Valentine’s Day reminds us to think about the people we love. This holiday can be especially difficult for individuals who have suffered a loss, especially the loss of a spouse. The widow or widower will experience grief, which increases stress and can have a direct impact on the surviving individual’s health. In some cases, bereavement can even lead to broken heart syndrome, a condition affecting the heart that can increase the risk of death for the surviving spouse.
The loss of a spouse is an emotionally difficult experience filled with sadness, stress, and fear. In addition to this wide range of emotions, the grieving process can also greatly affect a person’s physical health. Individuals who are grieving are more likely to get sick due to increased stress suppressing the immune system. Many grieving adults become ill, and, in some cases, they may pass away shortly after losing their spouse as a result of an infection or broken heart syndrome.
Broken heart syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a stress-induced heart condition with symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, that mimic a heart attack. Extreme stress can cause the heart’s left ventricle to balloon up making it challenging for the heart to pump properly. Medical tests are needed to rule out a heart attack and to determine if the individual is suffering from broken heart syndrome. There is no treatment for broken heart syndrome, although heart medications may be prescribed, and stress-relieving strategies should be implemented.
How Can You Help a Recently-Widowed Loved One?
Even without developing broken heart syndrome, grief is still a terribly painful process for people to go through, and it can be difficult for the remaining spouse to feel strong enough to keep om going . It is important to support a loved one through their grieving process. Some ways to help a loved one while grieving include the following:
- Find support. A therapist or grief support group can provide comfort and assistance with the confusing emotions that accompany grief. These care professionals can provide reassurance that the feelings the senior is experiencing are a normal part of grief and help them begin to work through the grieving process.
- Remind them to feel their emotions. It is important to feel one’s emotions, even when it’s painful. Hiding feelings doesn’t make them go away and can lead to additional pain or depression. It is normal and healthy to cry, be sad, and express emotion after the loss of someone dear.
- Focus on what they have to live for. Remind a loved one that they still have relatives and friends who love them and are available for support. It may be comforting to know that their spouse would have wanted them to live a full life and to continue to do things they loved. There may be ways they can fulfill their own dreams or the dreams they once shared with their partner.
- Spend time together. Connecting with friends and family who love them can help a grieving adult feel less alone during this challenging time. Knowing that they have trusted loved ones to listen and to help in other ways can be a great comfort.
- Encourage them to remember their spouse. Even though many may want to avoid their feelings, it’s important to remember the person they’ve lost to enable them to start to move forward through the healing process. Some ways to do this include looking through photographs, watching family videos, and sharing stories about their spouse. Encourage your loved one not to hide from their memories, but to embrace them as a way of honoring and remembering their spouse.
- Remind them to practice self-care. It’s easy for widows or widowers to forget to take care of themselves while consumed by grief, but self-care is crucial for remaining healthy. Gently help the person you love remember to take care of themselves in the following ways:
- Healthy eating – Make nutritious meals to help your loved one eat well without having to worry about what to prepare. Consider working with a nutritionist to teach them how to prepare food for one person while focusing on meeting their nutritional needs. Adult education classes may also be a helpful way for them to learn how to prepare food for one in an engaging, social way.
- Drink water – It’s important for your loved one to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and other health issues.
- Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep adds additional stress and can increase health risks. Your loved one may want to see a doctor if they are struggling with sleep.
- Stay active – Light activity, such as walking or yoga, can help seniors escape their grief for a little while and may help boost their mood.
- Find comfort – Finding simple comforts, such as taking a bath, listening to music, or enjoying a cup of tea, can help provide a little respite from the challenging feelings of grief.
- Maintain regular activities – Continuing with familiar activities or hobbies can provide a temporary distraction from difficult feelings while bringing comfort and familiarity to the bereaved. Activities such as gardening, exercising, visiting the library or senior center, or lunch with friends can provide a much-needed break from grief and something hopeful or productive to lift the mood.
Another way to find support for a grieving loved one is to consider hiring a professional caregiver from Nightingale Homecare, a leading provider of in-home care in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas. Our compassionate caregivers can assist a loved one with a range of in-home services, allowing you some respite time for your own self-care needs. Some ways we can help make the days a little easier include:
- Planning and preparing nutritious meals
- Grocery shopping or running errands
- Light housekeeping and laundry
- Medication reminders
- Companionship and conversations to help the older adult feel less alone
- Home health care services to support a variety of medical conditions and needs
- And much more
For additional support for a grieving parent or loved one, the compassionate care team at Nightingale Homecare is available to help. Contact us today at (602) 926-1157 to learn more about how our in-home care in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas can help you and an older loved one find comfort and support at this difficult time.