Aging may have brought on challenges for your parents, but none are probably as difficult as the loss of their spouse. Your parent is trying to figure out what to do, who they are, and what the future holds for them. You may find yourself struggling with how to treat them and help them as they grieve. Here are seven ways that you can help your parent as they try to cope with the loss of their spouse.

1. Ask Them Specific Questions

As they struggle with their loss, your parent may want to talk about what they’re feeling. While it’s nice to ask them how they’re doing, a grieving person struggles with how to answer that question. Instead, ask them specific questions, such as what they miss most about their spouse, is there a certain season or time of day when they feel the loneliest, or how are they managing their household since their spouse has passed.

2. Talk About Cherished Memories

All of us feel happy when we look back at the special times and events of our lives. Your parent can benefit from looking back at cherished memories of their spouse and the places, people, and events they enjoyed together. Talk about:

  • Their wedding
  • The births of their children
  • Holiday memories
  • Travel they enjoyed together
  • Special birthdays

This will not only bring back fond memories; it will bring both of you closer to each other.

3. Plan Ahead for Holidays

As holidays approach, plan ahead and see if your parent has anything special scheduled for that day or if they’d like suggestions about how to memorialize their spouse. Some special things you can do to honor your loved one include reading a poem, releasing balloons, lighting a memorial candle, or planting a tree or potted plant.

4. Offer Assistance

Offer tangible assistance and help with your parent’s “to-do” list. It may be something their spouse took care of or just taking things off of their plate. Things you can do for them include:

  • Cooking or baking
  • Taking out the garbage
  • Grocery shopping
  • Yardwork
  • Small repairs around the house

This can help relieve some of their stress, and they’ll appreciate you offering assistance by your actions.

5. Be There

There are many different reactions to grief. One that stands out among them is loneliness and the yearning for their loved one. Showing up for a visit doesn’t bring their spouse back, but it helps fill their time and helps lessen their feelings of loneliness.

This may be the first time your parent has lived alone, especially when you’re dealing with an older population. They come from an era when people lived with their parents until they got married and never experienced living alone. This can be a major adjustment for them. Being there for them is among the kindest and selfless acts you can do.

6. Share Your Own Feelings

Talking about your own feelings of grief and missing your loved one often provides a sense of comfort and normalcy for your surviving parent. Don’t be afraid to share your own grief experiences and moments when something triggers a memory of your loved one, and you’re overcome with emotion. By sharing your grief, you can help them not feel so alone, which helps them along their grief journey.

7. Educate Yourself About Grief

There are many different reactions people experience when coping with the loss of a loved one. They include:

  • Crying
  • Fatigue
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Avoidance of people/situations
  • Deep sighing
  • Yearning for the loved one

Understanding grief will help you better assist your parent and help you recognize when they’re having a particularly difficult moment, allowing you to offer them comfort.

How We Can Help

Caring for an aging parent who is grieving for a lost spouse is a true labor of love, but it can also be stressful and exhausting. At Home Instead, our mission is lifting the spirits of those we serve by offering them dependable and affordable home care options. To learn more about Home Instead Senior Care or to schedule a FREE consultation for a senior in Naples, Fort Myers, Charlotte County, or the surrounding areas today, please visit us at