Aging and Grief

As people move into later life, it is not uncommon to experience multiple losses. Yet while age increases the frequency of loss, strength and wisdom also comes with later life. If you are older, you have probably experienced loss before, so you know of grief’s ups and downs; however painful, loss is no longer the surprise it was when you were younger.

Older adults are more vulnerable to the inevitable stress and life changes that come with loss. Eating well, getting physical activity and adequate rest, can help give you the strength to handle grief. Avoid self-destructive habits such as the dangerous use of alcohol or abuse of medication.

Take advantage of whatever support resources you have developed over the years. Your faith or spirituality, and your friends and family can nurture you. Yet a sad reality is that you may have outlived some of the family or friends who made up your support system, or the people that you count on are overwhelmed by their own losses. In such cases, other support is available—through support groups sponsored by hospices, funeral homes, churches, synagogues, or senior centers. If grief has led to self-destructive behaviors or depression, or is keeping you from participating in your regular daily activities, it may be helpful to speak to your physician or to a grief counselor.

With age comes a sense of perspective and wisdom. It is always wise to know your limits and to seek help when you need it.

Developed from Journeys with Grief: A Collection of Articles about Love, Life and Loss, edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., MDiv., copyright Hospice Foundation of America, 2012.