Coping with loss

Older adults express their grief in the same ways as younger and middle-aged adults. But because of their age and other life circumstances, older adults may:

  • Experience several losses within a short period of time. Older adults are more likely than other adults to lose more than one friend or family member within a short period of time. This can cause them to grieve the losses at the same time or grieve over a long period of time. It may also cause them to feel overwhelmed, numb, or have a hard time expressing their grief.
  • Not be aware that they are grieving. Older adults experience losses related to aging. They may need to give up roles within their family. They may lose physical strength and stamina. They may feel sad and experience other signs of grieving without knowing that they are grieving.
  • Be unwilling to tell other people that they are grieving. They may also be unwilling to tell other people how sad they feel when they see or care for older loved ones who are ill or aging.
  • Have long-term illnesses, including physical and mental disabilities that interfere with their ability to grieve.
  • Lack the support system that they had in the past. Older adults who depended on their spouses or other family members for social contact may lack a support system after their spouses die or other family members move away or die. These older adults may feel lonely and think that they have no one to confide in.

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