National Grief Awareness Day 2021

National Grief Awareness Day 2021

In this day and age, it’s easy to get lost in the cycle of “hashtag holidays” (National Doughnut Day, National Peanut Butter Day, National Bowtie Day) and gloss over the importance of some special “Days” that deserve pause and contemplation. Here at Daughter for Hire, we believe that National Grief Awareness Day is one of those days that must not get lost in the sea of social media holidays.

National Grief Awareness Day was founded by Angie Cartwright in 2014 and is observed every August 30th. This day was created because of Cartwright’s experience with loss and grief throughout her life. She dealt with the loss of her sister, her husband, and then her mother. After these experiences, she wanted to dedicate a day to support others who are also dealing with the pain of grieving. She wanted it known that grief looks different for everyone who deals with it. She also wanted to address the realities of the grieving process and how that can be different for everyone.  

Helping Seniors Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

During this time of their lives, many seniors' lives may be punctuated by loss: loss of health, independence, mobility, routine, and more. The most acute loss is that of family and friends. Here are some ways to help them cope.

As they grow older, your loved ones will lose friends, family and spouses through death. While they may be aware that loss will happen, knowing this doesn’t always give them the tools to handle it.

The Stages of Grief

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross outlines five stages in the grief process:

  • Denial - “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger - “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining - “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.” 
  • Depression - “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance - “I’m at peace with what happened”

While it is often thought that once you’ve completed one stage you move on to the next one and never go back, this is not necessarily the case. The path is more like a roller coaster where the person grieving may experience higher and lower depths of feeling and may loop back to previous steps multiple times during the ride. This is normal.

Often, memory loss and dementia can make it feel like the losses are fresh over and over. It is important to practice compassion when your senior doesn’t remember that their spouse or friend has passed. Allow them to process it anew, rather than being frustrated with them that they don’t remember. They may have to go through the stages of grief daily. 

Losing a spouse may leave a gap that is larger than just the person. The lost spouse may have been the one who was more upbeat, more thoughtful, more organized, more of the caregiver in the relationship. There may have been tasks they enacted throughout the relationship that the surviving spouse never had to do – paying bills, cooking, gardening, cleaning, even driving. This secondary loss can be keenly felt by the surviving spouse. Learning new skills at this point in their lives may seem overwhelming and contribute to the difficulty of moving on at each stage.

Don’t discount the loss of other friends or family in their life. Staying involved in their daily lives, even through phone conversations, will help you see who is important to your loved one and will help you know when to be there for them during an unexpected loss.

At Daughter for Hire, we are keenly aware of the grief felt by many of our clients. Our caregivers are instrumental in helping our clients stay busy, keep up with their routines and by keeping them distracted with activities and outings. 

On this National Grief Awareness Day, use the occasion to remember someone in your life that may be suffering from a loss; and keep us in mind in case you need some support for your senior family member.

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