we may encounter, or feel helpless to alleviate their loss.  However, just the gift of caring presence is often a tremendous comfort for someone who has lost a loved one.

While each situation is unique, and every loss is different, most people are appreciative if we just let them know we are thinking of them.  A simple "I am so sorry."  goes a long way.  Be okay with reactions such crying or anger.  It is not your job to make someone feel better, you cannot.  Their grief is a process that will continue.  But you can lighten their load.  

Let people know that they have been on your mind, but avoid phrases such as "I know how you feel."  Encourage them to talk about their loved one and say their loved one's name.  A grieving person needs friends who are willing to listen to them, cry with them, and tell stories about the loved one they have lost. 

Avoid phrases like "Let me know if you need anything."  Grieving people will probably not make that call.  Find creative ways to be a physical presence for your friend.  Do some laundry, bring a meal, mow a lawn, schedule a visit, play a game of cards, take them for a ride or a movie.  Widowers especially tell us that weekends and evenings are very lonely times.  And the healing power of hugs should not be underestimated.  

Remember that in today's society we want to rush people through the grieving process.  Grief is not over after the funeral, it is just beginning.  Continue to check in on your friend in the weeks and months to come.  After the initial hustle and bustle, your friend will need the most support after most people have returned to their everyday lives.  Little things can go a long way to easing your friends transition throughout the difficult process of finding their new normal. 

How do Deal with Losing your Spouse as a Senior

Losing a spouse is a monumental change in your life. You’ve spent decades with this person, and when they leave, you’ll enter a state of mourning as you feel grief and sorrow. Knowing what to do and who to turn to can help ease some of the distress you feel. 

How You’ll Feel 

You may feel numb, shocked, and scared when the loss first occurs. Don’t be alarmed if you feel guilty for being the one who is still alive or if feelings of anger arise because your spouse left you. Different people mourn in different ways, and all of these feelings are normal. 

Grief can bring on emotional and physical pain. Tears may easily come to your eyes, and you may have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in the early stages of grief. It can be so bad that if feels like the flu and can make daily tasks difficult. You may have feelings of loneliness or isolation where you feel like you’re not connected to the world or to anyone around you. 

What to Do 

At first, you’ll be busy taking care of details and keeping busy, and you’ll be surrounded by family and friends. However, after a few weeks, things will settle down and people will return to their normal schedules, while you’ll likely have to fully face the change in your life. How can you handle this abrupt change and immense grief you feel? 

Remember to take good care of yourself. Ensure you’re getting adequate sleep and exercise. Eating a well-balanced diet is important. You may lose interest in cooking and eating. Try having lunch or dinner with friends or turning the radio or TV on during meals. 

Having something to occupy your time in a positive way is helpful. Take a walk with a neighbor, volunteer somewhere, or spend time with your grandchildren. Take a cooking class or exercise class. Join a singing group or bowling league. There are many ways to productively spend your time. 

Where to Turn 

Sometimes talking with people who are going through the same thing as you is helpful, so consider joining a grief support group. Check with hospitals, religious communities, and local agencies to see if any support groups meet near you. Other members who are further along in the grieving process may be able to offer helpful ideas based on their own experiences. 

Many people dealing with the loss of a spouse find support in grief counseling or grief therapy. In grief therapy, you’ll learn effective ways to cope with the stressors associated with the loss of your spouse. You’ll also learn ways to manage the symptoms using techniques such as relaxation or meditation. 

Other Considerations 

Although it’s not imperative in the beginning, eventually you’ll need to ensure your legal and financial affairs reflect the change in your life. Once your spouse passes, writing a new will and an advance directive become necessities. Put joint property, such as your house or car, solely in your name. Also, check with your health, life, car, and homeowner’s insurance to ask about changes you might need to make. 

Whenever you feel up to do it, go through your spouse’s clothes and other personal items. To help you sort and to make the process less stressful, ask your children or a friend to help. Consider gifting other family members with a special piece of clothing, watch, favorite book, or picture. If you’re ready to pass on heirlooms, be sure to handle them properly and protect them from becoming damaged. 

Losing a spouse is one of the hardest things you can go through in life. Experiencing sorrow, shock, anger, fear, and many other feelings is a normal part of the grieving process. Take care of your health, and don’t be afraid to reach out to support groups or mental health professionals. As each day passes, the intense pain will lessen. You’ll still miss your spouse, and there will be good and bad days. Eventually, you’ll experience more good days than bad, and you’ll find yourself enjoying life again. 

Author: Jackie Waters (


What are some tips for making it through the holidays while grieving?

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Chanukah, as well as birthdays and anniversaries, can be extremely difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one.  The perceived joy and happiness that everyone seems to be experiencing may only intensify the sadness, grief and loneliness felt by the bereaved.  However, with alittle planning, the holiday season may be less painful.

First of all, we must realize that it is okay to be sad or anxious during the upcoming season.  Our grief ay manifest itself as loneliness, anger, guilt or fear.  Or we may feel headaches, a change in sleeping patterns, a change in eating patterns, a loss of energy or a surge in energy.  All of these are normal, and may be exaggerated during the holidays.  And remember that it is okay to cry.  Tears are healing and cathartic. 

And secondly, we must give ourselves permission to feel joy.  Feeling good, laughing, and relaxing are in no way disrespectful to our loved ones. 

We must set limitation on what we are able to handle this year, and decide what traditions may need to be tabled for a year or two.  Are we going to put a tree up?  Are we going to cook and bake?  Are we going to midnight services?  Are we going to shop?  It is okay to alter traditions for a year, or to end some traditions all together.  Give yourself permission to do what you want or what you can, and to exclude what you can't.   

Finally, take some time to memorialize our loved ones.  Light a candle for them or purchase a gift for them and then donate it to charity or offer a special prayer for them.  Maybe make a special trip to the cemetery.  Put an empty stocking out and tell visitors to write their favorite memory down and tuck it in the stocking.  While these activities may bring some tears, these activities can be a source of comfort and strength. 

Hopefully these tips will help make your holiday season a little less painful than you anticipated.