How to Help the Elderly Cope with Grief

How to Help the Elderly Cope with Grief

It can be very difficult to help elderly individuals cope with grief, as they often have more life experience and a greater understanding of what it means to lose someone.

The physical and mental effects that aging has on those who are older may make them particularly vulnerable to feelings of sadness and despair associated with the grieving process.

However, some steps can be taken to support an elderly individual who is coping with grief.

Here is a step-by-step process you can try when helping an elderly person cope with grief.    

Step 1: Listen and Offer Encouragement

The first step in helping a senior cope with grief is to listen and provide comfort. Listening carefully, without judgment or interruption can be invaluable for the grieving process.

It is also important to offer words of encouragement and understanding.

Some ways you can phrase your encouragement are: "I am sorry for your loss and I'm here to support you no matter what," or "I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you."   

Step 2: Provide Supportive Distractions 

Grief often leads to different kinds of depression and can cause an elderly individual to become withdrawn.

To help them rediscover the joy in their daily lives, provide activities that are engaging and supportive.

Activities like going for walks, doing puzzles, or sharing stories can all be excellent forms of distraction that promote emotional well-being. Some activities can be:

  • playing games,
  • watching movies
  • finding a support group.

You may also want to suggest activities that the individual used to enjoy, such as gardening or cooking. 

Step 3: Give an Outlet for Feelings of Grief

Although distracting oneself from grief is important, it is also essential to provide an outlet for feelings of grief and sadness so that they are not bottled up inside.

Encourage your elderly loved one to express themselves through writing, drawing, or talking.

Remind them that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and it is okay to feel how they are feeling. 

Step 4: Check in Regularly

Make sure to check in with the elderly person regularly.

Reaching out to them and continuing to provide support is an important part of helping them cope with their grief.

Simply talking on the phone or sending a text message can show them that they are not alone during this difficult time. 

Step 5: Seek Professional Help if Necessary 

Grief is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it differently.

If the elderly individual is having difficulty coping with their grief, consider seeking professional help.

Grief counselors and therapists can provide additional support that may be beneficial. 

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Help the Elderly Cope with Grief

What are some common symptoms of grief in the elderly?

There are a variety of symptoms that can be associated with grief in the elderly. Some common physical symptoms include fatigue, changes in appetite, and difficulty sleeping. Emotional symptoms can include sadness, anger, anxiety, and guilt. It's also common for those who are grieving to withdraw from social activities and lose interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed.

How long does grief usually last in the elderly?

There is no "right" or "wrong" answer when it comes to how long grief will last in the elderly. For some people, the grieving process may last for several months or even years. For others, it may come in waves – they may have periods of intense grief followed by periods of relative calm. It's important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace.

What are some helpful things I can say to an elderly loved one who is grieving?

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving, but sometimes simply being there for them and offering your support can be helpful. You might try saying something like, "I'm here for you if you need to talk" or "I'm sorry for your loss." You could also offer to help with practical tasks such as running errands or cooking meals.

What are some things I should avoid saying to an elderly loved one who is grieving?

There are a few things you should avoid saying to someone who is grieving, as they can come across as insensitive or unhelpful. For example, don't tell them that it's "time to move on" or that they "should be over it by now." It's also best not to make any assumptions about how they're feeling or what they need – instead, ask them directly how you can help.

Overcomers Counseling is Here to Help

At Overcomers Counseling, we understand the challenges of coping with grief and are here to help.

Our experienced counselors provide compassionate support and guidance that can help elderly individuals recognize and manage their emotions in a healthy way.

We offer both individual counseling sessions as well as group sessions, which can be a great way for elderly individuals to connect with others who are going through a similar experience.

Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can help you or your elderly loved one cope with grief in a positive way. We look forward to hearing from you!


Grief can be a difficult and emotional experience, but it is important to remember that everyone experiences grief differently.

It is also important to provide an outlet for these feelings so they are not bottled up inside.

Encouraging elderly individuals to talk about their feelings or seek professional help if needed can be beneficial. Additionally, providing practical support such as running errands or cooking meals can be a great way to show your support and understanding.

By following these steps, you can help elderly individuals cope with their grief and find solace in knowing that they are not alone.

Grief is a part of life, but it does not have to be faced alone. With your support and understanding, an elderly person can begin to heal from the loss of a loved one.

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July 14th, 2024

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