Bereavement is the loss by death of a loved one such as a parent, child, spouse, or close friend. Bereavement can occur at any stage of life but is a common occurrence for older adults and the rate of bereavement accelerates as we age. Grief refers to the psychological reaction to the bereavement. Bereavement and grief take various forms:
- Spousal death: Under the age of 55 about 1% of adults are widows, but by age 85 the majority of people are widowed. Spousal death after decades of marriage can be an enormous shock and adjustment. Death within a harmonious marriage increases the required emotional adjustment.
- Anticipatory grief: When a spouse is experiencing a debilitating illness like Alzheimer’s or is admitted to a personal care home, grief may occur prior to physical death. At the same time that one is experiencing “caregiver stress” for taking care of a debilitated spouse, one is also grieving the loss of the marital companionship and affection.
- Parental death: Most adults experience the death of one or both of their parents as emotionally significant, even if this occurs when both child and parent have reached older ages.
- Death of a child: Death of a child can occur at any point and be an emotionally painful parental experience. About one in ten of older people will experience the death of one of their adult-aged children, a loss that can significantly deplete the family support network as they age.
- Cumulative bereavement: This refers to the reality that older adults will experience a number of bereavements for siblings and friends, often very close together. As we age, our social network can grow smaller and smaller as friends die, and we need to be able to rebuild it, sometimes over
and over again. Maintaining and rebuilding social networks is one of the essential tasks required for successful aging.
- Pets: Research shows that the death of a family pet can result in significant grief.
While many aspects of this discussion of grief can apply to younger adults and children, much of our understanding of grief comes from the psychological study of middle-aged and elderly bereavement, especially the death of a spouse.
If you or someone you know, suffers from grief, consider seeking assistance. Sylvia Peske Psychological Services has a new one-on-one, individual, personalized workshop that can help. For more information and/or schedule your discovery session contact Sylvia directly at 778-594-1616 or firstname.lastname@example.org