Losing a Spouse

Losing a Spouse

We are living longer which means there are more widows and widowers every day.  According to the U.S. Census, about 40 percent of women and 13 percent of men who are 65+ and 85 percent of women and 35 percent of men who are 85+ are widowed.


Grief from loss can be devastating, and can sometimes be fatal if left untreated.  A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a surviving spouse over the age of 50 has a 66 percent increased risk of dying within the first three months of the spouse’s death.  Physicians often call this the “broken heart syndrome,” or stress cardiomyopathy, the result of a sudden stress like the unexpected loss of a loved one.


The surviving spouse is lonely.  He or she often exhibits the core symptoms of grief which are sadness, anxiety, depression, shock, and anger. Research states that although both sexes suffer from becoming widowed, surprisingly men suffer more than women.


The surviving spouse needs time and space to grieve, but they also need to continue their day-to-day living.  It is common for the surviving spouse to experience a sense of disorganization and difficulty in concentration and getting “life” tasks done.  Previously, each spouse had a defined role in the marriage, and the surviving spouse must develop new skills to perform the “life” tasks that their partner once handled.  They may have also lost their caregiver.


How Children and Friends Can Help

You will be grieving as well, but you are the closest to them and thus the most likely to be in a position to help.

Immediate needs include contacting family, friends, clergy, obtaining death certificates (5 – 10 copies), contacting legal, financial and government authorities including life insurance companies, helping to make funeral arrangements, notification to the proper authorities, delaying payment medical bills for the deceased  – allowing Medicare and other insurance to catch up.  Types of help you can provide yourself or via a referral are:   household duties such as proving meals, washing clothes, lawn care, house cleaning, repairs, making sure all the bills are paid.  During income tax time make sure their real estate, income and other taxes are paid.


You can help teach the surviving spouse the skills the other provided.  In many cases the husband managed the finances and paid the bills – the wife will now have to learn to do these functions.  The wife is likely to have cooked and managed the household, which now the husband must learn.  In some cases, the surviving spouse did not drive so arrangements will need to be made for on-going transportation needs.


If you need help – get it.  Look at our Resource Directory for help:  http://theseniorsanswer.com/resources/

Let us know if you need any other help.