Everyone knows they have to go. For most it’s a sad thought which they don’t wish to consider in much depth but equally some would be happy if they get “a good innings” and live to a ripe old age. While the experience may be a little less painful when a relative or a close friend dies at an old age some will still experience full grown grief that can develop into more serious problems if not addressed and understood. The grieving process is different for almost everybody and the feelings it brings can be new and unique to people who are experience them for the first time. For many of us an elderly relative or friend will be our first real experience with loss and may indeed shape our future relationship with the subject.
The five stages of loss with examples
1. Denial and isolation; This period of denial of the facts and isolating yourself from others is slightly less prevalent with the loss of an elderly relative however it can and does happen especially when you had a very strong bond with the person.
2. Anger; This can manifest itself in many ways when you lose an elderly relative or friend and can lead to finger pointing on care and attention. It’s not usually well placed and care must be taken.
3. Bargaining; Recollections of relationships with elderly relatives can be fraught with missed opportunities to get together and this can lead to the common “what if” and bargaining process.
4. Depression; You may have been emotionally or practically somewhat dependant on the deceased and in these situations the depression can come from a general pessimism about what the future holds.
5. Acceptance; while some may say getting over and accepting the loss of an elderly relative or friend is easier this sentiment is cold comfort to those taken by surprise as they lose someone that is very important in their lives. The process, like any grieving process, will take as long as it takes.
Like most grieving processes the loss of an elderly relative or friend can bring on all 5 of the stages of loss in just as unpredictable fashion as any other loss. The highs and lows can be merciless and equally the hurt can go on for a long time.
In life we are hearing more and more about “support systems” and help methods and resources. These are the people, methods and resources which help us get through lifes biggest challenges. Obviously friends and family are your first line of defense but their are other options to supplement or even replace these if they are not enough. Researching and reading about others can also help along with seeking help from support groups and finally, if needed, seeking the assistance of a grief counsellor or mental health professional.
Looking after yourself during the period
Meeting and seeking help and mutual support from friends and family is most important, following this is honesty of emotional state and lastly finding an outlet for your emotions, be it a creative outlet or just recording your thoughts. It’s also important to own your feelings and your emotional journey by looking after your body and being realistic about how you can manage your emotional state.
When the grieving process goes on for longer than you expect
Don’t listen to those who are trying to put a time limit on your grieving. It’s important to work through the process as it presents itself to you and a key element of that is not ignoring how you feel. If however you are finding that the feeling is lasting for too long and you find yourself struggling to get on with normal life you may consider consulting with a mental health professional if the feelings are leading to ongoing intrusive thoughts or thoughts of helplessness.
To find a local grief service access http://lifeline.serviceseeker.com.au and use ‘loss and grief’ or ‘bereavement’ as a search term (it can find services by State), then refer to the most local service.
Lifeline Crisis 131114 number,
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636.
The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement: 03 9265 2100.