My grandmother is a widow; she lost the love of her life, my grandfather, over 15 years ago. I know their love story by memory since she loves to talk about my grandfather. She smiles and tells me how great he was and that she misses him; the love of her life and father of their eight children. When my grandfather passed away my grandmother thought she was not going to survive without him. She suffered not only because she missed him but also because she felt remorse for the bad times they went through as a couple. Although they loved each other, they had many problems in their long relationship. They overcame the problems and stayed together until the end. My grandmother says that staying together was the best thing to do since they made that promise the day they got married and their love was real. When my grandfather became sick my grandmother prayed for him to stay with her longer but sadly he passed away. My grandmother had to accept it and continue with her life. Widowhood is a stressful part of life and it can be harder for some elders than others. Elderly widows/widowers go through a lot to overcome their grief and bereavement.
The elderly go through many challenges when they lose their spouse. According to the University of Michigan, it was thought that it was harder to survive the sudden death of the loved one since people start their grieving process when their loved one is suffering from a long term sickness. But it turns out that if their spouse passes away of a sudden death the shock may be easier to overcome, but if the spouse suffered from a long term disease it appears that it is more difficult to survive (Swanbrow, 2001). Some elders become depressed and do not want to continue with their lives and others move on easily. It is a process that they go through to survive the loss of their spouse.
The shock of losing their spouse can negatively affect the widow/widowers mental and physical health. My grandmother became hypertensive and since then she has suffered from insomnia. Some widows/widowers report loss of appetite, palpitations, fatigue and symptoms similar to the ones that their spouse had. Some of these elders might develop illnesses (Osterweis, 1985). Some elderly may start drinking and smoking trying to feel better but all these things just aggravate their problems. Most physical and emotional problems related to the loss of a loved one typically last a while and then disappear (Osterweis, 1985). The elder spouse may grieve for a short period of time while it is a longer process for others and it can even last a lifetime. The first step for the elders to continue with life is accepting that their spouse is gone and looking for help. They may feel like being lonely but it is better if they focus on the support they have from their children, family members and friends. Psychological and social support can help the elder widow/widower survive the loss of their spouse. Cognitive therapy helps them deal with emotions and treat their depression.
When reality hits, things may become harder before they become better. The grieving/bereavement process has stages. The stages are; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Dryden-Edwards). One must go through all of those stages to get to the point where the loss of the spouse does not hurt as much as it did in the beginning. My grandmother went through all those stages, at first she denied that my grandfather was sick and when he passed away she did not want to accept it. She then felt angry that she could not do anything to help him and she felt guilty. The bargaining stage was very painful for her, she is a Catholic, she kept asking God and the saints what did she do wrong that had caused the loss of her spouse. Depression came next and again more physical symptoms along with it. Family support, going to therapies and church helped her overcome depression. One day she woke up and said that it was time to let go of the pain, she was finally accepting that my grandfather was in a better place.
Today my grandmother is a happy woman. She loves to share stories of when she and my grandfather met, that is something that makes her happy. Her children’s support and most of all, her religious beliefs have made her a strong woman. She does have one thing present in her mind all the time; that she will never let go of the memories that she has from my grandfather. Widowhood is a horrible thing that is inevitable but having support from your loved ones will definitely make a difference and might help make the process easier.
Dryden-Edwards, R. (n.d.). Grief: Loss of a loved one. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/loss_grief_and_bereavement/article.htm Osterweis, M. (1985).
Bereavement and the elderly. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1000/is_1985_Jan/ai_3577017/
Swanbrow, D. (2001, April 09). The university record. Retrieved from http://ur.umich.edu/0001/Apr09_01/4.htm