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Loss and grieving
As you and the people around you grow older, loss will become more common. You may have to cope with the death of a friend, spouse, parent, child, or beloved pet. Whether a death follows a long illness or is unexpected, you may experience a range of painful emotions, including:
You are likely to cycle through a variety of emotions, which is a normal part of grieving. You might also have physical symptoms of grief, such as upset stomach, no appetite, problems sleeping, or low energy.
Allowing yourself to grieve is vital to emotional healing after a major loss. Grieving can take months or even a few years. Expect that you may experience setbacks on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. These steps can help you to cope with your pain:
- Treat yourself kindly. Try to get enough sleep. Eat healthy and well-balanced meals. Avoid alcohol. Be physically active if you are able. If you have a lot of trouble eating, sleeping, concentrating, or doing other daily activities for more than the first two to three weeks, talk to you doctor. These could be signs of depression or another problem that can be helped with medical care.
- Express your grief. Don't imagine what you "should" be feeling. Allow yourself to cry, be angry, or however you feel. Talk to others about your loss. You may even want to join a support group.
- Avoid making major life changes, such as moving, until your pain and grief have subsided.
If you feel like you can't cope or if you are using alcohol or other substances to avoid the pain, get help from a friend, family member, clergy member, counselor, doctor, or support group.
If you are suicidal, or afraid you may become suicidal, seek help immediately.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
It's toll-free and available 24 hours a day, every day. Or call 911 or go to the emergency room — suicidal thoughts are an emergency.
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Mental Health — This section of womenshealth.gov provides information on taking care of your mental health throughout the different stages of your life.
Explore other publications and websites
Age Page: Mourning the Death of a Spouse — This fact sheet for older Americans describes what you can do to help yourself feel better when grieving the death of a spouse.
Death of an Adult Child (Copyright © The Compassionate Friends) — This site discusses the grief that can be caused by losing an adult child.
Factsheet: Coping With Bereavement (Copyright © Mental Health America) — This publication provides information on what to expect after the loss of a loved one. It discusses mourning, dealing with a major loss, living with grief, helping others grieve, and looking to the future.
Grief and Loss (Copyright © American Association of Retired Persons) — This section of the AARP website has articles discussing many different aspects of grief and loss.
Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts — This website discusses depression and suicide facts among older adults and ways in which depression can be treated.
The Grief of Grandparents (Copyright © The Compassionate Friends) — This publication provides information on the stages of grief and how you can cope with the loss of a grandchild.
Connect with other organizations
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Bereaved Parents of the USA
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging
The Compassionate Friends
Content last updated August 12, 2010.
Resources last updated August 12, 2010.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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