When Grief Goes on Too Long: 3 Signs Your Widowed Parent Is Having Trouble Coping
Helping your parent cope with the loss of their spouse isn't easy, and you know that it takes time to work through the stages of grief. Still, you can't help but feel that something is wrong when your parent seems to have trouble moving on. While it can take a long time to get over losing a spouse, it is possible that your loved one could be dealing with a more serious mental health condition. As you continue to provide them with support, consider these signs that it may be time to encourage them to seek mental health services.
Refusal to Move Forward
Many people cling to a loved one's belongings after they are gone, and taking time to clear out a closet is normal during the early stages of grief. However, you may need to worry if your loved one seems lost in the past or refuses to talk about the future. For example, your parent may refuse to move to a smaller home even though they can no longer manage their current one on their own because they feel it is like losing another part of their spouse.
New or Unexplained Health Changes
When a person is dealing with complicated grief or depression, they may start to neglect their health. Observe your parent to see if they may have lost or gained weight since their loss. Increased complaints of pain, digestive distress, and fatigue are a few more physical ways that grief can manifest. For this reason, it is important to have any new health issues checked out by your parent's doctor, and encourage your loved one to seek mental health treatment if it appears that grief is starting to affect them physically.
It is also important to recognize that grief can trigger other coexisting conditions such as addiction and bipolar disorder. Therefore, it can sometimes seem as though your parent is living it up when they are really trying to mask their pain. Reckless behavior such as overspending or deciding to stay out late at the bar are additional signs that your loved one needs help finding healthier coping mechanisms.
During the first year after losing a spouse, many people have periods of time where they seem to feel better but then lapse back into grief. Yet, you should still see a slow but steady progression as your parent starts to rebuild their life. By knowing when to take action, you can help your parent find the support they need to manage their grief and get back to enjoying life again.