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This is a Guest Post by Beverly Nelson

Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult things for a person to endure. When a senior loses a spouse, particularly after a long marriage, many more issues arise.

 When your mom or dad loses a spouse, you have to help him or her through their grief, help them pack up their things to possibly move all while you’re grieving, too. Will your surviving parent have to move into a smaller, more accessible home or perhaps a senior community? Does he or she need more serious care that can only come from an assisted living community or nursing home?

 Grow A Strong Family invites you to consider the following points as you help your parent through the process.

 Simply Be There For Them

 The emotional issues surrounding grief are deep and complex. Grief can affect each of us differently, but it can also affect us differently than we expect. Suffering from the loss of a loved one may not diminish over time, and the grief process may not follow a predictable pattern or timeline. Death and grief are natural processes, part of the circle of life. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Plan for Difficult Conversations

 It can seem overwhelming to have to think about rebuilding a life in the middle of crushing heartbreak. And if your mom, dad, or grandparent needs to move to a smaller, safer home, talking about it can be awkward.

 But sometimes keeping busy can be a way to not sink into sadness. If your parent has to move, take advantage of this need to stay busy by helping her begin the downsizing process. Slowly integrate yourself to his or her life by offering to help with smaller tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or paying bills. Then you can slowly work your way into suggestions about rebuilding their life.

 Trying to get your senior parent to move out of a home that he or she has lived in for a long time can be difficult and take months of cajoling. It’s even more difficult if you have to convince him or her to make a long-distance move. But remind him or her that you’re only trying to keep her safe and that you have her best interests in mind. Moving into a smaller space will possibly save her money and make her day-to-day life much easier.

Opting for Downsizing

When it’s time to downsize for a big move, remember that she may be unwilling to let go of items. Or perhaps she is ready to chuck it all. Everyone is different, and there’s no wrong way to grieve. Work with your loved one to try to get organized, but understand that he or she may be disorganized, confused or depressed.

We’ve compiled a list of things to consider while helping your elderly loved one downsize and rebuild their life.

 Ask yes or no questions. Do you want to keep this? Can we sell it? Does someone else want it?

  • Give them time and space to reflect. But if time is an issue, gently bring him or her back to the task at hand.

  • Consider hiring a senior moving manager. They can help with selling, moving and downsizing.

  • Simplify the open house with a checklist, and share it with everyone involved. This helps alleviate anxiety your parent may have about strangers — as interested as they are in buying the house — coming and going and inspecting spaces throughout the property. A checklist keeps everything moving forward and empowers your parent in the process.
  • If you have siblings or other family members who can help, get them involved in the process. You don’t have to take it all on yourself.
  • Break it down by room. Smaller goals can help keep them motivated and feel more accomplished.

  • Help him or her stay hydrated and fed. Grieving people can forego food, which can diminish energy levels.

  • Take frequent breaks. A huge task can be overwhelming.

  • Enjoy the process. Reminisce with mom or dad over the items and allow him or her to tell stories. You might learn something about your family.

  • Spend time with them. When someone has lost a spouse, they are often very lonely. Remind them you’re there by calling and visiting often. Knowing you’re around and also grieving can help.

  • Encourage them to try counseling. These services can be especially beneficial right now, and Medicare offers mental health coverage for seniors, paying 80% of the approved amount. If you find a private therapist with a sliding scale, all the better.

 You only want what’s best for mom and dad, and you want them to be happy with their move. Eventually, the grief will ease a bit and your parent can rebuild their life.