Elderly Parents And Spousal Loss: What Is Complicated Grief And How Can Counseling Help Your Loved One?

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When most elderly individuals lose a spouse to death, they go through the stages of bereavement, or the mourning of the loved one's passing. Although it may be difficult, the individuals may learn to cope with the loss and live without their loved one. But if your elderly parent doesn't seem to move past the stages of bereavement and declines in physical and mental health instead, they may develop a mental health problem known as complicated grief, which is the refusal to accept or move past a loved one's death. Here are things to understand about the stages of grief, what complicated grief is and how counseling may help your elderly parent get through it.

What Are the Stages of Grief and How Is Complicated Grief Different From Them?

The normal stages of bereavement don't necessarily follow a specific order because every person is different in how they mourn the loss of a loved one. The stages generally include sorrow, sadness, pain, depression, and anger. According to Psychiatric Times, individuals may reach the recovery stage, or final stage, about four months after a loved one passes. The recovery stage allows people to come to terms with, or accept, a loved one's passing and take steps to move forward in life. However, people who experience complicated grief may still exhibit the symptoms of bereavement about six months after their loved one passes. 

Complicated grief is critical because it can mimic major depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is a common mood disorder that creates extended periods of sadness, disbelief, despair, and suicidal thoughts. People who experience complicated grief typically refuse to accept the death of their loved one. For instance, your elderly parent may refuse to talk about their spouse's passing because they don't believe that the spouse is gone. The parent may also lose weight from not eating properly, or they may develop sleep issues from stress and anxiety.

Your elderly parent may become preoccupied with the death of their loved one. It's possible for your elderly parent to develop suicidal thoughts, such as not willing to live without their deceased spouse. Because suicidal thoughts are one of the major symptoms of major depression disorder, it's critical that you seek counseling or psychiatric help for your elderly parent right away. 

Can Counseling Help Your Elderly Loved One Heal?

The first thing counselors may help your elderly parent get through is complicated grief therapy. Complicated grief therapy allows your elderly parent a chance to talk about their loved one's death without having to hold back their emotions. The counseling sessions may allow your parent to discuss their fears about having to live life without their spouse.

In many cases, counselors record the complicated grief therapy sessions so that your parent may listen to them in the privacy of their home later. By listening to the sessions, the parent may be able to eventually accept the spouse's passing because they no longer hold onto their fears of moving on alone. In addition, your elderly parent may be able to express how they feel with you because they no longer feel alone in their grief. The parent may begin to see that you also grieve for the lost loved one and not just them.

Counseling may also address your elderly parent's inability to eat and sleep because of their depression. This form of the treatment may include prescribing medications that control insomnia and other symptoms of depression that interfere with sleep. Counselors may sign your parent up for nutritional counseling to improve their diet and health. Nutritional counseling is essential if your elderly parent lost weight and developed health complications because of it.

The services provided by the counselors may last until your elderly parent improves, or the counseling may be ongoing if the parent doesn't show signs of improvement about their grief. The counselors may discuss the treatment for your parent in greater detail when they speak to you and your parent.

For more information about obtaining grief counseling for your elderly parent, contact a specialist today, such as those at Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc.