The loss of a spouse is one of life’s dramatic events that occur in older persons frequently, at the same time being one of the most stressful and difficult events in life. Research has shown that bereavement affects the health and well-being of old age adults, also affecting the social networks of each individual.
We will follow the steps of a scientific research study made on widowed person with a minimum age of 65. A majority of reviewed studies suggested that daily activities and routines were disrupted during bereavement and different coping strategies were suggested for the individuals to help them get past with everyday life. It is difficult for older persons to get back to their daily routines because of the new identity as widow in a social context.
According to previous studies, there is a big percentage of widows who maintained a connection with their deceased spouse. An important feature of bereavement is the battle for independence in everyday life activities and routines disrupted by the death of a spouse. Previous scientific studies have clear results that widows are characterized by a consistent age in the modern western population, women being affected by spouse loss at a younger age and for a longer period of time than men. There has also been proven a certain dependency of others in older widowed population and also a decrease in physical health and well-being of these certain individuals. Newer studies for understanding bereavement have found that grief is an individualized and universal experience that has to be integrated in the meaning of the person’s life. Newer studies like the one we are going to excavate show that many old persons who had suffered a spousal loss experience disruptions in their daily routines and activities and try different tactics to live with their loss. They experience feelings of loneliness, health concerns and fluctuations in grief intensity. Older persons have to reconstruct their identity and regain their independence in a social context via relationships with family, friends and other persons and continue their relationship with their deceased spouse in a number of ways. According to reviewed studies, grief is an existential experience that disrupts normal flow of life and involves an ongoing relationship with the deceased persons although they are not physically present at the time. Many individuals experience widowhood at around the age or 65-70 years, women being affected more often at a younger age due to genetic patterns. Spousal loss happens frequently at an advanced age and bereavement is challenging for older persons because of multiple loses that pose many emotional challenges and living with an increased need for support is a key factor in maintaining social connections. The aim of the study we will excavate is to synthesize ulterior studies made on the characteristics of bereavement in widowed old individuals aged 65 or more and to contribute in clinical practice. The study follows the experience after spousal death, the meaning of the loss, everyday activities following the loss, and strategies used to continue life with the loss. Managing the data and aid the analysis, studies were grouped into four thematic areas developed in response to the included studies: experimental aspects, everyday activities, coping strategies, and grief reactions. Nineteen studies presented findings in the sector of everyday life of older widowed persons and showed that these persons started using diverse activities and different strategies to cope with the loss of their spouse and consisted mainly in filling their time with activities or involvement in diverse routines like for example bingo games, going to church, visiting of their spouse’s grave, gardening, reading etc. Studies revealed that involvement in church activities or practice of one’s belief or religion have helped grieving old persons, who lost their spouses, to cope with their loss. Many individuals who took part in these studies have stated that they have to deal with unexpected emotions, seeking peace and being thankful is a solution that helps coping with the loss but also they stated that they had to learn to live with the pain that disappears over time but never goes away. During these studies, it was found that old people who lost their spouse have increased their social contacts, in particular visiting friends or relatives, there were also remembrance activities used by them and the most frequent remembrance activities were talking to others about the deceased, displaying photographs, spending time with people who were close to the deceased, and revisiting places with special memories. Although they used different strategies and activities that were helpful the fact is that older widowed people experience times in a day, month or year that are very difficult for them, like for example mealtimes, bedtime, anniversaries, or different events which were accompanied by their spouses. These times are challenges that are difficult to deal with but a solution is planning life day by day, having a plan for the next day, or planning different events that eventually are accomplished are very helpful in passing the time. Emotions reported by researchers in old widowed people have a universal feeling of loneliness in their daily life after the loss of their spouse. There has been proof that widowed older adults experienced a continued engagement with their lost partner as a source of comfort although physically their life companion wasn’t present. This engagement included conversations, sensing the presence of the other, reliving the past through memories and dreams, being together through previously shared activities or by taking up an activity of the deceased or having tokens of remembrance in the home, like a particular chair or fresh flowers. Health problems during bereavement were also reported by widowed old persons. The most frequent health problem was sleep deprivation which lasted until two years of the death. Physical health problems like fatigue and lack of energy were also reported. A smaller number of people also reported nausea and loss of appetite leading to weight changes. Psychological changes during bereavement were also reported and the most common were depression and distress. These symptoms are the most common and are due to grieving over time. These symptoms were found to decrease over a time period of 30 months while mental health increased over a period of approximately 18 months. There was found that personal strength like for example feeling a stronger person, increased self-confidence, has increased over the years. Coping with the situation depends on various factors like grief resolution, health dysfunction or social support. These studies show that coping type and effectiveness, and not the amount used, is positively associated with grief resolution and good health function. The reviewed studies provided evidence about widowed person’s participation in various activities and use of certain strategies in their life to live with the loss, these findings can be conceptualized as practices. These practices arise as persons engage in their everyday life through activities, relations, routines and concerns. There is a certain breakdown of a familiar world during bereavement and this leads to challenges in filling the time, and the need to develop strategies to handle unexpected confusion and live with a sense of loneliness and the emotional overthrow of loss. There were also changes in relationships with others during bereavement and new relational practices are developed to continue the relationship with the deceased. There is no evidence that grief decreases over time for widowed old persons because of the usual routine with their spouses. Clinical practices for old people, who lost their spouse, consist of sustaining everyday relational practices. This involves maintaining old or developing new practices, to learn to live with difficult emotions and times and also negotiating relationships. It is necessary for close family or health care professionals to identify needs and concerns, to conduct evaluations and discuss strategies to manage symptoms and health problems such as sleep deprivation, fatigue and exhaustion, lack of appetite etc. Grief effects can decrease over a long period of time but there has not been evidence of totally fading away because of the constant reminders of the spouse via everyday activities. In conclusion this review suggests that everyday life is disrupted and relationships within the family are changed. These studies have proven that changes in the social network of the person, is a key aspect in the bereavement of old persons. Health concerns, threats to independence, change of social identity and a universal sense of loneliness identified in older widowed persons are challenges following the loss of their spouse and shape the ability to manage everyday life.
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