Helping A Parent Cope With The Loss Of A Spouse

Helping A Parent Cope With The Loss Of A Spouse

It’s one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life: the loss of a spouse means a dramatic change for anyone. For children of a parent who’s just lost a spouse, the challenge of helping the parent cope can be daunting.

There are a number of things that children can do to make the transition easier. Here are some suggestions:


  1. This isn’t a quick process. A major loss takes time to process and recover from, and it is especially challenging in this instance. Daily routines are now different. For many, a spouse is the most important confidant; when this is lost, the surviving parent may feel lost or become withdrawn. Time alone to process is important—if it doesn’t get too far out of hand. 
  2. Be prepared to listen. Your parent may need you to take over the role of listening to feelings and working through problems. Be prepared for this. For some children, this can be a little uncomfortable, but if you understand why Mom or Dad is telling you more than usual, you can be a significant help. 
  3. Help establish new routines. Daily routines are completely upended with partners no longer interact daily. Let your parent map out how to handle daily tasks, but be prepared to help when necessary. If the deceased spouse handed specific chores (like money or groceries), the surviving parent may need help developing a new skill set. 
  4. Be around. You don’t have to smother Mom or Dad, but being available to visit or help regularly is important. Grandkids can also have an impact—caring for young ones provides purpose.


A major life adjustment is a process—often an uneven one. Providing support to a parent will also take you some time to learn. But it can be a vital help.

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